“I think you have a moral responsibility, when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently.”—JK Rowling
Millionaires can seem dime a dozen when you’re obsessing over an actor’s new projects or their social lives. Getting one level above that is something that’s rarer, but also less publicized. Technology whizzes and industry magnates might not get as much attention as socialites, but they exert more influence and own more of the world’s wealth. Here are 42 ten-figure facts about billionaires.
42. Minus Shipping Fees
As you would expect, the richest man in the world is a billionaire. Specifically, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as of March 2018. Bezos’ net worth is an estimated $183 billion as of September 2020, which also makes him the “wealthiest person in modern history.” However, this last honor is under more scrutiny since some of his competitors haven’t had their peak net worth adjusted for 2018 inflation.
41. No Silver Spoon
Although there are plenty of heirs among the billionaire rankings, 67% of the world’s current billionaires are actually self-made. In this case, it means they didn’t have wealth or significant capital from anyone else. Some of the most prominent ones include Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. However, only 21% of the top 400 richest American billionaires are self-made.
The title of world’s richest woman belongs to Walmart heiress Alice Walton. Walton’s net worth comes to $46 billion, as of March.
39. The less than 1%
As of 2018, there are 2,208 billionaires in the world. This is an increase from 2,043 in 2017 and actually marks a record number. More than 560 of these billionaires hail from the US. China, Germany and India also boast more than 100 each.
38. Math Class
The billionaires of the world combine for a net worth of $9.1 trillion. The mega-rich have managed to increase their collective wealth by over a trillion in one year, jumping from $7.7 trillion in 2017.
It has even been estimated that Earth could have its first trillionaire within twenty-five years, if the upward trend continues.
37. Thanks Old Folks
As the proportion of older people increases, so does the demand for products such as hearing aids. Amplifon SpA, a Milan-based company, is the world’s largest hearing aid retailer. Charles Holland started the company during World War II and his daughter, Carol, joined the company in 1983. Carol became chairperson in 2011 and is now worth $2.3 billion due to her 44.9% ownership of shares.
36. Cream of the Crop
Four billion of the world’s poorest people aren’t worth enough to compete with the world’s top eight richest people.
There are a small subset of billionaires who avoid getting fancy wheels. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer sticks to Ford since his dad was a manager with the company. Zuckerberg likes his Acura TSX because it’s “safe, comfortable and not ostentatious.” Meanwhile, Google co-founder Larry Page likes his Toyota Prius.
34. Hard Knock Life
Some people might have heard Jay-Z is a billionaire. Not quite, but he is close to the mark with a $900 million net worth and some suspect he might become the first billionaire rapper.
However, P Diddy is not too far behind (relatively) with $825 million and some think that Jay-Z’s recent purchase of a Bel Air mansion will lead to a financial hit. We won’t be shedding tears for him anytime soon.
33. Shoot for the Stars
LeBron James has stated that becoming a billionaire is his “biggest milestone.” James is currently worth about $440 million. He signed a new four-year deal with the Lakers that is worth $154 million and he plans to delve into more business ventures once he makes the move to L.A.
32. Starting Small
The most common first jobs for billionaires were salesperson, software developer, stock trader and analyst.
Bertil Hult founded EF Education first in 1965. The inaugural program allowed Swedish students to travel to England for English lessons. Hult paid locals about $22 (modern currency) to house and feed his students, and used local teachers for the lessons. The company has now grown into 116 countries with 115 million students. Hult, a college dropout and “horrible student” is now worth about $4.5 billion.
30. Puppet Masters
Private donors or companies donate $4 billion annually to public school funding. The Big Three account for the largest chunk of this: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.
The Big Three invest heavily in charter schools and standardized testing, but also exert influence over teachers. They have been known to influence merit pay for teachers whose students improve their scores, or to close schools when scores don’t rise adequately.
29. Home Sweet Home
New York City is home to the most billionaires, with 103. This doesn’t necessarily mean they all come from New York, it only means their (primary) residence is in New York. Hong Kong is close behind with 93.
28. Glass Ceiling
Even though men dominate the chart, 2018 saw an 18% increase in the amount of female billionaires. This increase actually outpaces the growth of the billionaire population as a whole.
