The Billionaire's Club

 

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One good thing about the state of the economy in Connecticut is that it has made us perhaps a little more humble and empathetic. A little more grateful for our families and friends. A little less consumed with crass concerns like big houses, or luxury cars, or which of our neighbors makes how much.

Right.

Money counts, today more than ever. How much is enough? More than we have at the moment, it’s safe to say, and most likely not nearly enough to feel “well off.” We can guess who is doing well by the size of their homes (though not necessarily, given the rising foreclosure rate among the wealthy) and the year, make and model of the cars in their driveways. But it’s easy to spot those who float at the very top of the heap. They’re the ones who make Forbes magazine’s annual list of the 400 richest Americans.

Eleven Connecticut residents have found a spot on the most recent Forbes list. Their net worth is estimable not in the millions, nor tens of millions, nor even hundreds of millions. They live in mansions behind gated walls and drive any number of expensive motor vehicles. Together, these 11 constitute one of the state’s most exclusive clubs—and certainly its wealthiest.

All of the Connecticut 11 on the 2010 Forbes list are billionaires, some many times over. Most are under 60. All but one are male and, with the exception of the sole heiress on the list, are self-made billionaires. Nine, including five of the top six, are hedge-fund managers or founders of other types of investment firms. Eight members of the club live in Greenwich.

This last statistic should come as no surprise. Greenwich is the hedge-fund capital of the country, if not the world, with more than 100 funds located in and around the town, plus numerous private-equity firms. And why not? It’s close to Manhattan and Wall Street but with a friendlier tax environment—and more husband-oriented divorce laws—than New York. It’s beautiful, and has excellent public and private schools and affordable (compared with Manhattan) office space. What’s more, it’s home to other, breathtakingly successful high-net-worth individuals.

“Greenwich has taken on this image of being a hedge-fund hot spot, and that alone has fueled the growth and interest in being located there—for networking and for prestige,” explains Richard Wilson, who heads the Hedge Fund Group and the Certified Hedge Fund Professional (CHP) Designation, an industry certification program.

In a town like this, being named to the Forbes 400—the financial equivalent, perhaps, of receiving an invitation to Truman Capote’s 1966 Black & White Ball or a locker at the Augusta National Golf Club—separates the big-money men from the small-change (read “multimillionaire”) boys.

At the head of the billionaires’ table in Connecticut is Steven A. Cohen, 54, founder of the hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors, and a very serious art collector. Cohen credits playing poker in high school with teaching him the art of risk taking—a skill that’s paid off rather well for him as a hedge-fund manager. His 2010 net worth, according to Forbes, is $7.3 billion, enough to place him No. 32 on the national list (three spots ahead of Facebook founder—or co-co-founder, according to lawsuits and the film Social Network—Mark Zuckerberg, who, at 26 and at last count, is worth an estimated $6.9 billion).

The Billionaire's Club

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