Portraits of New York wealth

You want to be rich? Here are the local successes to emulate.

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Billionaires!!! They walk among us. Well, they probably walk at a safe remove from us, but they walk in our general vicinity—in cavernous penthouse atria, on verdant Southampton estates or…wherever they damn well please. Such is the beauty of obscene riches. (The downside: Playing the lottery ceases to have much thrill if winning the megamillions will hardly register on your bank statement.) Check out our gallery of 17 locals who are distinctly unconcerned about a recession in 2008.

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David Hamilton Koch, 66


Net worth: $17 billion
Richest New Yorker!
After inheriting Daddy's oil-refining company, Koch Industries, David and his three brothers supercharged it into the nation's largest privately owned company. David and brother Charles bought out the other two siblings in the '80s and have expanded the company to lumber, paper, chemicals and other earth-loving ventures.

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Ronald Owen Perelman, 64


Net worth: $10.0 billion
No. 28 on Forbes' 400 richest Americans
Here's a guy whose path to superwealth one can almost respect: a self-made investor who has earned billions by purchasing failing corporations and turning them around for enormous profits. If only his salvaging skills extended to failing relationships: Four expensive divorces have cost him close to $100 million. As if he's even noticed.

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Keith Rupert Murdoch, 75


Net worth: $8.8 billion
Owns MySpace!
Look up the term media mogul and you'll see a picture of this Australian titan. Since leaving his Down Under homeland while in his twenties, Murdoch has amassed an empire including the New York Post, the Chicago Sun-Times, DirecTV, Fox News and—most recently—The Wall Street Journal. When civil libertarians fret about Big Brother, this is the face in their heads.

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Samuel Irving (Si) Newhouse Jr., 79


Net worth: $8.5 billion
King of the glossies!
The Newhouse-brothers team, Samuel and Donald, runs media conglomerate Advance Publications, owning pieces of the Discovery Channel, the Learning Channel and magazine factory Condé Nast. While he's known among Nasties for his quirky preferences (don't sit in his reserved cafeteria booth!), Uncle Si deserves kudos for supporting the New Orleans Times-Picayune after Hurricane Katrina, resulting in two Pulitzers for the paper's storm-aftermath coverage.

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Henry Kravis, 63


Net worth: $5.5 billion
Hostile takeover? No problem!
A partner in respected/feared leveraged-buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Kravis became rich using a similar strategy to Ron Perelman: poach struggling, debt-saddled companies, rework the balance sheets and sell for profit. Kravis sits on the board of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and owns homes in Manhattan; Southampton; Palm Beach, Florida; Sharon, Connecticut; Meeker, Colorado; Paris and the Dominican Republic.

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James Simons, 67


Net worth: $5.5 billion
No. 57 on Forbes' 400 richest Americans
Simons is one of the kingpins of the newly ascendant hedge-fund industry. His private Renaissance Technologies Corporation holds upwards of $20 billion in public assets. But since all work and no play would make James a dull boy, Simons dabbles in theoretical physics, including string theory.

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Ralph Lauren, 67


Net worth: $4.7 billion
No. 64 on Forbes' 400 richest Americans
This famous clothing designer started his New York life as a Russian immigrant growing up in the Bronx. But that was many, many millions ago. Recently, Lauren's collection of European cars—Jaguar, Bugatti, Bentley, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Porsche—was deemed worthy of an exhibition at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. His daughter is hoping to show similar business acumen with her sweets shop, Dylan's Candy Bar.

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Stephen Ross, 67


Net worth: $4.5 billion
Hudson Yards hopeful
Maybe you don't know Ross, but have you heard of a little, hidden complex called the Time Warner Center? Yeah, that was him. With that as a warm-up, Ross and his real-estate behemoth, the Related Companies, have turned to the modest goal of rebuilding virtually all of Midtown West from Hudson Yards to Madison Square Garden.

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Daniel, 35, Dirk, 43, and Robert Ziff, 41


Net worth: $3.5 billion (per brother!)
Thanks, Grandpa!!
This sibling trio inherited Ziff-Davis, the wildly successful technology-magazine publisher of '80s, from their grandfather, but sold the empire in 1994. Now the three bros work cozily together in Ziff Brothers Investments, where they claim to invest in hedge funds and corporate debt, though we imagine them sitting at desks, continuously counting out stacks of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck.

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Edgar Bronfman Sr., 78


Net worth: $3.2 billion
Bootlegging pays big!!
Bronfman's father founded Distillers Corporation in 1924 and made a fortune smuggling whiskey to the States from Canada during Prohibition. Taking the family business legit, Bronfman has diversified the holdings by building megabrands like Absolut Vodka and Tropicana juice. Next time you see one of Absolut's iconic ads, raise a glass to Ed's billions.

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David Rockefeller Sr., 92


Net worth: $2.7 billion
No. 149 on Forbes' 400
In case you're slow on the uptake, Rockefeller = oil. David is the current patriarch of the family and son of Standard Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller Sr., as well as a noted entomologist (why not?) whose beetle collection numbers about 160,000. Following a lifetime in which his charitable donations are estimated at over $900 million, the 92-year-old is accelerating the altruism now, giving $100 million to MoMA in 2005 and another $100 million to Rockefeller University.

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Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, 38


Net worth: $547 million
Among the top 20 richest Americans under 40!
Jay-Z is the richest hip-hop entertainer, barely edging 50 Cent for the crown. Though he recently stepped down from his position as Def Jam CEO, he can probably find ways to busy himself with ownership of the New Jersey Nets, worldwide expansion of his 40/40 clubs, the Rocawear clothing line and a new J Hotels venture. Not to mention his erstwhile recording career—still think it's a hard-knock life, Jay?

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Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, both 22


Net worth: $200 million ($100 mil per sister)
Rich and legal!
You don't usually associate direct-to-video with untold riches, but the Olsons' 47 youth-focused films, along with a fashion line at Wal-Mart and countless other merchandising ventures, turned them into teenage moneymaking machines. Sure, they flamed out at NYU, but what good is a degree when you're already copresident of a multi-million-dollar entertainment empire (Dualstar)?

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Alex Rodriguez, 32


2006 earnings: $28 million
World's 14th best-earning athlete…and on the rise!
A-Rod, the Yankees' enigma-cum-superstar, put himself on the wealth map by signing the richest contract in sports, a ten-year, $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers in 2000. Now he's topped his own windfall with a ten-year Yankees contract for $275 million (with incentives that could push it over $300 million), which prompted Katie Couric to ask on 60 Minutes if he was worth that much. Jealous much, Katie?

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