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Because David Hoffmann grew up poor in the rural Midwest, his first-time ranking this week on Forbes world billionaires list is a bigger accomplishment than most realize. 

“I’ve been blessed and lucky,” Hoffmann said, noting that his family didn’t have hot running water in Washington, Missouri, until he was in high school. Now, the Naples resident’s local conglomerate owns 42 commercial properties in Southwest Florida with his ever-growing empire also notably stretching to community clusters in Colorado, Illinois and Missouri. 

Hoffmann’s $1.3 billion net worth was enough to rank him at number 2,190 on Forbes worldwide list. His self-made fortune took off after he started an executive search firm more than 30 years ago. His diversified local acquisitions, which began shortly after he and his wife, Jerri, moved to Naples just seven years ago, now include the Hertz Arena and the Old Collier and Old Corkscrew golf clubs. 

Hoffmann had the pleasure of meeting Forbes editor-in-chief Steve Forbes at a Florida Gulf Coast University family business conference last month but the local businessman said he didn’t exactly aspire to be on Forbes’ famous list. “Many times in my career it seemed like an unreachable goal, but then the right things fell into place. A lot of those things were Naples-related,” he said. “Our timing at buying assets in Naples probably couldn’t have been better. We started buying property down there six years ago. We all know what has happened to property values and asset values in Southwest Florida. We took a pretty big step in that direction, which I think helped push us over the goal line to get to that status. We have businesses, as you know, across the country and around the world but the biggest concentration of assets, real assets, is in Naples.”  

The analytical, detailed process to make the billionaires list spanned six to eight months, Hoffmann said. “I can tell you this,” he said. “Anybody who is in there is for real because the process is incredibly thorough. The verification of assets and values, I can assure you that it’s thorough, it’s analytical and it’s accurate. If anything, it’s conservative. They’re very careful about what goes in there. I know Naples has several people in there.” 

Hoffmann actually is low on the totem pole when it comes to Naples-area billionaires. The other local billionaires, according to this year’s ranking, include Shahid Khan (#313), Reinhold Schmieding (#330), Tom Golisano (#490), Richard Schulze (#665), William Stone (#1096) and Scott Kapnick (#2076). 

“There are only 724 billionaires in America. When you look at the (world) list, you go, ‘OK, I’m number 2,190, but 724 is not a big number,’” Hoffmann said. “A significant number of those people live in Naples and, then, there are people who are in Naples but aren’t residents of Naples that are billionaires. Naples has got a pretty good representation of billionaires in the community.” 

Ironically, all that money and all the double-checking of facts doesn’t guarantee that a billionaire’s name will be spelled correctly. Hoffmann’s name was misspelled with only one N in the Forbes information. “It’s a frequent thing with us. I have a heck of a time with emails because people say, ‘Dave, I emailed you and you didn’t respond and it won’t go through.’ I said, ‘Let me guess. You did it with one N.’ Every time it’s one N. I don’t know. I should probably change it to one N.” 

Don’t expect Hoffmann to rest on his laurels. Many more business deals and “more of the same” are in the works, he said. “We’ll continue to invest heavily in Southwest Florida.” 

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