How much is Jon Corzine worth?
Conventional wisdom suggests that the former chief executive of Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), US Senator, New Jersey governor, and until last week, the head of MF Global has a net worth well into the hundreds of millions of dollars, possibly even close to $1 billion.
But according to former colleagues and others who are close to Corzine, the net worth of the man some say bought his first political office by spending $60 million of his own money to become US Senator no longer puts him among the uber-rich -- a status he had grown accustomed to during his long years in banking and politics.
In fact, Corzine, these people say, is worth far closer to $1 million than he is to $1 billion, particularly after the MF Global debacle and the legal headaches it will cost him for years to come.
Consider the following: Corzine left Goldman in 1999 with a net worth estimated to be around $350 million, but over the next decade he spent around $130 million on his various political campaigns, including most recently an unsuccessful run for New Jersey governor, where he needed to raise money from outside sources precisely because he didn’t have enough of his own to self-finance the campaign.
A costly divorce from his first wife further depleted his finances, not to mention a multi-million-dollar settlement he paid to a lobbyist, with whom he had a relationship.
People who know him well say that Corzine, like many others on Wall Street, made a series of bad investments over the years, but even without subtracting those losses he was left with an estimated $100 million when he became CEO of MF Global in 2010.
But Wall Street sources tell the FOX Business Network that Corzine had invested about $50 million of his own money in the firm, which is now mired in bankruptcy, meaning he's likely to lose much if not all of that money as well.
By this calculation, that leaves Corzine around $53 million, which goes pretty quickly even with insurance when you consider the potential huge legal costs that are likely to arise for the firm's demise -- everything from shareholder lawsuits to potential fines and penalties stemming from the various regulatory and criminal investigations currently underway.
And remember, these numbers don't take into account potential investment losses that some people close to him say he suffered, particularly during the financial collapse.
Of course determining how much anyone is really worth is more of an art than a science. Even executives, like Warren Buffett, whose net worth can be determined through their ownership of the public companies they run (in Buffett's case, Berkshire Hathaway), have outside investments including hard-to-value real estate holdings.
Corzine also could have made a bundle investing in gold or something else. And even if he’s worth a couple of million bucks, it's hard feeling sorry for a millionaire, when millions of Americans are losing their homes and face unemployment.
Nevertheless, Corzine’s financial status -- a deteriorating one, according to people who know him -- provides a sad footnote to his long career on Wall Street and politics.
Corzine isn’t saying much these days, as investigators sift through the damage caused by the demise of MF Global, the firm he joined in 2010. After a Corzine-inspired bet on troubled European sovereign debt, the firm was forced to declare bankruptcy a little more than a week ago.
Recreating MF Global, a mid-sized brokerage, into something along the lines of Goldman Sachs was supposed to be the capstone of a long and largely successful career on Wall Street, albeit one that wasn’t without its share of controversy.
Corzine rose from a mere bond trader at Goldman to become its CEO. He was forced out in 1999 after Goldman suffered massive trading losses tied to the collapse of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management. But he went on to be elected US Senator from New Jersey, and later its governor.
After losing his re-election bid in 2009, he joined MF Global and was forced out last week amid the company’s implosion.
As first reported by FOX Business, regulators are investigating public statements made by MF Global officials, including Corzine, in the days prior to its implosion. Also being investigated is close to $600 million in customer funds that were apparently co-mingled with other activities and are still missing.
Corzine’s attorney didn’t return a call for comment, nor did a spokeswoman at MF Global.