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Meet The 40 Richest Self-Made Entrepreneurs On Earth

Patience, persistence, profits… Meet the 40 richest self-made entrepreneurs on the planet in our comprehensive list.

Nicole Crampton




Patience, persistence, profits… Meet the 40 richest self-made entrepreneurs on the planet in our comprehensive list. 


Li Hejun


  • Net worth: USD3.2 Billion 
  • Age: 48
  • Country: China
  • Industry: Renewable Energy
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Hanergy Group

Li Hejun’s Claim to Fame 

Li Hejun is the chairman of Hanergy Group, a renewable energy conglomerate, which combines hydropower plants, wind farm and solar technologies.

Lesser Known Facts

Hejun shorted shares of his own company causing it to plummet 4% on the Hong Kong stock market in May 2015.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “Eight years of training, learning and suffering should be enough to make a man or a company.”
  2. On leadership: “I had to develop the skillset to deal both with villagers at the bottom, all the way up to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the highest level.”
  3. On money: “You have to know what you can do and what you cannot. Never touch something that’s beyond your reach.”


Giorgio Armani


  • Net worth: USD6.3 Billion
  • Age: 81
  • Country: Italy
  • Industry: Fashion
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Armani

Giorgio Armani’s Claim to Fame

Giorgio Armani is the sole owner of the Armani empire, which has expanded into every junction of fashion including accessories, perfumes, makeup, jeans, sportswear, and haute couture as well as interior design, real estate, restaurants and hotels.

Lesser Known Facts

Armani initially studied to be a doctor before changing his mind to join the army. He has forged a determined path in the fashion world, to where he is now, since working as a window dresser in a department store in Milan early in his career.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “You can think you’ve made it and yet the next day’s press will always be waiting for you, the public will always ask more of you. In short, you can always do better!”
  2. On leadership: “There are so many things to take into account – your ambition, your ego, the press and the consumers. You can never be sure that you’ll be on top of the pile again.”
  3. On money: “Elegance is not about being noticed, it’s about being remembered.”

Related: Billionaire Insights With David Rubenstein


Patrick Drahi 


  • Net worth: USD7.1 Billion
  • Age: 52
  • Country: France
  • Industry: Telecommunications
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Altice Group

Patrick Drahi’s Claim to Fame 

Patrick Drahi is the creator of the Altice Group, which purchased a 70% stake in cable TV operator Suddenlink in 2015. However, Drahi started his professional career as the founder of international news channel i24news in Israel.

Lesser Known Facts

Drahi, the son of two mathematics teachers, was born in Morocco and immigrated to France as a teenager. He holds an engineering degree from the prestigious Parisian university École Polytechnique

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “I discovered that, in the end, if you succeeded at something, it wasn’t necessary to brag about it, and it was better to keep quiet.”
  2. On leadership: “We will be in a stronger position in the US and other markets, aiming to deliver the best services, invest in the most advanced technology and develop innovative products for the benefit of our customers.”
  3. On money: “When you are focused on debt reduction, it’s because you have a growth problem.”


François Pinault


  • Net worth: USD11.9 Billion
  • Age: 79 
  • Country: France
  • Industry: Retail
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Kering

François Pinault’s Claim to Fame

Luxury goods magnate Francois Pinault owns high-end design houses Gucci, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent through his company Kering. Pinault also owns Christie’s, which sold $7.4 billion worth of art at auction in 2015.

Lesser Known Facts

Pinault was a high school dropout who now boasts a personal art collection encompassing more than 2 000 works including Picasso, Mondrian and Jeff Koons, which he houses in the Palazzo Grassi in Venice.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “I have no sense of nostalgia. Tomorrow is what interests me.”
  2. On leadership: “It unites people, its message is of common humanity.”
  3. On money: “If the quality is there, I buy; if the quality isn’t there, I don’t.”


Shiv Nadar


  • Net worth: USD12 Billion
  • Age: 70
  • Country: India
  • Industry: Technology 
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – HCL GROUP

Shiv Nadar’s Claim to Fame

Indian tech pioneer Shiv Nadar, co-founded HCL Group with seven friends and colleagues. Nadar receives majority of his wealth from software outfit HCL Technologies.

Lesser Known Facts

Nadar and his colleagues founded Microcomp to sell digital scientific calculators, with a view to generate the required start-up capital for the HCL Group.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “Stepping away from the reigns has given me time to do what I do the best, reflect and strategise for the future.”
  2. On leadership: “My vision for the Shiv Nadar Foundation is to empower individuals with transformational education to mould leadership.”
  3. On money: “It was 34 years ago that I, with my 5 fellow founders, left a secure corporate job with a dream that the microprocessor would change the world.”

