BILLIONAIRE BOB HOPE HAD THE MIDAS TOUCH -- AND A HEART OF GOLD

Published on: August 7, 2003

Bob Hope died without knowing the true value of his fortune -- a number of years ago he insisted he wasn't worth more than $50 million, but some experts say he was a billionaire!

The beloved comedian -- who died July 27 at age 100 -- "was very guarded, very careful about money," says author Robert Slatzer, a friend who knew Hope for nearly 50 years.

"Bob was amazingly generous when it came to good causes, but he could be stingy with relatives and people who worked for him.

"His writers were always complaining they were underpaid, and it took his wife Dolores years to get him to buy her a diamond ring.

"He would vet the household grocery bills when he was home. He hated needless spending.

"Bob didn't like to speak about his true worth because people always had their hands out to get money from him. The truth is I don't think he knew exactly how wealthy he really was."

As far back as 30 years ago, Hope's worth was estimated at half a billion dollars, most of it coming from wise investments.

At one point Hope was one of California's biggest land barons, buying land at $10 an acre and selling at a huge profit.

He purchased 16,000 acres of bean fields in the San Fernando Valley, selling off half the acreage for $40 million. The remaining land was worth more than $100 million way back then.

"His land holdings also included thousands of acres in Malibu, Palm Springs and Phoenix."

In addition to real estate, at various times in his life Hope had big stakes in professional sports teams, a racetrack, Texas oil wells, soft drink companies, metal products, a dairy ranch, a meat-packing company, RCA Records and a radio station.

"I think when he died his wealth would have been closer to a billion dollars, which would have made him the richest comedian ever," said Slatzer.

"When Time magazine listed his wealth at $500 million, he wasn't pleased -- and claimed it was a measly $50 million. But he was far, far richer than that.

"He told me, 'It's nobody's business. I don't even know anymore how much I've got. All I know is I don't have to worry about the future.'"

Hope had the Midas touch for making money -- and a heart of gold when it came to charities.

Over the years he helped provide more than a billion dollars for hospitals, scientific research and the handicapped.

He also performed tirelessly for free on behalf of the National Parkinson Foundation, the Eisenhower Medical Center and a host of other charities.