27. Not Quite
The Twittersphere has been ablaze with news of Kylie Jenner becoming a “self-made” billionaire. However, this title is up for debate. Firstly, her reported net worth is about $900 million. That value is also partly based on Forbes’ estimates of the value of Kylie Cosmetics. Even if the estimates turn out to be true, Jenner still has her family’s media empire to thank for some of her wealth.
John D. Rockefeller is still the richest American to have ever lived. At the peak of his net worth, he would be worth $24 billion in modern American currency. Not quite as much as Bezos, but when you look at their wealth in regards to US GDP, it tells a different story. Rockefeller’s worth was the equivalent of nearly 2% of the GDP, meaning that Bezos would have to be worth $350 billion to keep up.
25. Pax Romana
During Augustus Caesar’s reign as Emperor of Rome, the empire accounted for more than a quarter of the world’s economic output. Some historians estimate that Augustus’s earnings were about 20% of what the empire made. In modern currency, that net worth about be about $5 trillion.
24. Mali Forever
African King Mansa Musa had a personal net worth of $400 billion at the time of his death in 1331. Musa was declared the “richest person in history” in 2012. Musa’s Malian empire covered modern-day Ghana, Timbuktu and Mali. The empire also produced more than half the world’s salt and gold, hence the money.
23. Runs in the Family
The Rothschild family are the richest family in modern history, with a combined net worth of $350 billion. The family’s wealth started with banking in 1744, when Mayer Rothschild set up a financial center and gave his five sons control of different branches.
The wealth is divided among hundreds of descendants, who are involved in fields ranging from farming to mining.
Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie had a net worth of $310 billion in modern currency, before he sold his company to JP Morgan. Carnegie gave away most of his money during his lifetime, having a meagre $30 million upon his death (which was also donated).
21. Yer a Wizard Harry
JK Rowling is the first author to become a billionaire, solely through her books (and related media). She first joined the list in 2004 and fell from it in 2012 due to philanthropic donations and Britain’s high tax rates. Rowling donated about 16% of her wealth, or $160 million to organizations such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
20. Alternative Facts
In 2011, Donald Trump attempted to sue Timothy O’Brien, because the author called him a millionaire (instead of a billionaire). The suit was dismissed by lower court and Trump also lost the case at appeals court. Three “unnamed sources” in the book, Trumpnation: The Art of Being Donald, cite Trump’s net worth as $150 million to $250 million. However, Trump’s lawyer says the net worth is more than $7 billion. Trump also adds his net worth depends on his daily mood.
19. Down South
The developing world got its first billionaire with Mexico’s Carlos Slim Helu, who is worth more than $70 billion.
18. Unconventional Wisdom
Tim Fertitta, owner of Landry’s, advises to seek loans when times are good. By doing so, he says you are more likely to have cash when times are rough. A $6,000 loan helped him build his business and it was a loan he took when he didn’t have to.
While some billionaires make the independent choice to give away most of their earnings, there is also an official pledge dedicated to charity. The Giving Pledge is a movement by the world’s wealthiest people to donate the majority of their wealth. There are a total of 184 pledgers, as of 2018. The list includes power couples like Bill and Melinda Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan.
16. Measuring Contest
Ibrahim Ibrahimov, the president of Avesta, has the world’s largest building all mapped out. Ibrahimov’s “Khazar Islands” project has been stalled for years, but the blueprints include the Azerbaijan Tower, which would stand at 3,445 feet. The proposed island also includes fifty-six artificial islands with apartments, hotels, a yacht club, an airport and a Formula One racetrack because why not.
Ibrahimov got the idea for the development while on a flight from Dubai and sketched the idea out on a shirt, since napkins weren’t available.
15. Retirement Investment
Stanford professor David Cheriton invested $100,000 in Google in its early days. He is now worth over $6 billion.
14. No Soup For You
Seinfeld actually presents us a good case study in fact-checking. A quick search online might say that Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s father is a billionaire, and that she will inherit his wealth when he passes. However, Dreyfus clears up that her father’s business, the Louis Dreyfus Corporation, is valued in the billions. His personal wealth does not make him a billionaire and she will not inherit billions.
13. Keep it in the Family
The inheritance that the world’s 500 richest people will pass down (over the next twenty years) is estimated to be about $2.4 trillion.