Related: These Are the World’s Top 10 Young Billionaires


Robin Li


  • Net worth: USD13.6 Billion
  • Age: 47 
  • Country: China
  • Industry: Search engine
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Baidu

Robin Li’s Claim to Fame

Robin Li is the co-founder of Baidu, which is one of the top three Chinese search engines. has been listed on NASDAQ since 2005.

Lesser Known Facts

Both of Robin Li’s parents were factory workers and his professional career started at IDD Information Services, a New Jersey (USA) division of Dow Jones and Company.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “If you’re not close to the market and learning from your customers on a daily basis you won’t succeed.”
  2. On leadership: “If you are a big company, you will face attacks, and you have to deal with it. It just cannot be the reason to take action to exit a challenging market.”
  3. On money: “When I decided to set up the business, I knew if I was successful I would make a lot of money. I sleep late, not because I am up chasing money, I sleep late because I really enjoy the work.”


Vladimir Potanin

Vladimir Potanin

  • Net worth: USD13.9 Billion
  • Age: 55
  • Country: Russia
  • Industry: Metals
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – metals

Vladimir Potanin’s Claim to Fame

Chairman and largest shareholder of metals conglomerate Norilsk Nickel, Vladimir Potanin was a former employee of the Soviet Union’s Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations. Potanin and his partner Mikhail Prokhorov founded Interros, which took control of metals giant Norilsk Nickel and oil company Sidanco.

Lesser Known Facts

Potanin is the only Russian to sign the Giving Pledge, which states that he will donate 50% of his wealth to charity.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “When we started our business, we focused on development and growth, and we managed to do this, even with all the difficulties and all the challenging rules that were implemented.”
  2. On leadership: “To create a big company, you need more partners, as it is hard to handle such a project alone.”
  3. On money: “I am not trying to say that I am poor and that I don’t like beautiful things. But I don’t like luxury for luxury sake or in the sense of showing off luxury.”


Elon Musk


  • Net worth: USD14.2 Billion
  • Age: 44
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Technology
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Tesla Motors

Elon Musk’s Claim to Fame

Elon Musk founded and runs two moonshot tech companies: Tesla Motors and SpaceX. Tesla Motors is busy bringing fully-electric vehicles to the mass market, while SpaceX currently boasts a USD1.6 billion contract with NASA and is valued at north of USD10 billion. 

Lesser Known Facts

Musk provided a large amount of inspiration for the character Tony Stark and some of Iron Man 2 is even filmed in and around SpaceX headquarters. Musk even made a cameo in the film.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”
  2. On leadership: “Really, the only thing that makes sense is to strive for greater collective enlightenment.”
  3. On money: “Going from PayPal, I thought: ‘Well, what are some of the other problems that are likely to most affect the future of humanity?’ Not from the perspective, ‘What’s the best way to make money?”


Aliko Dangote

Aliko Dangote

  • Net worth: USD14.3 billion
  • Age: 58
  • Country: Nigeria
  • Industry: Diversified investments
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Dangote Group

Aliko Dangote’s Claim to Fame 

Aliko Dangote received an investment from his uncle to start his own business and quickly rose to prominence. He expanded his offering of commodities trading, cement and building materials to include importing cars.

This African entrepreneur went on to create the Dangote Group, an international conglomerate that diversified into food and beverages, plastics manufacturing, real estate, logistics, telecommunications, steel, oil, and gas. 

Lesser Known Facts

In the early days, Dangote asked his uncle for a loan to start his empire. His uncle agreed, but gave him a three-month deadline to repay every cent. Dangote ensured that he repaid his loan on time.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes 

  1. On success: “To build a successful business, you must start small and dream big.”
  2. On leadership: “In whatever you do, strive to be the best at it.”
  3. On money: “We don’t keep any money in the bank; whatever we have we fully invest and we keep on investing.”


James Simons


  • Net worth: USD14.3 billion
  • Age: 77
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Hedge funds
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Renaissance Technologies

James Simons’ Claim to Fame

Before James Simons disrupted the dynamics of the hedge fund industry, he got his doctorate at age 23. He also served as a code breaker for the US Department of Defence during the Vietnam War, after which he chaired the math department at Stony Brook University.

Simons started a quantitative-trading firm using a mathematics-based approach. The firm, Renaissance Technologies, has more than USD65 billion in assets amongst its many funds.

