It’s rare that you happen across a modest millionaire, and even rarer that you stumble upon an understated billionaire… 2 facts which make Kentucky’s richest man, B. Wayne Hughes, all the more extraordinary. Since co-founding Public Storage in 1972, Hughes has made a fortune ($2.8B, in fact) from America’s junk. Refreshingly, he’s not let the billions go to his head, preferring to lead the simple life at home in Lexington with his wife Patricia and their legions of thoroughbred racehorses. Find out more about the storage king with these 10 quick facts.
1. He didn’t get rich until middle age
Scroll through the Forbes rich list and the one thing that strikes you is how young the average millionaire is these days. In 2019, if you haven’t made your first million by the time you’re 30, you may as well give up and go home. Hughes is the rare exception. After a decidedly average, middling career, it was only when he was in his 40’s that he made the transition from average Joe to Rockefeller. The reason for the transition? Happening upon the solution to America’s junk problem…
2. He opened the first Public Storage in 1972
After witnessing the success of mini-storage facilities in Dallas and Houston, Hughes decided to move the concept wholesale to California. The result was Public Storage, a company that began as a simple operation in El Cajon and rapidly turned into one of the biggest global providers of its kind. As of 2019, there are more than 2,400 Public Storage locations scattered around the US, Canada, and Europe.
3. He lives a modest lifestyle
Maybe it’s because he didn’t make his wealth until later age, or maybe it’s because of his good old mid-western values. Whatever the reason, Hughes is one billionaire who’s decidedly modest with his wealth. He currently lives a modest life in a three-bedroom house in Lexington, with his wife Patricia. According to Insider Louisville, the humble billionaire doesn’t even splash out on a hotel room when he visits Malibu, preferring instead to bunk up in his daughter’s spare bedroom instead.
4. His kids are billionaires
Hughes isn’t the only billionaire in the family. According to Forbes, his daughter, Tamara Gustavson, has a net worth of $5.5 billion, a fortune she’s accrued thanks to her 11% stake hold in Public Storage. Until leaving in 2003 to raise her children, she also served as the VP of the company; in 2007, she returned as a board member, a position she holds to this day. Hughes’ son, B Wayne Hughes, Jr., may not be doing quite as well as his sister in the wealth department, but with the still considerable sum of $1.6 billion to his name, we doubt he’s feeling too upset about the situation.
5. He’s got a passion for horse racing
In 2004, Hughes took a rare departure from his modest lifestyle by splashing out a reported $6 million on Spendthrift Farms, a thoroughbred racehorse breeding farm in Lexington, Kentucky. The purchase was the culmination of Hughes’ longtime interest in horse racing; a passion which started in 1972 when he bought his first thoroughbred racehorse. Since then, he’s built up a significant reputation in the community, winning the 2003 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Eclipse Award for Outstanding 2-Year-Old Male Horse with his colt Action This Day, along with various other trophies and accolades.
6. He’s notoriously private
If you were hoping to get a glimpse into the life of a billionaire, don’t hold out much hope of finding Hughes splashing details of his life across social media. The billionaire is notoriously guarded about his private life, and rarely gives interviews. “(Hughes) has intentionally chosen to live his life in a way that he avoids the spotlight,” his attorney once said after turning down an interview.
7. He’s not afraid to get political
Hughes may be notoriously reluctant to speak about his private life, but he’s not afraid to make his feelings known if it’s a cause that’s close to his heart. The lifelong horse lover recently added his name to the membership rollcall of Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA) in support of The Horseracing Integrity Act, a proposed bill that will standardize drug rules and testing in horse racing via the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). "I wholeheartedly support the effort," Hughes told Blood Horse. "The need for this legislation is urgent, and the future of horse racing hangs in the balance of its enactment. We are on the edge of the cliff."
8. He’s noted for his philanthropy
If you’ve got millions going spare, it would seem crude not to spread the love with a few charitable donations here and there. In Hughes’ case, his philanthropic efforts extend far beyond throwing the occasional coin in a charity box. According to the LA Times, Hughes has donated almost $400 million to his old alma mater, the University of Sothern California, almost all of it anonymously. He was also responsible for the creation and ongoing funding of Parker Hughes Cancer Center in Minnesota, a facility centered on the research and development of drugs and treatment for children’s leukemia and cancers.
9. He is the largest donor to American Crossroads
A staunch Republican, Hughes has contributed the largest amount of funds of any single donor to American Crossroads, a SUPER PAC founded by the Republican political consultant and advisor, Karl Rove, which raises money for Republican party candidates. Since 2010, Hughes has donated a mammoth $1.55 million to the organization, which is believed to be largely funded by billionaires.
10. He retired from Public Storage in 2002
After founding Public Storage in 1972, the 85-year-old Hughes remained integral to its operation until the early 2000s. In 2002, he decided to withdraw from the company’s day to day activities and devote his time to horse breeding, racing, and enjoying the quiet life with his wife Patricia in their Lexington home. He has, however, kept up his affiliation with the company, and currently serves as the President emeritus.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn