Jennifer Wang ,
It takes money to make money, but nearly two-thirds of the 1810 entrants on Forbes’ 2016 World’s Billionaires list are self-made entrepreneurs who started with little more than a vision and some savings. Today their empires range from fashion and entertainment to real estate and telecom. These moguls are responsible for creating household names such as Google GOOGL -0.22% and Zara .
Bill Gates, the wealthiest man in the world for the 17th time, revolutionized computing with his idea of “a computer on every desk.” Along with fellow billionaire Paul Allen, the Harvard dropout founded Microsoft MSFT -0.64% in 1975 (originally “Micro-Soft,” the name is a portmanteau of microcomputer and software). The company’s big break came five years later, when Gates managed to broker a deal with IBM to couple its PCs with Microsoft’s operating system. Yet the fledgling software firm had no operating system of its own at the time of the agreement. Allen reportedly bought a license from a Seattle business, and they scrambled to reprogram the system. Shortly after, Microsoft was shipping on IBM’s new personal computers, and the rest is history. Gates, who now focuses most of his energy on philanthropy, has a $75 billion fortune.
Other tech titans also dominate the top of the list. The year’s biggest gainer, Mark Zuckerberg, saw his wealth jump $11.2 billion as Facebook’s share price rose to record highs. The social media giant counts 1.6 billion active monthly users while its prized acquisition, Instagram, has surpassed Twitter in popularity. The hoodies-and-jeans kid genius is now a proud father of a baby girl, and has committed to giving away 99 percent of his Facebook stock — almost all of his $44.6 billion wealth — to celebrate the milestone.
Another big winner is Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, whose fortune climbed $10.4 billion to $45.2 billion as the online retailer surpassed 300 million customers and $100 billion in annual sales for the first time in 2015. Bezos, one of the youngest senior vice presidents at hedge fund D.E. Shaw, decided to switch paths at age 30 after coming across a report that projected annual web growth at 2300 percent. The Princeton grad left his job in 1994 and drove across the country to Seattle with his wife, reportedly writing Amazon’s business plan along the way. Initially functioning as an online bookstore, Bezos took packages ordered to the post office himself and worked out of a garage with his first employees. Now, the Amazon chairman is setting his sights higher — his space travel startup, Blue Origin, has successfully launched a rocket into orbit before re-landing it just four and a half feet away from the original launch pad.
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Plenty of self-made billionaires built their fortunes in more traditional industries. Warren Buffett, the world’s most famous investor, remains near the top of the list with $60.8 billion. The famously frugal chairman of Berkshire Hathaway bought his first stock at age 11 and started a pinball machine business in high school. He still lives in the Omaha, Nebraska home he bought in 1958 for $31,500. Amancio Ortega, Europe’s richest man, hails from even humbler beginnings: he worked at a shirt-maker shop as a teenager before starting a quilted bathrobe business where he organized thousands of women into sewing cooperatives. In 1975, he opened the first Zara store in his native Spain and quickly became one of the pioneers of fast fashion, which aimed to get the garments from runways to store shelves as quickly as possible. Today, Zara stores reportedly order new clothes twice a week, and Ortega’s Inditex Group owns other popular brands such as Massimo Dutti and Bershka, giving him a fortune of $67 billion.
One of the most famous rags to riches stories in Asia, Li Ka-shing fled to Hong Kong with his family in 1940 after Japanese invasion of China in World War II. The reigning richest man in the former British territory quit school at age 15 to work at a plastics factory after his father died of tuberculosis. Li, now one of Asia’s top philanthropists, once pawned his late father’s clothes to help buy food for a poor relative. He eventually opened his own plastics factory, expanded to real estate, then bought Hutchison Whampoa, a conglomerate with interests in container ports around the world. Today, his empire spans from retail to tech, earning him a net worth of $27.1 billion.
Richest Self-Made Billionaires
|1||Bill Gates||$75 billion|
|2||Amancio Ortega||$67 billion|
|3||Warren Buffett||$60.8 billion|
|4||Carlos Slim Helu||$50 billion|
|5||Jeff Bezos||$45.2 billion|
|6||Mark Zuckerberg||$44.6 billion|
|7||Larry Ellison||$43.6 billion|
|8||Michael Bloomberg||$40 billion|
|12||Larry Page||$35.2 billion|
|13||Sergey Brin||$34.4 billion|
|18||Wang Jianlin||$28.7 billion|
|19||Jorge Paulo Lemann||$27.8 billion|
|20||Li Ka-shing||$27.1 billion|
|22||Sheldon Adelson||$25.2 billion|
|23||George Soros||$24.9 billion|
|24||Phil Knight||$24.4 billion|
|26||Steve Ballmer||$23.5 billion|
|31||Lee Shau Kee||$21.5 billion|
|33||Jack Ma||$20.5 billion|
|35||Michael Dell||$19.8 billion|
|37||Leonardo Del Vecchio||$18.7 billion|
|40||Paul Allen||$17.5 billion|
|41||Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud||$17.3 billion|
|42||Joseph Safra||$17.2 billion|
|43||Carl Icahn||$17 billion|
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