Lesser Known Facts

Simon, a genius of a man, likes to muse on gene puzzles, the origins of life, the roots of autism, math and computer frontiers, basic physics and the structure of the early cosmos.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes 

  1. On success: “Those times, when everyone is running around like a chicken with its head cut off, those are pretty good times for us.”
  2. On leadership: “The best way to conduct research on a larger scale is to make sure everyone knows what everyone else is doing. Start talking to other people about what you’re doing. Because that’s what will stimulate things the fastest.”
  3. On money: “Great people. Great infrastructure. Open environment. Get everyone compensated roughly based on the overall performance… That made a lot of money.”

Related: Self-Made Billionaire David Rubenstein’s 7 Habits Of Success


Lei Jun


  • Net worth: USD14.4 billion
  • Age: 45
  • Country: China
  • Industry: Technology
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Xiaomi

Lei Jun’s Claim to Fame

Lei Jun’s smartphone entity, Xiaomi, became the fourth-largest smartphone vendor in the world. It is the largest in China and achieved this within three years.

Before Lei Jun was an entrepreneur he was a software engineer at Kingsoft. He became chief technology officer, president, and CEO before founding Xiaomi.

Lesser Known Facts

Xiaomi is not Jun’s debut venture. He founded, which is an online bookstore in 2000. In 2004, he sold it to for USD75 million.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes 

  1. On success: “Starting something new from scratch comes with the high risk of it shutting down. However, the majority of big, successful companies have built themselves up from prior failures. We should pay more attention to the successes instead of the failures; they can bring a positive influence to society.”
  2. On leadership: “We need to manage expectations both internally and externally and follow our own pace.”
  3. On money: “Through many co-investment opportunities, we have built trust among stakeholders. So when it came to investing in Xiaomi, things were a lot easier.”


Mikhail Fridman


  • Net worth: USD14.5 Billion
  • Age: 52 
  • Country: Russia
  • Industry: Diversified Investments
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Alfa Group

Mikhail Fridman’s Claim to Fame

Together with college friends Mikhal Fridman founded and still shares control of Alfa Group, which is the biggest financial and industrial investment group in Russia. Fridman is also co-founder of Alfa-Eco, a commodities trader as well as Alfa-Bank, which is now the biggest bank in Russia.

Lesser Known Facts

Fridman and his friends raised capital for their enterprise by starting a window cleaning service, which employed students from numerous universities.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “I think that to become a major, very successful entrepreneur, you really need to be in the right place at the right time, a lot of things have to correspond.”
  2. On leadership: “We don’t make dumb investments; buying a minority stake in a large public company isn’t a very effective way to influence management.”
  3. On money: Since we started at the dawn of entrepreneurship, our goal was quite primitive, to earn money. We earned the first money quite quickly, and over a few months our demands increased.”


Ray Dalio


  • Net worth: USD16.3 billion
  • Age: 66
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Hedge funds
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Bridgewater Associates

Ray Dalio’s Claim to Fame 

Ray Dalio’s hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, is the biggest in the world, managing a portfolio of around USD154 billion. Last year he shared his investment secrets in a 30-minute YouTube video, which has been watched more than 2 million times.

Lesser Known Facts

Dalio began investing at age 12 by buying Northeast Airlines shares for USD300 and tripled his investment after the airline merged with another company. 

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes 

  1. On success: “I attribute my success to reminding myself that history repeats itself, and by keeping track of the decisions I’ve made that didn’t work.”
  2. On leadership: “Constantly probe the people who report to you, and encourage them to probe you.”
  3. On money: “In return, society rewards those who give it what it wants. How much money people earn is a rough measure of how much we give society what it wants.”


Dilip Shanghvi


  • Net worth: USD16.4 billion
  • Age: 60
  • Country: India
  • Industry: Pharmaceuticals
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Sun Pharmaceutical Industries

Dilip Shanghvi’s Claim to Fame

Shanghvi saw a gap in the pharmaceutical market and started supplying Lithosun to eastern India. He received a loan from his father of USD1000 to start his enterprise. In its first year, Sun Pharma generated more than USD100 000 in sales. This year so far Sun Pharma has generated roughly USD8.2 billion.

Lesser Known Facts

Shanghvi doesn’t have a medical or scientific qualification, instead boasting a degree in commerce. He started his empire with five products and five staff members.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes 

  1. On success: “We are not preoccupied with size. I don’t think becoming number one will give us any pleasure.”
  2. On leadership: “When we told Israel to take over as a chairman, I felt that as a manager I needed help. It was never difficult emotionally or from an ego point of view.”
  3. On money: “Money is the outcome of my work and is incidental.”

