San Diego may be well-known anecdotally as a rich city. Sperling’s Best Places to Live survey will tell you that the cost of living here is 46 percent above the national average. However, finding the upper limits of what truly counts as rich in San Diego is not a straightforward task. Many of the county’s richest residents are prominent people who have publicly available records of their wealth, but others inherited large estates and other private sources of wealth that make estimating their net worth far trickier.
The San Diego Business Journal relies on a variety of sources to compile estimates of net worth for its annual list of the county’s wealthiest residents.
The most common sources are Securities and Exchange Commission filings on stock holdings and sales and public records of property sales and property taxes.
In the case of John J. Moores, the San Diego Padres baseball team, which he owns, accounts for a large portion of his net worth. In other cases, donations to charitable causes provide indications of private fortunes when there is less public information on an individual’s wealth.
For example, Donald Shiley’s $20 million gift to the Old Globe Theatre in 2006, ongoing donations to UC San Diego’s ophthalmology center totaling more than $15 million, and a $12 million gift to the University of Portland in Oregon this year provide a good indication that his wealth is far greater than $50 million.
While all these provide sources of wealth accrued, information on debt is almost never publicly available, so estimates are always conservative.