Cash for Trash

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent story about which corporate executives made the biggest killings over the last five years. Turns out fifteen of them, including several homebuilders, raked in more than $100 million in cash from stock sales. Many of them have seen their stocks collapse. For instance:

R. Chad Dreier, 61, chairman and chief executive of Ryland Group Inc., a Calabasas, Calif., home builder, made $181 million over the five-year period. Specializing in mid-range homes, Ryland did well in the boom, entering into hot markets, such as Las Vegas and Ft. Myers, Fla. Most of its buyers financed homes through Ryland’s in-house mortgage unit, some through controversial interest-only mortgages.

Angelo Mozilo. Dick Fuld. Jimmy Cayne. The gang’s all here (see this great chart).

The pay issue is key in this crisis, which was created in no small part because incentives for executives have been all out of whack. This gluttony all just looks ugly now, and the Journal revels in exposing the Gilded Age excesses of several of the execs:

Next door to his 4,900-square-foot hilltop house in Santa Barbara, Calif., a Dreier private company owns an office building that houses Mr. Dreier’s collection of baseball cards, sports memorabilia, gems, minerals and other items. State records say he owns several cars, including a 2004 Porsche coupe worth $448,000…

In 2004, Mr. Meyers bought a Spanish-style villa in Newport, R.I., the summer retreat of industrialists a century ago. He paid $10.3 million for the estate, on 45 acres with sweeping views of the Atlantic. Mr. Meyers tore down the villa and is constructing a five-building, 38,000-square-foot compound called Seaward with a carriage house, a guest house and a caretaker’s cottage. Mr. Meyers also owns a 66-foot sailing yacht, which he recently raced to a win at the famed Newport Regatta…

Mr. Cole, who was CEO for some of the period, lives in a 9,200-square-foot oceanfront home in Laguna Beach, Calif., that has a tax value of $30 million…

Not long after GFI went public, Mr. Gooch bought a 152-foot sailing yacht that had been listed for sale at $12.9 million.

Mr. Gooch lives in a 10,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom house on the water in Rumson, N.J, with an elevator, pool and tennis court. He also owns a waterfront home in Delray Beach, Fla., and a Colorado ski condo.

I think I just heard the folks on the WSJ’s editorial-page side have a collective aneurysm over the “class warfare” here.

Never mind them. Applaud the news side for a good job.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.