Related: South African Entrepreneurs Blazing a Trail Overseas


Donald Bren


  • Net worth: USD17 billion
  • Age: 83
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Real estate
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Irvine Company 

Donald Bren’s Claim to Fame 

Bren started off building his first property with a USD10 000 bank loan. Since then he has become the wealthiest real-estate mogul in America. He achieved this by slowly and deliberately buying his way into The Irvine Co., a private real-estate developer, until he became its sole owner.

Lesser Known Facts 

Bren’s Newport Beach home is said to be modest, although decorated with some museum-quality canvases that have placed him among the country’s top art collectors. 

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes 

  1. On success: “My ultimate dream is for the Irvine Ranch to be known and celebrated, for the outstanding communities we’ve planned and built.”
  2. On leadership: “I’m respectful of the good old days, but I find myself spending very little time reminiscing. I’m categorically looking forward.”
  3. On money: “What I learned was that when you hold property over the long term, you’re able to create better values, and you have something tangible to show for it.”


Ma Huateng


  • Net worth: USD17.1 billion
  • Age: 44
  • Country: China
  • Industry: Technology
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Tencent Holdings

Ma Huateng’s Claim to Fame 

Ma Huateng studied as a software engineer and founded Tencent Holdings, China’s largest internet portal at the age of 26. Tencent Holdings has expanded to include QQ, its instant-messaging service and a mobile-texting service (WeChat), with more than 600 million users. 

Lesser Known Facts 

Huateng started his company with four friends, and their capital investments came from earnings at the stock market. He took up various jobs to save money, ranging from janitor to website designer. 

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes 

  1. On success: “Ideas are not important in China; execution is.”
  2. On leadership: “You need to have extraordinary wisdom to be the forerunner.”
  3. On money: “Wealth won’t give you satisfaction; creating a good product that’s well received by users is what matters most.”


Paul Allen


  • Net worth: USD18.3 billion
  • Age: 62
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Diversified investments
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Microsoft

Paul Allen’s Claim to Fame 

Paul Allen is the co-founder of Microsoft, although he left the company before it went public, he remained a board member until 2000 and today holds less than 5%. Allen went on to found Vulcan, his private-investment vehicle.

Lesser Known Facts 

Allen owns the Seattle Seahawks, NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and has a minority stake in Seattle Sounders FC soccer team.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “For the most part, the best opportunities now lie where your competitors have yet to establish themselves, not where they’re already entrenched.”
  2. On leadership: “I’m not shy about steering the discussion or pushing deeper if something doesn’t make sense to me.”
  3. On money: “We’ve had some tough times, but we’ve hung in there.”


Lee Shau Kee

Lee Shau Kee

  • Net worth: USD18.5 billion
  • Age: 87
  • Country: Hong Kong
  • Industry: Real estate
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Henderson Land Development

Lee Shau Kee’s Claim to Fame

Lee Shau Kee founded Henderson Land Development, since then it became the leading real-estate developer in Hong Kong and China. Kee started his professional career in commodities such as gold and currency exchange. 

Lesser Known Facts

Kee grew up in a family that could afford to eat meat or fish only twice a month. That humble start focused his mind on enterprise at an early age. 

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes 

  1. On success: “When I was young, business came first, then wealth, then health and finally family. Now, it’s health first, then family, then my business and lastly wealth.”
  2. On leadership: “Don’t be so nervous. It’s not a big deal.”
  3. On money: “Paper money will suffer. I’d be in mortar, not paper (money). We are in a time when paper investments are riskier than in the past.”

Related: Fake It ‘Til You Make It: How These 10 Entrepreneurs Did Just That


Carl Icahn


  • Net worth: USD18.7 billion
  • Age: 79
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Diversified investments
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Icahn Enterprises

Carl Icahn’s Claim to Fame

Carl Icahn started out in the army and found himself as a stock broker after his service was completed. He went on to found his own investment firm, Icahn Enterprises, becoming one of the most powerful people in finance. Icahn invested in scores of high-profile companies, including RJR Nabisco, Philips Petroleum, Viacom, Marvel, Time Warner, Netflix, and Herbalife.

Lesser Known Facts

In his youth, Icahn played Poker and managed to win approximately USD2000 every summer. His gambling made it possible for him to afford attending Princeton University.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “In life and business, there are two cardinal sins. The first is to act precipitously without thought and the second is to not act at all.”
  2. On leadership: “Don’t confuse luck with skill when judging others, and especially when judging yourself.”
  3. On money: “I’m happy stockholders benefited. But I’m no Robin Hood. I enjoy making money.”


