Opinion

Welcome to the Wealth Issue

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By Bernie Niemeier


It all starts with a letter.  Each year, Virginia Business sends members of the Virginia 100 a copy of their previous profile with a request for updated information.  Some folks like being on a list of 100 wealthy Virginians and are happy to send updates; others pay no attention.

Or as former Gov. Mark R. Warner puts it, “This is the issue that most people in Virginia either say, ‘How do I get on that list?’ or ‘How do I get off it?’”
Some people step forward and volunteer their net worth. To get on the list, new candidates must provide a personal financial statement with a letter of verification from their accountants. Whether they get on depends on the cutoff point, which varies from year to year, depending on the economy and stock valuations.

For members who offer no new information, we rely on other sources such as public documents and the Forbes magazine list of richest Americans.
The financial status of top executives in public companies is a bit more accessible through annual proxy statements.  We also find a few new listings from prospects who’ve recently sold their companies.
Virginia is a state of inherited wealth and a state where new wealth is constantly being created.  The Virginia 100 is an elite group that contributes to the commonwealth’s business growth as well as to its charities.  In this issue, you will see who has money and what they do with it.

Two of the state’s wealthiest businessmen, Steve Case and Ted Leonsis are the subjects of this month’s cover story by Managing Editor Paula C. Squires. She interviewed the business partners at Case’s new corporate headquarters in Washington, D.C.  The story, on page 22, reveals what the former AOL leaders are up to these days, namely starting new companies that they say will transform their industries just as AOL changed the Internet.

Some Virginia nonprofit organizations owe their existence to wealthy donors.  On page 51 writer Nichole Anderson Ellis examines how these organizations target and recruit major contributors.
Also following the wealth theme is the 2008 Virginia Winner’s Circle. Author R.J. Shook’s list of top Virginia wealth advisers beginning on page 55 takes on new urgency as writer Aaron Kremer finds out what advice is being offered to clients in a turbulent market.

For many, this market is still a great time to buy homes as well as stocks.  This month’s issue looks at the marketing of upscale properties on page 64.  Writer Lisa Bacon finds that large, luxurious estates are still selling.

A high-end corporate club is a focus of our quarterly commercial real estate section. Writer Joan Hennessy reports that The Presidential opened last month near Washington Dulles International Airport, offering members an opportunity to make deals and play golf on the same day.  Its initial list of 33 members includes around 15 Virginia companies.  The commercial real estate section also includes a story about Thalhimer/Cushman & Wakefield’s expansion into Fredericksburg.

Another story looks at executive education. Writer Heather Hayes examines leadership development programs at business schools around the state.
Finally, this month’s regional report focuses on Loudoun County, one of Virginia’s wealthiest.  There a group of executives known as the “CEO Cabinet” is advising county leaders as they deal with budget problems. The CEOs probably haven’t suggested finding a donor from the Virginia 100, but who knows what can happen if the economy continues to slump.


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