Even as Amb. George L. Argyros’ fortune continues to rise, estimated at $2.4 billion by Forbes this year, he continues to give it away. He and his wife, Julia, just weeks before this edition went to press, gave $7.5 million to the Los Angeles Coliseum, home of the University of Southern California.
Amb. Argyros is well known in a wide variety of prominent circles, as his long and illustrious life has included achievements ranging from real estate, to sports, to international diplomacy.
Argyros served as U.S. Ambassador to Spain and owner of the professional baseball team Seattle Mariners. But Argyros, 80, made his fortune in grocery stores and real estate.
A second-generation American of Greek descent, he was born in Detroit, MI and raised in Pasadena, CA. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Chapman University in Orange, CA. Argyros went into real estate in 1962, selling land at busy intersections to gas stations. Today, his privately held Arnel & Affiliates owns and manages 5,500 apartments and 2 million square feet of commercial space.
In 1987, Argyros founded Westar Capital, a private equity firm. He is a director of First American Financial Corp and Pacific Mercantile Bancorp. Formerly the largest shareholder and a board member of Kansas software developer DST Systems, he sold off the bulk of that stock in 2014, reducing his shares from 20 percent to 4 percent of the company’s stock. He also retired from the board.
Argyros developed a friendship with scientist/inventor Arnold Beckman in California in 1962. Soon afterward he began a 22-year service as chairman of the board of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, which awards research grants in chemistry and the life sciences. In 2013, the foundation developed the Beckman-Argyros Award in Vision Research. The annual award offers a $100,000 prize and a $400,000 research grant to an individual who has made a significant achievement in vision research.
In 2001, then-President George W. Bush appointed Argyros U.S. ambassador to Spain. Years later, Argyros hosted a $25,000-per-couple dinner for U.S. Senator and then-presidential hopeful John McCain (R-AZ) at his home in 2008. Argyros also served on the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FreddieMac) under President George H.W. Bush.
A resident of Harbor Island in Newport Bay, CA, Argyros is a recognized business leader and philanthropist. He was the 1993 recipient of the Horatio Alger Award of Distinguished Americans, and a 2001 recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Chapman’s School of Business and Economics was renamed in his honor in 1999. He has served on the board of trustees for several community organizations, including the California Institute of Technology, the Beckman Foundation, the Horatio Alger Association, and Chapman University.
Argyros sold the Mariners in 1989, after trying to move them elsewhere, and had also pursued purchase of the San Diego Padres. In January 2012, Argyros became a member of the Board of Regents of the Orange County Council Boy Scouts of America. In April 2011, he and his wife made a $5 million gift to an ambulatory surgery center at the University of California. He is an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Order of St. Andrew the Apostle. Argyros and Julia, have three children and seven grandchildren.