February 19, 2019 | 02:39 AM

Millionaire Mindset

11.02.2010Billionaire Predictions 2010

Even as most billionaires saw their wealth increase in 2009 along with rising stock markets, some remain cautious and believe that 2010 will continue to test the global economy.

Even as most billionaires saw their wealth increase in 2009 along with rising stock markets, some remain cautious and believe that 2010 will continue to test the global economy.

Q&A: Billionaire Predictions 2010
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We queried billionaires from around the world to get their thoughts on topics ranging from global warming and the weakening dollar to the price of gold and best places to invest in 2010. Ten answered our 10-question survey, but few agreed on most subjects. Whereas nearly all of the billionaires quizzed a year ago predicted an economic recovery, this year's participants were less unanimous.

The most bullish of the group predicted double-digit stock market gains in the coming year. Time Square tycoon Leon Charney predicted a 12% return in 2010. John Catsimatidis, another American who made a fortune largely in supermarkets and gas stations, concurs, stating that the market has to go up and will probably double over the next seven years. The biggest surprise of 2010? "The market hitting 12,000," Catsimatidis said.

Others thought the recent recovery would be short-lived and that returns would be minimal. Asked what direction his country's stock market would move and what returns he anticipated, Canadian David Cheriton quipped, "Sideways at best. So, none or slightly negative."

The billionaire respondents also gave wildly varying advice when asked about the best asset to own in 2010. All but one who abstained recommended a different investment. Among their picks: high-end art, real estate, distressed debt, cash, gold and stocks. Stanford professor Cheriton, who made his billions from a chunk of Google stock he'd been given by former students Sergey Brin and Larry Page, named the Internet company's stock as the best asset. The most practical advice came from Pharmaceutical tycoon Randal J. Kirk: "The best financial assets for a person to own would be those over which he has peculiar knowledge of expertise."

While most were gold bugs calling the commodity a buy or hold, two were vocal dissenters. Hollywood producer of such films as Pretty Woman and Marley and Me, Arnon Milchan called it a "place to go when you're scared; I don't see gold as a player in a healthy economy." Concurred Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, "Gold is a religion; it's not an asset class. It is always a bubble, so I am a sell."

The question that seemed to provoke the most detailed and impassioned responses was the one asking billionaires for their thoughts on the most alarming trend facing the economy today. Answers included rising unemployment, government spending, inflation and the poor education system. "I'm particularly alarmed by the decline in our commitment to a public education that will prepare our children to navigate a society defined by science and technology," says Kirk. Catsimatidis finds alarming the dearth of lending to small and medium-sized businesses with "great credit" a sentiment echoed by Cuban, who cited President Barack Obama's administration's ignorance of how entrepreneurs start small businesses.

As for the biggest surprises, both Charney and Cheriton predicted problems for President Obama. "Obama's approval rating will drop below the lowest level Bush ever had as unemployment continues to rise," said Cheriton. Perhaps a bigger surprise would be Obama's return to favor, but no one is predicting that outcome.

On a lighter note, Cuban is betting that the biggest shocker will be the news that Tiger Woods will remarry.


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