Thursday, December 31, 2009

10 Greediest People of 2009

As ordinary Americans reel from the Great Recession, these gluttonous all-stars continue to claw in absurd amounts of money.

Has picking a year’s greediest "top ten" ever been easier? We don't think so. We could, this year, fill an entire top ten just with bankers from Goldman Sachs -- or JPMorgan Chase or any of a number of other Wall Street giants. All sport executive suites packed with power suits who fanned the flames that melted down the global economy, then helped themselves, after gobbling down billions in bailouts, to paydays worth mega millions -- at a time when, in over half our states, over a quarter of America’s kids are living off food stamps.

Now that’s greed. But that’s also not the whole picture. The Great Recession’s greedy don’t just sit on Wall Street. They occupy perches of power throughout the reeling U.S. economy. So we’ve tried, in this our latest annual ranking of avarice, to survey that bigger picture.

Where does all this greed come from? We humans have always, of course, had greed among us. But levels of greed vary enormously from one historical epoch to another -- and from one society to another.

What determines which societies see the most greed and grasping? In a word: inequality. The more wealth concentrates, the more greed grows. The United States remains the most unequal nation in the developed world. Next year, we suspect, will bring us still another bumper crop of greedy.
Go here to AlterNet
to read about all of them:
10: Richard Anderson
9: George David/Marie Douglas-David
8: Steve Wynn
7: Robert Rubin
6: Andrew Hall
5: John Chambers
4: Rupert Murdoch
3: Mark Hurd
2: Richard Scott
1: Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison appeared on our "greediest" list last year. He may appear every year. No one may better personify, personally and professionally, the self-absorption, arrogance, and insensitivity that separates the merely greedy from the greediest.

In 2008, Ellison, the CEO of Oracle business software, contested the $166.3 million tax appraisal on his Northern California estate. The assessment appeals panel gave him a $3 million tax refund in a ruling that will cost the local school system an annual $250,000, the cost of hiring and supplying three teachers.

Ellison, the holder of a $27 billion fortune, spent a good bit of 2009 sparing no expense to build a yacht speedy enough to win next year’s America’s Cup, the world’s top sailing race. His new racing yacht has a $10-million mast "18-stories tall and sails large enough to cover a baseball infield." Some 30 designers and scientists spent 130,000 hours putting the vessel together.

For more casual water fun, Ellison takes to the seas on his 453-foot mega yacht, the Rising Sun, a boat he co-owns with Hollywood mogul David Geffen. This five-story little ship boasts 82 rooms and a basketball court that doubles as a helicopter pad. The construction cost in 2004: $200 million.

On the business side, Ellison did his best in 2009 to top the $557 million he took home as Oracle’s CEO in 2008. His magic formula: Ellison’s a serial merger. He buys companies, takes their customers, and fires their workers. His top 2009 gobble-up: Silicon Valley’s Sun Microsystems.

The Sun merger, analysts believe, will almost certainly end up eliminating more jobs than the 5,000 positions lost when Oracle bought out rival PeopleSoft.

And did we mention the dividends? Oracle this past spring announced plans to pay out its first dividend. The announcement, CNBC estimated, meant a $57.5 million quarterly check for Ellison in May and another $230 million in dividend checks over the next 12 months.

In 2009, the old Silicon Valley joke still rang true: "What's the difference between God and Larry Ellison? Answer: God doesn't think he's Larry Ellison."
from AlterNet

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