Michael Dell


  • Net worth: USD18.9 billion
  • Age: 50
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Technology
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Dell

Michael Dell’s Claim to Fame

While studying, Michael Dell started a business called PC ltd., which was the predecessor to Dell Inc. He started with USD1000 seed money and a handful of years later, when he turned 27, he was the youngest man to lead a Fortune 500 company.

Lesser Known Facts

Michael Dell defied conventional wisdom, that consumers would not purchase computer equipment over the telephone, and built a billion-dollar company doing just that.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “You don’t have to be a genius or a visionary or even a college graduate to be successful. You just need a framework and a dream.”
  2. On leadership: “Real entrepreneurs have a ‘passion’ for what they’re doing, a ‘problem’ that needs to be solved, and a ‘purpose’ that drives them forward.”
  3. On money: “Ideas are a commodity. Execution of them is not.”


Li Ka-shing


  • Net worth: USD19.5 billion
  • Age: 87
  • Country: Hong Kong
  • Industry: Diversified investments
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – CK Hutchison Holdings

Li Ka-shing’s Claim to Fame 

Li Ka-shing started his professional career at 16 working in a factory making plastic flowers. Now he owns CK Hutchison Holdings, a business empire with interests in real estate, manufacturing, energy, telecommunications and technology.

Lesser Known Facts

He dropped out of high school to start working to support his family because his father died.

At the age of 22 he quit his job and started running his own factory.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “Businessmen must move with the times. The correlation between knowledge and business, as the key to success, is closer than ever.”
  2. On leadership: “Vision is perhaps our greatest strength. It has kept us alive to the power and continuity of thought through the centuries; it makes us peer into the future and lends shape to the unknown.”
  3. On money: “I am very prudent, financially, because of those hard times I went through. I spent nothing. I had a haircut every three months.”


Leonardo Del Vecchio


  • Net worth: USD19.7 billion
  • Age: 80
  • Country: Italy
  • Industry: Eyewear
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Luxottica Group

Leonardo Del Vecchio’s Claim to Fame 

Leonardo Del Vecchio chairs the largest eyewear company in the world. Luxottica not only owns Sunglass Hut, Ray-Ban, and Oakley, but manufactures glasses for nearly every luxury brand out there, including Burberry, Chanel, Prada, and Versace. 

Lesser Known Facts

Del Vecchio started Luxottica in a tiny one-room apartment in Milan. The company now runs 10 factories worldwide, employs 35 000 people, and produces more than 65 000 pairs of glasses per day.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “The values of life are most important.”
  2. On leadership: “I am proof that you can you make money in Italy and be honest.”
  3. On money: “I don’t like paying taxes, but I like sleeping at night.”


George Soros


  • Net worth: USD21.7 billion
  • Age: 85
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Hedge funds
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Soros Fund Management

George Soros’s Claim to Fame 

George Soros is most well-known for the hedge fund, Quantum Fund, which he founded. He currently chairs Soros Fund Management, which manages more than USD25 billion in assets and holds stakes in prominent companies including Amazon, Facebook and Netflix.

Lesser Known Facts

Soros started out with nothing. After he survived the Nazi occupation of his home country Hungary, Soros wound up a penniless teenage refugee in England. He worked as a railroad porter and waiter to support himself through college.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “Once we realise that imperfect understanding is the human condition there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes.”
  2. On leadership: “We must recognise, as the dominant power in the world, we have a special responsibility. In addition to protecting our national interests, we must take leadership in protecting the common interests of humanity.”
  3. On money: “Markets are constantly in a state of uncertainty and flux and money is made by discounting the obvious and betting on the unexpected.”


Sheldon Adelson


  • Net worth: USD23 billion
  • Age: 82
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Real estate
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Las Vegas Sands

Sheldon Adelson’s Claim to Fame

Sheldon Adelson started his professional life as a reporter and mortgage broker. He sold his company, Comdex, an influential computer trade show, for USD860 million and bought the Sands Casino. He demolished the Sands Casino and replaced it with the Venetian Casino Resort and the Sands Expo Convention Centre.

Lesser Known Facts

Adelson was always ambitious and he worked in a grocery store, butcher shop, laundromat, and hawking newspapers. His first business breakthrough came at age 12, when he bought the corner kiosk where he’d been working.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “Just do things differently. Just do things in life the way other people don’t do. Change the status quo. And then you’ll succeed.”
  2. On leadership: “I formed an opinion that if I did things differently than everybody else I would add value to every effort I made.”
  3. On money: “The report card for a commercial enterprise is making money.”

