Comedy Central host Jon Stewart regularly bashes American multimillionaires for their wealth while ignoring the awkward fact that he’s one of them.
Though Stewart distances himself from the “one-percenters” and bellows over their extravagance, his bank accounts bear all the marks of the “multi, multi, multi, multi millionaires” he mocks. The 49-year-old Stewart, born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, makes more than 300 times the median American salary, owns three luxury homes and sometimes doesn’t pay his taxes.
In January Stewart exploded on-air over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s income level. “That’s almost — that’s almost $57,000 a day!” he gushed.
But Stewart’s own income level brings him and his wife Tracey approximately $41,000 a day. The celebrity income-handicapping website Celebrity Net Worth lists his annual salary as $15 million and estimates his net worth at $80 million.
While $80 million doesn’t yet put Stewart into the same wealth bracket as Romney, he is already on pace to be richer than the former Massachusetts governor when he reaches his age.
At his current earning rate, The Daily Show host’s net worth will be $320 million by the time he turns 65 — Romney’s current age. And that total doesn’t include increases in property value or other assets Stewart might accumulate.
And then there are the houses. When Arizona Sen. John McCain ran for president in 2008, he was criticized for not knowing how many houses he owned. (The answer: seven.) Stewart is well on his way to McCain country, with three opulent mansions whose combined value is $12.8 million.
He doesn’t technically own those homes: Using a trick mastered by countless one-percenters, the properties were purchased by private trusts. Stewart’s trusts are named after his pets.
The super-wealthy often make big-ticket purchases through trusts in order to protect their other assets from lawsuits, diminish estate tax liability, and avoid public scrutiny.
The satirist started his real estate empire in 2005 when The Stanley Monkey Trust — named after his cat Stanley and one of his pit bull terriers, Monkey — purchased a two-story Manhattan penthouse for $5.8 million.
That deluxe apartment in the sky spans 6,000-square-feet and has 40 windows, a 600-foot terrace, and a 1,200-foot private roof, the New York Observer reported in 2005.
Another legal entity, The Shamsky Monkey Trust, purchased two more houses in 2009 and 2010. (Shamsky, named after 1969 “Miracle Mets” outfielder Art Shamsky, is Stewart’s other pit bull terrier.)
The lakefront mansions Stewart bought in 2009 and 2010 are in Red Bank, New Jersey. They cost him $3,800,000 and $3,200,000 and — for reasons TheDC was unable to determine — are next door to one another.
Online real estate search engines show that the Shamsky Monkey Trust also owns a $675,000 house in North Haven, New York. Public records indicate that Stewart’s older brother, Lawrence Leibowitz, lives there.
With serious wealth often come serious tax problems. In January the comedian blasted Romney for paying a 15-percent tax rate on his earnings, most of which come from capital gains on stocks and other securities.
President Barack Obama has made that 15-percent capital gains tax the centerpiece of his tax reform proposals, offering what he called the “Buffett Rule” as a way to force titans of industry to pay what he said would be a higher tax rate than their secretaries.
Stewart advocated a similar position on the air without noting that he has had his own tax problems.
The New York Department of State issued liens against him and his wife in 2007 and 2008 for not paying their taxes in full, according to documents obtained by The Daily Caller that refer to the Stewarts as “tax delinquents.”
The Empire State issued its first “state tax warrant” for the couple’s failure to pay $476.03, sending the notice to the address of the KLS Professional Advisors Group, the financial firm that manages Stewart’s money.
New York issued a second lien in September 2008, this time a $3,225.63 demand to Stewart’s wife Tracey — erroneously spelled “Tracy” but sent to the address of the Stewarts’ trusts.
A representative for Stewart declined to comment for this report.