12. The Rich Get Richer…
From 2006 to 2015, most people’s wages grew by about 2% a year. This includes anyone who isn’t a billionaire.
For billionaires, their wealth increased by about 13% a year.
11. Mr. Worldwide
Chinese billionaire Liu Yiqian is credited with the most expensive Amex Black Card purchase. Yiqian put $170.4 million through to purchase the painting Reclining Nude at an auction. The points from this sale and others, also rewards Yiqian with 170 million membership reward points. The family plans to put those points towards travel for their family.
In 2015, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel became the world’s youngest billionaire, at age 24. As Spiegel said: “I am a young, white educated male…I got really, really lucky. And life isn’t fair.”
9. Not the Actor
John Goodman, the founder of International Polo Club, was sentenced to house arrest for a 2012 DUI-manslaughter charge. In 2013, a Florida judge allowed him to take a private jet (accompanied by guards) to visit his ailing mother at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. Goodman had to cover all travel, accommodation and food expenses, but it seems like a small price to pay.
8. Tie the Knot
Maybe they just want to make sure the money continues down the chain, but 88% of billionaires are married and they tend to have more children than the average person. The average is two worldwide, but the average among billionaires is four.
By time of his death, Howard Hughes was known for his erratic behaviour. One example is his decision to buy Las Vegas’ Silver Slipper casino and fill it with concrete. One story says Hughes suspected that the building was a hub for government surveillance, since its lights regularly stopped on his penthouse apartment. Another story says Hughes just didn’t like the light shining on his window.
6. What’s Your Sign?
Most of the billionaires on Forbes’ Top 100 are Aquariuses, according to the figures featured between 1996 and 2015. Wannabe astrologists might note the connection between Aquarius and “independence and originality,” but Aquarius only has a small lead. It stands at 12.5%, with Taurus close behind at 10.3%.
5. Crushing Dreams
We love hearing about college dropouts who go on to do big things. However, 52% of billionaires have bachelor’s degrees, as of 2016.
27% have a master’s degree, 7% have a PhD. Only 14% don’t have a college degree.
4. How The Mighty Have Fallen
Malvinder and Shivinder Singh were well-known as health-care magnets. The two brothers recently stepped down from ownership of Fortis Healthcare. The Singhs also sold their stake in the company, Ranbaxy, to Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo. They have since been ordered to pay $550 million to Daiichi Sankyo for allegedly withholding information prior to the deal. This fall began when the brothers’ main holding company loaned $360 million to religious leader, Gurinder Singh Dhillon. When combined with other investments, this loan created debt that the Singhs couldn’t combat. Even a billion dollars isn’t so much that you can’t lose it all, apparently.
3. Awkward Family Dinner
Gigi Chao, one of Asia’s most successful businesswoman, gained some more attention in 2012 when her dad offered a marriage bounty. Gigi married her partner in France but her father, billionaire Cecil Chao Sze-tsung, refused to acknowledge the lesbian union. Cecil offered $65 million to any man who would marry his daughter. The search continued for two years, until Gigi penned an open letter titled “Dear Daddy, you must accept I’m a lesbian.”
John Paul Getty made good money with the oil business and was the world’s richest man in 1957, according to Forbes. However, he had a reputation for being stingy. He installed a payphone at his house, so guests would have to use that instead of his own line. He was also reluctant to part with money when one of his grandchildren, sixteen-year-old grandson John Paul Getty III, was kidnapped. Getty Sr. figured that if he paid the $17 million ransom, he’d have “14 kidnapped grandchildren.” Eventually, Getty III lost an ear to the kidnappers, which was mailed to a newspaper in Rome. Getty Sr. then relented and gave his son $3 million, and loaned the rest. Why $3 million? That was the maximum amount that was tax deductible. In his eyes, the loan was more of a business transaction—he even charged his son 4% interest.
1. Feeney, Chuck Feeney
Ireland’s Chuck Feeney has been described as the “James Bond of philanthropy.” He made his billions via Duty Free Shoppers, which pioneered the concept of duty free shopping, and now lives in a rented apartment in Ireland after giving away nearly all his wealth—more than $8 billion—most of which was given away anonymously.
Through his foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, Feeney gave away most of his wealth to various causes, ranging from civil rights to health care and education.