Related: Surprising Things 5 Entrepreneurs Do in Their Lunch Breaks


Jorge Lemann


  • Net worth: USD25 billion 
  • Age: 76 
  • Country: Brazil
  • Industry: Diversified investments
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – 3G Capital

Jorge Lemann’s Claim to Fame 

Jorge Lemann is most well-known for backing 3G Capital. The company went on to purchase Burger King, H.J. Heinz Company and a merge with Kraft Foods. Lemann has been building himself up for decades from working in a prestigious investment bank, to buying breweries.

Lesser Known Facts

Lemann started his professional career as a tennis player. He won the Brazilian national tennis championship five times, played for both the Swiss and Brazil Davis Cup teams and played at Wimbledon.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes 

  1. On success: “It takes the same effort to think small than to think big. But to think big frees you from the insignificant details.”
  2. On leadership: “Leadership by personal example is vital, both in heroics as in day-to-day small gestures.”
  3. On money: “Money is just a way to measure whether the business is doing well or not.”


Phil Knight

Phil Knight

  • Net worth: USD25.7 billion
  • Age: 77
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Retail
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Nike

Phil Knight’s Claim to Fame 

Phil Knight managed to convince Tiger-brand shoemaker Onitsuka to allow him to distribute Tiger Shoes under the name Blue Ribbon Sports, this company was the predecessor of Nike. Nike went on to build its success through numerous celebrity and athlete endorsement deals. 

Lesser Known Facts 

Knight worked as an accountant in order to fund his new brand until the brand was successful enough that he no longer had to. 

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “There is an immutable conflict at work in life and in business, a constant battle between peace and chaos. Neither can be mastered, but both can be influenced. How you go about this remains the key to success.”
  2. On leadership: “My job is to listen to ideas, maybe cook up a few of my own, and make decisions based on what’s good for the shareholders and for the company.”
  3. On money: “We couldn’t be an establishment, because we didn’t have any money. We were guerrilla marketers, and we still are, a little bit. But as we became No. 1 in our industry, we’ve had to modify our culture and become a bit more strategic.”


Steve Ballmer


  • Net worth: USD26.3 billion
  • Age: 59
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Technology
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Microsoft

Steve Ballmer’s Claim to Fame 

Steve Ballmer joined Bill Gates at Microsoft; he became the company’s first business manager. During his tenure he held the following positions: vice president of marketing, vice president of systems software, and executive vice president of sales and support as well as CEO 

Lesser Known Facts 

After Microsoft, Ballmer went on to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers and currently has a 4% stake in Twitter.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “We expect to change the world in every way, to succeed wildly at everything we touch, to have the broadest impact of any company in the world.”
  2. On leadership: “Great companies, in the way they work, start with great leaders.”
  3. On money: “Paying USD500 more to get a logo on a computer. I think that’s a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be.”


Jack Ma


  • Net worth: USD26.5 billion
  • Age: 51
  • Country: China
  • Industry: Technology
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Alibaba

Jack Ma’s Claim to Fame 

Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, started his company with only USD60 000. Fifteen years later Alibaba broke records with a USD25 billion initial public offering, which is the world’s largest ever. 

Lesser Known Facts 

Jack Ma started out studying a Bachelor’s Degree in English, but decided that teaching wasn’t for him and decided to try his hand at business.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “I want to change history, do something important in my life, and influence individuals like we have with millions of small businesses on Alibaba. Then they love and respect you because you made their lives important.”
  2. On leadership: “Help young people. Help small guys. Because small guys will be big. Young people will host the seeds you bury in their minds, and when they grow up they will change the world.”
  3. On money: “Today the financial market is no good, but the money is there.”


Wang Jianlin


  • Net worth: USD29.2 billion
  • Age: 61
  • Country: China
  • Industry: Real estate
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Dalian Wanda Group

Wang Jianlin’s Claim to Fame 

Wang Jianlin is a real-estate mogul with his hands in dozens of sectors and his name on hundreds of businesses through his conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group. Jianlin’s businesses span the globe, including upscale real-estate development projects in Sydney and Madrid.

Lesser Known Facts 

Jianlin plans to invest in the ‘culture’ industry in the future and has started by purchasing Legendary Entertainment.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “Don’t ally your personal interests with the development of the company.”
  2. On leadership: “The basic principle is, I command and my employees carry it out immediately.”
  3. On money: “I am not a person who pursues luxury. I am not like those people who, once they have money, compulsively squander it or show it off.”


