Estimated worth: $500 million
A co-founder of Qualcomm Inc. in 1985, Andrew Viterbi amassed a pretty nice nest egg when he retired from Qualcomm’s board in 2001.
magazine estimated his worth at $640 million several years ago. He didn’t make Forbes’ list of the richest 400 in 2004 or this year, but that’s because the minimum threshold this year was $900 million.
With one of his colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Irwin Jacobs, Viterbi helped to develop the wireless technology that now runs on a large portion of the world’s cell phones called Code Division Multiple Access, or CDMA.
Before his experience in the commercial sector, Viterbi was a scholar and cutting edge researcher in the field of digital wireless, so much so that an algorithm is named after him.
The La Jolla resident isn’t as well known as his partner Jacobs, except maybe on the campus of the University of Southern California. He and his wife, Erna, donated $52 million to that university’s engineering school in 2004, the largest gift in school history.
He’s also a major donor to other schools and Jewish organizations, including the San Diego Jewish Academy.
In 2000, he founded the Viterbi Group, an equity investment fund that invests in early stage high-tech companies.