His name might not be recognizable to most even in the senior housing arena, but despite his absence from the Forbes World’s Billionaires list, real estate mogul Gary Morse is the billionaire “behind the curtains” in control of one of the world’s largest retirement communities, reports Bloomberg.
Morse’s fortune was built by owning almost every aspect of the Villages.
Morse owns the local newspaper, a television channel and an AM radio station. His realty company controls 60 percent of the re-sale market in the Villages, whose commercials have been fixtures on the Golf Channel. His bank lends to retirees fleeing south; his insurance company provides them coverage. He even gets paid to pick up the trash and organize tee times. For all his ubiquity, most outside of Florida have never heard of him.
“He’s kind of like the Wizard of Oz,” Andrew D. Blechman, author of “Leisureville,” a book on retirement communities, said in a phone interview from his office in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. “He’s the man behind the curtain. No one really knows him at the Villages.”
In 2011, the Holding Company of the Villages Ltd., which is owned by Morse and his family, generated at least $550 million in revenue, according to regulatory filings. Based on the value of his various businesses and real estate—plus the almost $1 billion in estimated profits the closely held company has earned over 29 years—Morse and his family are worth more than $2.5 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. He has never appeared on an international rich list, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its July issue.
As landlord of the Village’s 4.5 million-square-feet of commercial space, on which are restaurants, retailers, and doctors offices, Morse and his family are sitting on about $400 million worth of property, the article says.
Bloomberg goes on to mention a 2009 IRS investigation into some municipal bond issuances from the Village network—a source of some of Morse’s billions.
Written by Alyssa Gerace