Bernard Arnault


  • Net worth: USD 34.8 billion
  • Age: 67
  • Country: France
  • Industry: Retail
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – LVMH

Bernard Arnault’s Claim to Fame

Bernard Arnault oversees an empire of 70 brands including Dom Perignon, Bulgari, Louis Vuitton, Sephora and Tag Heuer. These stores are all under the umbrella of USD34 billion luxury goods powerhouse LVMH, where he has been CEO since 1989.

Lesser Known Facts

Arnault started his career working in his father’s company. He convinced his father to liquidate the construction portion of the business and invest in real estate. In 1979, he succeeded his father as President of Férinel.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “The key to success is this duality, timelessness and the utmost modernity.”
  2. On leadership: “Creative spirits are always going to feel reined in. It’s important that they are free to develop ideas. And rather than detracting from the principal job, it reinforces it.”
  3. On money: “Philanthropy gives people working at the group a feeling that they don’t exist only for cash flow, but for something better.”

Related: Lessons From 7 People Who Got Rich and Famous on Social Media


Sergey Brin


  • Net worth: USD37 billion
  • Age: 42
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Technology
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Google

Sergey Brin’s Claim to Fame 

Sergey Brin is a co-founder of Google and was instrumental in facilitating Google’s restructuring. Brin is now the president of Alphabet, the umbrella company that consists of Google, Nest and Google X amongst others. 

Lesser Known Facts

Brin emigrated from Moscow to the US and met Larry Page while they were both pursuing their PhD’s.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “Obviously everyone wants to be successful, but I want to be looked back on as being very innovative, very trusted and ethical and ultimately making a big difference in the world.”
  2. On leadership: “I would like to see anyone be able to achieve their dreams, and that’s what this organisation does.”
  3. On money: “You always hear the phrase, money doesn’t buy you happiness. But, in the back of my mind I understood that a lot of money will buy you a little bit of happiness. But it’s not really true. I got a new car because the old one’s lease expired.”


Larry Page


  • Net worth: USD38.5 billion
  • Age: 42
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Technology
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Google

Larry Page’s Claim to Fame

Larry Page is another co-founder of Google, now Alphabet. This company is one of the largest and farthest-reaching companies in the world, worth more than USD500 billion.

Lesser Known Facts

Page owns an eco-friendly mansion in Palo Alto, which utilises geothermal energy and rainwater capture technology.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “If you’re changing the world, you’re working on important things. You’re excited to get up in the morning.”
  2. On leadership: “My job, as a leader, is to make sure everybody in the company has great opportunities, and that they feel they’re having a meaningful impact and are contributing to the good of society.”
  3. On money: “If we were motivated by money, we would have sold the company a long time ago and ended up on a beach.”


Ingvar Kamprad

Ingvar Kamprad

Image credit:

  • Net worth: USD39.3 billion
  • Age: 89
  • Country: Sweden
  • Industry: Retail
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – IKEA

Ingvar Kamprad’s Claim to Fame 

At 17 years old, Ingvar Kamprad founded IKEA, which is now the world’s largest furniture retailer with sales of more than USD33 billion. 

Lesser Known Facts

Despite his immense wealth, Kamprad flies economy, stays in affordable hotels and has driven the same Volvo for more than two decades.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “The feeling of having finished something is an effective sleeping pill. A company that feels it has reached its goal will quickly stagnate and lose its vitality.”
  2. On leadership: “If there is such a thing as good leadership, it is to give a good example. I have to do so for all the Ikea employees.”
  3. On money: “Our idea is to serve everybody, including people with little money.”


Michael Bloomberg


  • Net worth: USD42.1 billion
  • Age: 73
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Financial services
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Bloomberg LP

Michael Bloomberg’s Claim to Fame

Michael Bloomberg is founder of Bloomberg’s a financial-data firm. Bloomberg LP boasts a revenue of USD9 billion, which comes from the sale of terminals for Wall Street traders.

Lesser Known Facts 

Bloomberg was mayor of New York City for three terms and returned to Bloomberg LP to take the company in a new direction.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “There will be ups, there will be downs, there will be sideways. I can just tell you I have been hired, I have been fired, I have been lauded, I have been vilified. But each day I looked forward to because I’ve always believed that tomorrow was going to be the best day of my life.”
  2. On leadership: “In business, when you fail at something, when something doesn’t work, you say okay, we’ve learned that failure’s not a path to go down.
  3. On money: “If you really believe that you’re making a difference and that you can leave a legacy of better schools and jobs and safer streets, why would you not spend the money?”


Mark Zuckerberg


Image credit:

  • Net worth: USD42.8 billion
  • Age: 31
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Technology
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg’s Claim to Fame 

At 19 years old, Mark Zuckerberg launched, the primary version of Facebook. The site now attracts more than a billion users daily and is worth more than USD275 billion.

