Paris Hilton Pal -- and Credit Default Billionaire -- Enters Florida Senate Race
Here's yet another billionaire who became super-rich by betting against against real estate values during the economic collapse of 2007. But this is the twist: Billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene has entered Florida's already strange U.S. Senate race, which also features a now-independent Gov. Charlie Crist, his righter-than-thou Republican opponent Marco Rubio, and the virtually unknown Democratic contender Kendrick Meek.
In a recent interview, Greene, 55, a Democrat, tried to come across as a good guy, saying he will spend his own money for his campaign and will only accept minimal contributions for the eight-figure cost of a full-fledged statewide campaign. In regard to spending his own finances on his Senate race Greene said, "I'll do what it takes to get my message out."
That's very generous of you, Jeff, considering how many people lost their homes during the housing market crash you helped to fuel. With the profits he made, I'm sure spending eight-figures won't strain his comfortable finances.
At least, Greene is a self-made billionaire.
Raised in a working-class family in Worcester, Mass., he later attended Harvard Business School and spent two decades amassing a fortune in real estate investments, losing it and winning it back. But it was just in the last few years, when he bought piles of credit default swaps, which increased in value when subprime mortgages fell, that Greene met some real green. He did so on the recommendation of hedge fund manager John Paulson of Paulson & Co., whom he met in the Hamptons. His credit default bet earned him a fast $800 million, which launched him onto the Forbes 400 list with a personal fortune worth around $1.4 billion.
On paper, Greene looks like a gem of a politician. Besides not having any experience whatsoever in Florida politics, he boasts a controversial former lifestyle as a party-hearty bachelor in Los Angeles, where he lived from 1980 into the 1990s. He has lived in Florida for only two years.
Known for his splashy, all-night parties at his 12,000-square-foot L.A. home, which featured a karaoke stage and disco, Greene became friends with party guests like Mike Tyson and Paris Hilton. At one such party, he met "Hollywood Madam" Heidi Fleiss, who stayed for a year as his houseguest after her prison stint. Although he has been a Democrat for many years, he once ran and lost a congressional campaign in 1982 as a, wait for it ... Reagan Republican.
His real estate exploits are equally notorious. Actor and movie director Ron Howard once rented a home from Greene in L.A.'s upscale Brentwood neighborhood for $28,000 per month while making a film. Howard moved out after a month, saying the house had leaks, broken appliances and a serious rat problem.
Greene sued him for breach of contract, and Howard filed a countersuit for breach of contract and misrepresentation. Greene was later ordered to pay Howard $616,000 by a judge; he then lost an appeal in California's Supreme Court.
Oh, irony being served. This yacht-sailing maverick wants to reshape Florida by running against what he calls career politicians -- despite the fact that his fortune is fueled by Florida families have lost their homes within a system Greene profited from. Just what American politics needs: more shady mavericks.