Top 5 Billionaires and How they Made their Fortune

According to the Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census 2014 there are 2100+ billionaires in the world, with a combined net worth of US $7.3 trillion. That’s half the entire GDP of the United States.

Billionaires make up 0.0000033% of the world’s population, yet they hold 4.5 times the entire wealth of the bottom half of the global population, 3.5 billion people. In fact if you started from the richest man in the world, Bill Gates, and worked your way down to number 85, currently Luis Carlos Sarmiento – a Colombian billionaire, you’d have accumulated enough wealth to equal the amount of wealth owned by the bottom 50% of the global population.

The Billionaire Round-Up

Many of them are self-made men. Forbes estimates the number of self-made billionaires at 1,191 while just 230 achieved their fortune through inheritance. The United States has the most billionaires, over 500. Many tech titans find their way in the top 20: Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Larry Page and Sergey Brin are all present.

What kind of men are these billionaires? Are they different from you and I?

To answer that question let’s delve into the profiles of some of these enigmatic billionaires.

Richard Branson

With an estimated net worth of $5 billion, Richard Branson likely became a billionaire from his airline business, which includes Virgin Atlantic.

Branson started early. Born in Surrey, England and suffering from Dyslexia, Branson dropped out of school at 16 to start his first business, a magazine called Student. In 1970 he started a mail-order record business, which by 1972 he grew into a chain of mail-order record stores. This chain was dubbed Virgin Records – later known as Virgin Megastores – and birthed the Virgin Brand.

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Richard Branson mocks our understanding of the term “serial entrepreneur” as he has attempted at least 75 different business ventures, according the Richard Branson Timeline of Business Ventures on Wikipedia.

Here’s what Branson says made him so successful.

1. Enormous amounts of luck

2. Working during the day, night, and weekends

3. Moving quickly.

Richard Branson is not just an ultra-successful entrepreneur; he is also famous of breaking and setting several world records related to sailing and ballooning.

Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban is a shark. Well, at least he plays one on TV – on the television series Shark Tank.

He’s not so bad in business either, and has a net worth of $3.0 billion. Strangely Mark Cuban also started young. At age 12 Cuban was selling powdered milk and garbage bags.

Cuban started his first company, Microsolutions, after working as a bartender and then a salesperson for a PC software retailer in Dallas, Texas. Microsolutions was a software reseller and Cuban quickly built up the company and then sold it to H&R Block for $6 million. He would make $2 million in that deal after taxes.

The next venture is what made Cuban a billionaire. In 1995, armed with just a single server and an ISDN line Cuban started a college basketball webcasting site called Audionet. Audionet became Broadcast.com in 1998 and by 1999 the company had ballooned to 330 employees earning tens of millions of dollars each business quarter. Cuban then sold the company to Yahoo! for $5.7 billion in stock.

And that’s how Mark Cuban became a billionaire.

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Lawrence Ellison

Larry Ellison has a net worth of $50 billion and as the third richest man in America he has his sights set on pipping Bill Gates to the title of world’s richest man.

He’s weirdly competitive that way.

A high school dropout and talented computer programmer Ellison worked for a company called Ampex Corporation. His main project: build a database for the CIA, code name Oracle. Determined to strike out on his own, Ellison founded Software Development Labs with a former supervisor at Ampex, Robert Miner. The company was started on $2000, $1200 of which was Ellison’s.

The new company was named Relational Software Inc but in 1982 officially renamed itself to Oracle Systems Corporation after its flagship product: the Oracle Database.

Today Oracle is a company with a market cap of $194 billion.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk. What can we say about the Iron Man of our times?

Musk started out writing video games as a 12 year old in South Africa. He actually sold one called Blastar to a magazine called PC and Office Technology for $500. He then went onto study at Queen’s University in Canada for two years before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania. He moved to California to do a PhD but dropped out after just two days to pursue his entrepreneurial passions.

Elon Musk

In 1995 he started Zip2, a web software company that Compaq acquired for $307 million in 1999. Musk’s share was $22 million.

With that money he went on to co-found X.com, an online payments company. This business would go on to merge with Paypal, which of course was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion. Musk’s share: $165 million.

In a move that has summarized his entire career, Musk took that money and started another business. SpaceX. Today Musk is at the helm of three very diverse companies, SolarCity, SpaceX and Tesla Motors and has a net worth of nearly $12 billion.

Eike Batista

This one’s a bit different. Eike Batista is a negative billionaire. That is, he owes a billion dollars.

Ouch.

It wasn’t always like that. Eike Batista previously had a net worth of $30 billion, making him the eight richest person in the world and the richest man in Brazil.

The son of a Brazilian minister of mines and energy, Eike Batista was drawn to making a living from commodities. He studied metallurgy and when he returned to Brazil after his schooling in 1980 he joined the gold rush. He found financing through his father’s contacts and he made himself a multimillion dollar fortune buying and selling gold mines.

By 2000 he was operating eight gold mines in Brazil and Canada. From there he founded five companies: MMX in mining, MPX in energy, OGX in petroleum, LLX in logistics and OSX for the offshore industry.

OGX was the rock star of the group. After some initial exploration the company was believed to be sitting on top of a vast tract of recoverable oil and gas deposits – thought to be worth more than $1 trillion.

Batista’s net worth rocketed as a result of the hype but it turned out that those oil and gas deposits were a bit of a mirage. They ended up proving much harder to dig out of the ground than previously thought and as investor confidence crumbled so did Batista’s world.

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2 responses to “Top 5 Billionaires and How they Made their Fortune”

  1. prosper says:

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