Fortunes can be made and lost in a day in our global economy. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index ranks the world’s 500 richest individuals. While many of the names in the top 10 are as iconic as the tech companies that propelled them to wealth and fame, there is always room for a few surprises.
In addition to their business acumen and accomplishments, many of the people on the list are also active philanthropists. And if the thought of all that wealth feels intimidating and out of reach, consider that many billionaires are self-made and come from humble and unremarkable beginnings.
Honorable Mention: Laurene Powell Jobs — $21.2 Billion
Born: Nov. 6, 1963 (age 57) in West Milford, New Jersey
Spouse: Steve Jobs (m. 1991 until his death in 2011)
Industry: Media and telecom
Famous quote: “To do what you wanna do, to leave a mark — in a way that you think is important and lasting — that’s a life well-lived.”
Laurene Powell Jobs is the widow and heir of Steve Jobs. She and Steve met at Stanford Business School in 1989 and were together for over 20 years.
Laurene started her career as a fixed-trading strategist for Goldman Sachs and later cofounded Terravera, a raw and organic food supply company in the 1990s. She founded the Emerson Collective, a social change organization that engages in impact investing and philanthropy.
In 2017, the Emerson Collective purchased a majority stake in The Atlantic.
Honorable Mention: Hui Ka Yan — $22.9 billion
Born: Oct. 9, 1958 (age 62) in Henan, China
Spouse: Yang Huiying (m. 1983)
Industry: Real estate
Famous quote: “Don’t marry too early in life. It’s better to work hard when young and establish a career first.”
Bottom Line: Hui Ka Yan
Hui Ka Yan is a self-made real estate mogul who runs Evergrande Group, one of China’s largest real estate companies.
But Everande isn’t just a real estate company. Evergrande has investments in other seemingly off-brand ventures like pig farming, solar panel production and electric vehicles (it’s looking to become the Tesla of China). It also has partnered with McDonald’s, allowing the American-based chain to expand into rural Chinese areas.
Evergrande is worth about $23.5 billion.
Honorable Mention: Abby Johnson — $24.3 Billion
Born: Dec. 19, 1961 (age 59) Boston, Massachusetts
Spouse: Christopher McKown (m. 1988)
Famous quote: “Every day you have to get up with new energy and new ideas to contribute to pushing the organization forward.”
Bottom Line: Abigail Johnson
Abigail Johnson is the daughter of billionaire businessman Edward Johnson III, whose father founded Fidelity in 1946. The Johnson family has been running Fidelity — currently the second-largest mutual fund manager in America — for nearly 75 years.
While her father is a billionaire, he’s worth only $7.4 billion, or about a fourth of Abby. She’s been the CEO and president of Fidelity since 2014.
In 2019, she was worth an estimated $14 billion. Now she’s worth nearly double that, according to Bloomberg.
Honorable Mention: Goh Cheng Liang — 25.6 Billion
Born: 1928 (age 92) in Singapore
Famous quote: “My personal philosophy is I never want to go public. First, I’m not a professional manager. Second, these professional managers who come and join me, I don’t know how to handle them, I don’t know how to drive them.”
Bottom Line: Goh Cheng Liang
Goh Cheng Liang is a reclusive billionaire who founded the Nippon Paint South-East Asia Group, one of the largest paint manufacturers in Asia. It’s hard to even find a photo of Goh, but we do know a few things, thanks to the Straits Times.
Goh was born into poverty in 1928, living in a $3-a-month rented room with his six other family members. He sold fishing nets during World War II, and then, in 1949, he bought barrels of bad paint leftover from the British army. When the Korean War started that following year, import restrictions worked in his favor, and his paint business gained momentum.
He is said to have several yachts and catamarans. In a rare interview with the Business Times from 1997, as quoted in the Straits Times, he said this amusing bit: “I don’t like cinemas, I don’t like movies, I don’t like songs, I don’t like karaoke, I don’t like bars. When I was young, I was quite naughty about girls but not so in the last 20 years.”
Honorable Mention Jim Ratcliffe — $26.6 Billion
Born: Oct. 18, 1952 (age 68) in Failsworth, Lancashire, England
Spouse: Amanda Townson (m. 1985, divorced 1995), Maria Alessia Maresca (current partner)
Famous quote: “If it’s hemorrhaging cash, you’ve got to do something about it. You can’t live with your head in the sand.”
Jim Ratcliffe is a self-made British industrialist and the founder of Ineos Group, a London-based chemicals and gas company made up of 20 independent businesses.
Ratcliffe is media-shy, but not reclusive. He’s given a few interviews about his life, saying that he learned how to count by counting the chimneys from his bedroom window in Failsworth. As a kid, he used to pick up frogs with his neighborhood friends.
Now, he picks up superyachts. Ratcliffe owns two superyachts: the Hampshire II, which is worth about $150 million, and the Sherpa, a 243-foot expedition ship worth over $120 million.
Honorable Mention: Leonard Lauder — $27.2 billion
Born: March 19, 1933 (age 87) in New York, New York
Spouse: Evelyn Hausner (married 1959 until her death in 2011), Judy Ellis-Glickman (2015-present)
Famous quote: “To be a great leader, you firstly have to like people. If you don’t like people, at the end of the day, they will figure this out, and you can’t lead them too well.”
Bottom Line: Leonard Lauder
Leonard Lauder is the oldest son of Estee Lauder, the incredibly successful businesswoman who launched the eponymous makeup company.
Leonard ran Estee Lauder for over 30 years, establishing the company’s first research and development lab and purchased several other brands like Aveda and Bobbi Brown. He stepped down as CEO in 1999 but is still involved around the company as the “chief teaching officer.”
His first wife, Evelyn, died in 2011. She created the pink ribbon used for breast cancer awareness. He married his second wife, Judy Glickman, in 2015. It’s a bittersweet story.
Honorable Mention: Dieter Schwarz — $27.8 Billion
Born: Sept. 24, 1939 (age 81) in Heilbronn, Germany
Spouse: Franziska Weipert (m. 1963)
Famous quote: “These freedoms that I currently enjoy will no longer exist to this degree. I am beyond my sell-by date as concerns the extent of my powers and areas of competence.”
Dieter Schwarz is the founder of the Schwarz Group, which owns the Lidl and Kaufland grocery stores. As a group, it’s the biggest retailer in Europe.
As for Schwarz, he is a notoriously private individual.
“He is a mystery, lives out of sight, avoids all publicity. Extremely little is known about him, and very few people in his close circle dare talk to the press,” are the opening lines to the German documentary “Die Lidl-Story,” which attempts to find out who Schwarz is and where he comes from.
50. Masayoshi Son — $28.1 Billion
Born: Aug. 11, 1957 (age 63) in Tosu, Saga, Japan
Spouse: Masami Ohno (m. 1979)
Famous quote: “Entrepreneurship, you will only understand it if you experience it for yourself. It’s not something I can explain in words.”
49. Qin Yinglin — $28.4 Billion
Born: 1965 (age 55) in Nanyang, China
Spouse: Qian Ying
Industry: Food and beverage
Famous quote: “[Adversity can] be an opportunity for strong businesses to benefit and develop.”
Qin Yinglin is proof that hard work can pay off.
After studying animal husbandry in college, he started a pig breeding business with his wife in 1992. They had 22 pigs. By 2019, they had over 10 million pigs with their Muyuan Foodstuff Co.
Because of a global pork shortage, Yinglin’s fortune has skyrocketed, growing from $4.4 billion in May 2019 to close to $30 billion to open 2021.