I’ve been quite captivated by the latest edition of Forbes 400 wealthiest people in America.
A few names were predictable; Bill Gates keeps number 1 spot with a cool $54billion. What I didn’t know is that the retired Microsoft founder is also the world’s most generous person, having given away $28billion of his own money to various charities. If he had kept all his loot, he would be the world’s wealthiest person. I’m not quite sure who the world’s wealthiest person is but he or she obviously doesn’t live in America?
The number 2 slot unsurprisingly goes to … yes … you guessed it, Warren Buffet! The Sage of Omaha plans to give away 99% of his $45billion stash to charities and uses the Top 400 magazine to identify and then coax fellow billionaires to give away half their fortunes to charity.
But how about number 10? It surprised me. It’s New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg. He certainly doesn’t need the civil servant’s job, so he doesn’t take a salary; he works a full day and sits in a cubicle in an open plan office at City Hall. Like six of his fellow Top Tenners, he is an entirely self-made man and the son of a Russian immigrant. Bloomberg has also pledged $18billion to charity, showing that the American rich are indeed very charitable even if it is easy for them to do so.
And guess who has missed the Top 10 spot by a mere $3billion? The 37 year old co-founders of Google, Larry Page and Russian born, Sergey Brin. In slot 13 is another self-made Jewish businessman, Sheldon Adelson, who like South Africa’s Sol Kerzner, made his fortune from Casinos and started in business at the age of 12 selling newspapers.
A newcomer into the Billionaire Boys’ Club is Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg; a Harvard dropout. The fresh faced 26 year old gives new meaning to being a boy in the world’s most expensive Club. Zuckerberg, who is worth just short of $7billion, rents a non-descript house in Stanford and doesn’t seem too excited about his inclusion in the Forbes Top 400 publication. “If I could, I wouldn’t even be on that list,” he says.
And if you thought that the Facebook CEO is the youngest self-made billionaire, you are wrong. He was pipped to the post by FaceBook co-founder Dustin Moskowitz, who is eight days younger. Moskowitz left the social networking company two years ago. The values of his new Californian software company are, “pragmatism”, “being a mensch”, “admitting when you’re wrong” and “being chilled”.
So where are the lady billionaires? Well in number 4 position is Christy Walton and number 8, Alice Walton. But they are both winners of the Sam Walton Lucky Sperm Club so I was more interested to see that the first self-made lady billionaire is Oprah Winfrey, who has amassed $2,7billion but only gets into place number 130! So the Billionaires Girl’s Clubs is indeed stacked with daddy’s girls and a handful of others including Doris Fisher who co-founded Gap clothing. Meg Whitman, the previous CEO of e-bay, also make an appearance but these days seems distracted by politics and is running for the Governorship of California.
And where are all the ones who are hard to ignore? Well Donald Trump only gets position 153 and is now attaching his surname to any product under the sun, including launching Trump Tea in August. Rupert Murdoch, the Australian born media mogul, is number 38 on the list and now lives in New York City. What’s quite fascinating is that Apple founder, Steve Jobs’ real wealth actually comes from Disney stock (and not Apple), which is valued at $4,4billion.
Sadly a couple of fellas fell off the list this year. Many property moguls saw their wealth rapidly decline as they got swamped with debt in the midst of the financial crisis. A few others also saw the recession take a toll on their billionaire dollar status. Gary Burrell, founder of Garmin, saw his stock drop by 25% as investors fled from his stock, as more people started accessing navigation over their smartphones.
So who wants to be a dollar billionaire? It wasn’t Bob Hope who said: “I don’t want you to put any phony figures in there because when they (the public) ask me about it, I have to go into a routine. I don’t have it! And if my Estate’s worth over $50million, I’ll kiss your ass. I mean that.”