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And who’s the wealthiest of them all?

Thursday, April 7 2011

Forbes magazine published its annual list of the wealthiest people in the world this March. It is no surprise that most on the list are entrepreneurs. If you are thinking about getting on the list better leave that cubicle job and try starting a business!

On the Forbes list are not just the rich but the mega rich. They have a worth that can equal the foreign reserves of many small nations.

Mixed Bag

The wealthiest are a diversified bunch. They come from telecom to computers to the fashion industries. Some are entrepreneurs, some are investors and some inherited their wealth. The United States used to have the bulk of the mega rich but now they stretch from Russia to China to Mexico.

There are females like Christy Walton (Wal-Mart) who inherited her wealth from her deceased husband (John), the son of founder Sam Walton.

They all have one thing in common though; they can impact the world with their wealth and influence it in a very profound way and many have.

Imagine if anyone in the top ten decided they wanted to pay off our national debt of TT$71 billion they could do it with ease. None have tried a crazy thing like that but many have tried through their philanthropic efforts to deal with several global social and health issues.

Mega Rich

#1. Carlos Slim Helu & family. This is his second time in the #1 spot with US$74 billion estimated worth. This Mexican entrepreneur made most of his money in the telecoms business. The 71-year-old entrepreneur beat Bill Gates by cashing in on the telecom boom in his home country.

He came from a poor family and despite the odds, he was able to get a good education including one from his father on how to be frugal. He would sometimes wear a plastic watch that doubled as a calculator. His “El Cheapo”strategy was to buy companies cheap and restructure them, drive down costs and so the competition.

#2. Bill Gates. He probably is the most popular entrepreneur in the world. Gates, 55, is worth US$56 billion according to Forbes. This is the man who (together with co-founder Paul Allen) brought computers to the average person by making them easier to use. His company Microsoft has the monopoly on word processing, presentation and spread sheet software.

Recently he started to give away his wealth. One of his projects is developing vaccines for malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis. Malaria kills a million people every year, mostly in Africa.

#3. Warren Buffett. Though an investor not an entrepreneur, he made his money through value investing; buying companies below its worth and holding them for the long term. He is well known for frugality and still lives in a house he bought in 1958. He and his pal Bill Gates have convinced many wealthy entrepreneurs to give most of their wealth away. Buffett is the majority owner of Berkshire Hathaway and the 80-year- old is estimated to be worth US$50 billion.

#4. Bernard Arnault. He is the richest man in Europe and is worth an estimated at US$41 billion. He made his money mostly in the luxury goods business. This French man owns LVMH which has brands like Tag Heuer and Cognac Hennessy.

#5. Larry Ellison. He is the CEO of the data management software giant, Oracle. Born in the Bronx, New York to a single parent, he was adopted by his aunt and uncle. Like most entrepreneurs, he had to struggle and beat tremendous odds. Today he is worth an estimated $39.5 billion. That’s not bad for a university drop out and someone whose uncle thought would not amount to much. Ellison, 66, also pledged to give away 95 percent of his wealth to charitable causes.

#6. Lakshmi Mittal. He was born to a middle-class family in India and he made his money in steel. This man of steel strategy was to buy up run down steel plants and refurbish them with new technology, so turning the mills into money spinners. Many of the mills he bought were once State-run, including the former ISCOTT, now the ISPAT plant in Pt. Lisas. His company, Acelor Mittal, is the largest steel producer in the world and employs over 300,000 in over 60 countries. This 60-year-old is estimated to be worth US$31.1 billion.

#7. Amancio Ortega. You may not know the name but this Spaniard has made billions in style. He is the majority owner of the Inditex Group and a very secretive person. Like many entrepreneurs he has no higher education. Ortega, 74 had a love for textiles and wondered why only the rich could enjoy high quality clothing. In 1975 he opened Zara stores and it soon became famous for selling affordable designer apparel. Zara’s strategy was to take runway hits and bring them to market quickly and produce them in Spain. He is estimated to be worth US$31 billion.

#8. Eike Batista. He is Brazil’s richest person with an estimated worth of US$30 billion. He made his money in mining, ship building, energy and tourism. Batista, 54, wants to become the world’s richest man, his estimated worth is US$30 billion and that means all he has to do is double his assets.

#9. Mukesh Ambani. This Indian national made it big in oil, gas and petro-chemicals. Ambani, 53 is part owner of Reliance Industries and the second richest man in Asia. He is estimated to be worth US$27 billion.

#10. Christy Walton and family. One way to get rich is to marry into money. Christy owns a huge chunk of the Wal-Mart retail enterprise but her late husband, John also invested early in a solar business and its shares have sky rocketed. At 56, she is the wealthiest woman in the world (eat your heart out Oprah) with an estimated worth of US$26.5 billion.

shamid@entrepreneur TnT.com

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