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The billionaires' wives

By Devon Pendleton and Chaniga Vorasarun, Forbes
August 04, 2007 12:32 IST
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Billionaires usually have their pick of brides and often chose to marry some of the world's most beautiful and glamorous women. Canada's richest man, media baron David Thomson, recently announced his engagement to Kelly Rowan, the star of the canceled Fox TV series The O.C.

French billionaire Francois Pinault's son Francois-Henri, who heads the family's luxury group PPR, is engaged to movie star Salma Hayek, who is expecting his baby. Swiss tycoon Ernesto Bertarelli's wife Kirsty is a former Miss UK who is now collaborating with the co-sponsors of his America's Cup team to create a special line of clothing and a limited-edition jewelry collection.

Oftentimes brains as well as beauty are the attraction. The son of a taxi driver, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson met his match with Miriam Ochshorn, an Israeli-born doctor who is considered a pioneer in the treatment of drug addiction.

Together the couple founded drug treatment clinics in Tel Aviv and Las Vegas. Ochshorn runs the clinics and is also an adjunct faculty member at the Rockefeller University in New York. Another spouse who can go toe-to-toe with her husband is Anne Dias Griffin, the wife of Kenneth Griffin, who runs the hedge fund Citadel Investments. A veteran of Goldman Sachs, Fidelity and George Soros' fund, she is one of the few women to start and run a hedge fund.

Belgian designer Diane von Furstenberg is as well regarded in fashion circles as her husband, IAC InterActiveCorp's Barry Diller, is in business. Her signature wrap dresses were so ubiquitous in the 1970s that they earned her comparisons to Coco Chanel and landed her on the covers of Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal. She didn't marry Diller until 2001. Today von Furstenberg oversees an empire that has gone beyond dresses to now include luggage, beauty products and perfumes. Her business spans 50 countries.

Given the slavish work habits of many billionaires, it is not surprising that several met their mates in the office. Melinda Gates was a manager at Microsoft in charge of information products for nine years, during which time she met, dated and married the company's founder.

Now she is a full-time co-chair of their philanthropic organisation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Gail Golden served as an assistant to financier Carl Icahn for years before they got hitched in 1999, soon after Icahn divorced his first wife.

Sometimes folks with 10-figure fortunes prefer partners with their own status and money. Ireland's Tony O'Reilly is married to Chryss Goulandris, a Greek shipping heiress. Spanish billionaire Esther Koplowitz is married to Fernando Falco, Marques de Cubas, scion of an old Spanish family. Mexico's richest woman, beer heiress Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala, is married to Tony Garza, US Ambassador to Mexico.

Others billionaires end up with someone who fell for them before they had lots of money. One of the world's most eligible came off the market in May when Google co-founder Sergey Brin married his longtime sweetheart Anne Wojcicki. The two met back when Brin, then just your average techie, sublet a garage from Wojcicki's sister. A Yale graduate who was working as a health care analyst when they met, Wojcicki has since launched her own biotech startup, 23andMe, with some funding from her husband's company.

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Devon Pendleton and Chaniga Vorasarun, Forbes