Lesser Known Facts

Zuckerberg’s marriage to long-time girlfriend Pricilla Chan was a surprise for friends and family. The guests were told they were celebrating Chan’s medical school graduation, but it was the pair’s wedding instead.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “I think a simple rule of business is, do the things that are easier first, and then you can actually make a lot of progress.
  2. On leadership: “By giving people the power to share, we’re making the world more transparent.”
  3. On money: “Simply put: we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services.”

Related: Give Mark Zuckerberg a ‘Like’


Larry Ellison


  • Net worth: USD45.3 billion
  • Age: 71
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Technology
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Oracle

Larry Ellison’s Claim to Fame 

Larry Ellison is a co-founder of Oracle Corp., the world’s second largest software developer after Microsoft.

Lesser Known Facts

In 2010, Ellison reduced his annual salary from USD1 million to USD1, because he was making more than USD60 million in generous stock awards.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “You have to believe in what you do in order to get what you want.”
  2. On leadership: “Great achievers are driven, not so much by the pursuit of success, but by the fear of failure.”
  3. On money: “Being first is more important to me [than earning money]. I have so much money. Whatever money is, it’s just a method of keeping score now. I mean, I certainly don’t need more money.”


Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos

  • Net worth: USD56.6 billion
  • Age: 51
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Technology
  • Source of wealth: Self-made –

Jeff Bezos’ Claim to Fame 

Jeff Bezos introduced e-commerce to the world, founding from his garage. It generated USD109 billion in sales in 2015. Additionally Bezos owns Blue Origin, which launched its first spacecraft in 2015, and The Washington Post newspaper. 

Lesser Known Facts 

Bezos’ ideology is ‘No team should be larger than can be fed with two large Pizzas,’ which means the size of his team should never exceed seven members. 

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “If you’re competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering.”
  2. On leadership: “Part of company culture is path-dependent, it’s the lessons you learn along the way.”
  3. On money: “I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.”


Warren Buffett


  • Net worth: USA60.7 billion
  • Age: 85
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Diversified investments
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett’s Claim to Fame 

Warren Buffett is the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, which he transformed into a holding company. Berkshire Hathaway has a large collection of portfolio companies and investments including Coca-Cola, American Express, Geico, Fruit of the Loom, Dairy Queen and General Motors. 

Lesser Known Facts 

Buffet still lives in the same home he purchased in 1958 for USD31 500. Buffett said “for the $31,500 I paid for our house, my family and I gained 52 years of terrific memories with more to come.” 

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
  2. On leadership: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
  3. On money: Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”


Amancio Ortega


  • Net worth: USD66.8 billion
  • Age: 79
  • Country: Spain
  • Industry: Retail
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Inditex

Amancio Ortega’s Claim to Fame

The founder of Spanish fashion giant Inditex is Amancio Ortega. The companies spike in profits and rising stock price can be attributed to fast-fashion giant Zara, which has become the company’s biggest brand.

Lesser Known Facts

Ortega started out as a delivery boy for a local clothing store at 14. He still lives humbly, eating lunch with his employees in the cafeteria and also has a simple uniform of white shirt and blue blazer.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “Each employee’s sense of initiative, the enthusiasm our teams display in the course of their daily work and the motivation they convey to other teams are the real secrets of the Group’s success.”
  2. On leadership: “We must be aware that the experience we have gained is not enough to guarantee our leadership. We must also be faithful to commitment to effort and to improvement, which inspires our company.”
  3. On money: “The success of your business is based on the idea of offering the latest fashions at low prices, in turn creating a formula for cutting costs: an integrated business in which it is manufactured, distributed and sold.”


Bill Gates


  • Net worth: USD87.4 billion
  • Age: 60 
  • Country: US
  • Industry: Technology
  • Source of wealth: Self-made – Microsoft

Bill Gates Claim to Fame 

Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft and served as its CEO until 2000. He then became chairman and remained Microsoft’s largest shareholder until 2014.

Lesser Known Facts

Bill Gates is no longer actively involved in Microsoft and is focusing his time on the foundation he and his wife founded, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Top 3 Inspirational Quotes

  1. On success: “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”
  2. On leadership: “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”
  3. On money: “When you have money in hand, only you forget who you are .But when you do not have any money in your hand, the whole world forget who you are. It’s life.”

Nicole Crampton is an online writer for Entrepreneur Magazine. She has studied a BA Journalism at Monash South Africa. Nicole has also completed several courses in writing and online marketing.

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