In 1975, when Joe L. Allbritton was fighting off a challenge to his acquisition of 37 percent of the stock of The Washington Star and its broadcasting outlets, he was called upon to say something about his net worth.
"I have caused to be reviewed my financial condition and based on the review, I state to you that the value of gross assets held by me and my wholly owned companies exceeds $100 million," he said.
Six years later in 1981, when he was fighting off a challenge to his acquisition of control of Riggs National Bank, the question came up again.
"In the purchaser's [Albritton's] opinion, based primarily upon current valuation of his assets, his net worth is conservatively valued at $200 million," he said.
In inflationary times, Joe Allbritton has apparently done all right.
With the acquisition of Riggs, Allbritton adds substantially to his already substantial assets. Assuming no hitches, at the end of the month Allbritton will acquire 40.1 percent of the bank's stock for approximately $70 million and gain control of the area's largest financial institution -- a bank with more than $3 billion in assets.
Even for a man who was a millionaire by the time he was 33, it was a big deal, although not his first. When Allbritton sold The Washington Star to Time Inc. in 1978, it was reliably estimated that he made at least $70 million by selling off the Star's more profitable broadcast properties, doubling his investment.
Allbritton owns most of his assets, although not his banks, through the Perpetual Corp., a holding company of which he is president and chairman and in which he owns all the stock. Besides Perpetual, Allbritton's major assets are University Bancshares, a Houston banking company that owns University State Bank and approximately 60 percent of the shares of the First Bank of Alief, a bank in a small town outside Houston.
University Bancshares is worth approximately $15.5 million, according to disclosures recently made by Allbritton.
Perpetual owns stock in a number of subsidiaries, including Allbritton Communications Co. based in Washington. Allbritton Communcations owns three television stations worth an estimated $138 million and three newspaper companies worth an estimated $1.8 million.
The television stations include WCIV-TV of Charleston, S.C.; WSET of Lynchburg, Va. and Washington's own Channel 7, WJLA-TV (named with Allbritton's initials). The newspapers owned by Allbritton Communications include the Hudson Dispatch in Union City, N.J.: the Morning and Evening News in Paterson, N.J., (published by the News Printing Co., which is wholly owned by Allbritton Communications) and the Westfield News, Amherst Record and Wallace Pennysaver, all published by the Westfield News Advertiser Inc. of Westfield, Mass.
The communications company also has formed KCKN Inc., a company that is in the process of acquiring KCKN radio in Kansas City.
Perpetual also owns Houston Financial Service Ltd., an investment and venture capital corporation with headquarters in London; Jobaro Corp. of Delaware, and Perfin Corp. of Los Angeles, a real estate holding company.
Another major subsidiary of Perpetual Corp. is Pierce National Life Insurance Co. of Los Angeles. Allbritton is chairman of the board and owns 100 percent of the company's stock. The company is worth an estimated $45 million. Allbritton bought the company, which had $107.4 million in assets at the end of 1979, in the 1950s as his first big deal.
Pierce owns the Pierce Investment Corp., also of Los Angeles. The investment firm owns Pierce Brothers, which operates funeral homes, cemeteries and crematoria in California and Texas; Funeral Director Services Inc.; Westmoreland Journals Inc., which publishes the Standard Observer newspaper in Irwin, Pa., and PNL Investment Corp. of Washington.
"In the purchaser's opinion, its resources, aside from the [Riggs] shares, are more than sufficient to pay the principal and interest charges" on the money borrowed to buy control of Riggs, Allbritton noted in a disclosure March 18. The assets he listed did not include household furnishings, funds and real estate -- including houses in Washington, Houston and La Jolla, Calif. -- held for personal use.
Business has been very, very good to Allbritton.