Hawaii's Richest People
Tech entrepreneurs and major landowners dominate list
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8. Jenai Sullivan Wall
Heirs to Maurice Sullivan’s Foodland fortune preside over a commercial empire that includes more than 140 retail stores around the country. “Sully” famously introduced McDonald’s to Hawaii, and now the company owns the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Lamonts gift shops. The centerpiece of the enterprise is the 31-store Foodland grocery chain, the largest grocer in the state, now run by Sully’s daughter, Jenai S. Wall. It’s difficult to say what the grocery chain is worth, but, by way of comparison, Times Supermarkets reportedly paid more than $30 million for the struggling 10-store Star Market chain in 2009.
9. Bert Kobayashi
In 1965, when Bert Kobayashi took over the eponymous construction company of his father, Albert C. Kobayashi, revenue was around $2 million a year. By the time he sold the company to employees in 1997, it was grossing $125 million. His new company, The Kobayashi Group, is still a major player in Hawaii construction. In recent years, he’s teamed up with Duncan MacNaughton to build modern monuments (and cash cows) such as Capitol Place and Hokua, both of which beat the real estate crash of 2008.
10. Thurston Twigg-Smith
In some people’s eyes, the dark ages of local news coverage began in 1993, when Twigg-Smith sold The Honolulu Advertiser to Gannett for $250 million. The transaction made Twigg-Smith one of the richest men in Hawaii. It also accelerated the pace of his philanthropy. Which raises a question for many on this list: Most of Hawaii’s wealthiest citizens are also the largest donors to local charities. When someone like Twigg-Smith gives generously over the years to the Honolulu Academy of Art or the erstwhile Contemporary Museum, how much is left? Enough, we suspect, to stay on our list.
11. Ron Higgins
Of all the tech companies to emerge from Hawaii, probably none hit it as big as quickly as Digital Island Communications. Higgins’ networking and web-hosting company came along with just the right technology at just the right time. Founded in 1996, the company went public two years later. In 2001, it was acquired by Cable & Wireless for $340 million.
12. David Cole
Cole has had the good sense and luck to invest in or work for tech companies that have been gobbled up by larger companies. As early as the 1980s, he invested in game changers like Macromedia (Adobe), Shiva (Intel) and Tops (Sun Microsystems). Later, he was chairman of the Internet-software provider Navisoft when it was swept up by AOL, beginning his long association with Steve Case (No. 2 on our list).
13. Richard Kelley
The Outrigger Hotel empire stretches across the Pacific, with properties from Honolulu to Australia and Thailand. Although the kamaaina company was founded by Roy Kelley, much of Outrigger’s growth and vigor comes from the vision of his son, Richard Kelley. Although most of the company’s Waikiki properties are on Queen Emma lands, the leases alone are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. They own the land beneath the Outrigger Reef in fee simple. In 1988, the price for that 2.5 acres of oceanfront property in Waikiki was $60 million.
14. Jeff Stone
The details of ownership in commercial real estate are often obscured by a welter of limited-liability partnerships, special-purpose corporations, and family huis. It sometimes takes an accumulation of details for the wealth of a man like Stone to emerge clearly. Most famously, his company, The Resort Group, was the master developer of Ko Olina, but that’s just the start. West Oahu Realty, another Stone company, owns the Makaha Valley Country Club. Stone-controlled Princeville Association LLC owns the 9,000-acre Princeville Resort and other Stone companies manage resort properties in California and the Bahamas.
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