Jeff Greene started investing in real estate as a side hustle in college and survived a downturn in the 1990s before making his first billion betting against the housing market in 2008. He spoke with Forbes about how he’s managing his investments ahead of a potential recession.
By Giacomo Tognini, Forbes Staff
As a child growing up in Worcester, Massachusetts, Jeff Greene shoveled snow and worked an 86-house paper route for the local newspaper. In college at Johns Hopkins, he worked part-time jobs ranging from teaching Hebrew to checking IDs outside the library. To pay his way through Harvard Business School, he traveled the country as a circus promoter—money that he later invested into three-bedroom houses in a town near Boston, his first foray into real estate.
Disaster struck with the real estate crash in the early 1990s, but Greene managed to scrape by. Then, in 2006, he made an audacious bet against the housing market, buying credit default swaps on subprime mortgage-backed bonds. The ensuing collapse earned him a windfall of $800 million, which he plowed into prime property in Palm Beach. It also made him a billionaire: Forbes now estimates his fortune at $7.5 billion, much of it concentrated in South Florida, Los Angeles and New York.
Forbes spoke with Greene about his knack for surviving crises and his risk-averse approach to investing.
Forbes: How did you get your first start in investing?
Jeff Greene: The way I got into real estate was kind of by accident. I was accepted to Harvard Business School in the spring of 1977, and then I needed a place to live and I wanted to move into Soldiers Field apartments, which was a beautiful modern complex. I’d already been out of college almost three years, I didn’t want