Hawaii's Richest People
Tech entrepreneurs and major landowners dominate list
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When we set out to rank Hawaii’s wealthiest people, we knew it wouldn’t be easy. Part of that difficulty has to do with culture: Local people have always been skittish about discussing money. In fact, despite many requests, no one on this list was willing to talk to us on the record about their wealth.
Another challenge is that much of Hawaii’s wealth is tied up in families and it is hard to figure how much belongs to whom. In other cases, vast wealth has been spread across many descendants, so that no single member of the family makes our list. For instance, the Kawananakoa family, descendants of Hawaiian royalty and heirs to the Campbell Estate, is one of Hawaii’s richest families, but its wealth is spread among many members.
Then you have to decide who actually lives here. It’s fairly easy to cross off some of the super-rich, like Oprah Winfrey or Michael Dell, who both own property on the Neighbor Islands and pay property taxes, but clearly call somewhere else home. That’s why they are not on our list.
A somewhat tougher call was Blair Parry-Okeden, the daughter of Barbara Cox Anthony, who was the richest Hawaii resident until her death in 2007. Parry-Okeden is worth $6 billion, according to Forbes magazine, still has a home in Hawaii and serves on several local boards, but she lives most of the time in Australia, so we left her off our list.
The central problem, though, is that it’s often difficult to know how to value a person’s assets. For those few whose wealth is in publicly traded corporations, a lot of financial information is readily available. So, it’s relatively straightforward to figure out how much someone like Pierre Omidyar, our richest resident, is worth. (At least the big stuff; who knows what the myriad start-ups he’s invested in are worth.) But it is much harder to evaluate the vast majority of rich Hawaii residents, whose wealth is tied up in tightly held, privately owned companies.
What about land? Great wealth in Hawaii is often based on land ownership, but how do you calculate how much that land is worth? Assessed value? Most recent sale price? Comps? And what about those wealthy people who just accumulate properties without ever selling them; how do you figure out what they’re worth? The close tie between land and wealth in Hawaii recalls the sensible advice from the humorist Will Rogers: “Buy land, they’re not making any more of it.”
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