10. Ted Turner – $2.2 Billion
A legendary name in American media, Ted Turner is mostly known as the founder of CNN – which makes him the “inventor” of the 24-hour news cycle.
Initially a Classics major at Brown University, Turner eventually switched his major to Economics, but was expelled before he could complete his studies for having a female student in his dorm room. He subsequently returned home and soon took over his father’s billboard business, which in the following years he managed to turn into the media empire it is today.
In 1989, Brown awarded Ted Turner an honorary degree.
9. Ty Warner – $2.4 Billion
Low-key billionaire Ty Warner initially tried to become an actor. He studied drama while attending Kalamazoo College in Michigan, and was reportedly pretty talented, but soon dropped out and left for Hollywood where he tried to make a name for himself. Like many aspiring young actors, he supported himself with a series of odd jobs, busing tables and parking cars, but he was an especially good salesman, initially peddling selling cameras and encyclopedias door to door, eventually getting a job with toy maker Dakin.
After a three- year stay in Italy, Warner returned to the US with the idea that would later become the wildly popular Beanie Babies, the main source of his fortune. He also has interests in other areas, most notably buying the Four Seasons Hotel New York (where he created the ultra-luxurious Ty Warner Suite).
8. David Geffen – $6.9 Billion
A legendary media mogul, David Geffen never did too well at school. After barely graduating high school, he attended a few universities, but dropped out shortly every time.
He was much more successful in his other pursuits, however, even though he had to lie about graduating from UCLA in order to become a talent agent at the William Morris Agency. He went on to start Asylum Record, as well as other record labels in the following decades, and is even one of the founders of DreamWorks Studios.
Geffen is also a very generous philanthropist, donating so much money to UCLA that the university named its school of medicine after him.
7 Ralph Lauren – $7 Billion
Legendary fashion designer Ralph Lauren grew up in The Bronx, and dreamed of achieving fame and fortune from a young age. He attended Baruch College in New York, but didn’t graduate, and after a short stint in the army decided to focus on fashion, something he always had a penchant for.
Starting from the very bottom, as a sales assistant for Brooks Brothers, Lauren’s flair was recognized after he started selling his own ties, and in just a few years he already had his own popular brand. Today, Ralph Lauren is one of the most recognizable names in fashion and one of the richest people in the industry.
6. Jack Taylor – $12.5 Billion
You probably never heard of Jack Taylor, but if you wanted to rent a car in the United States, it was likely from the company he founded, Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
Taylor enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis back in 1940, but dropped out to join the navy. He was decorated for bravery as a fighter pilot flying from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (he would eventually name his company after the warship), and after the war he went into business. Nowadays, the company he started has the largest fleet in the world (1.5 million cars under three brands!).
5. Michael Dell – $19.2 Billion
Michael Dell enrolled at University of Texas Austin aiming to study biology and eventually become a doctor. He quickly found he was quite good at selling computers he would put together in his dorm room. Dell left school to start his own business, and at just 27 he became the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
Though mostly known for his accomplsihments in the tech industry, most of Dell’s wealth comes from various other investments he makes through his private investment firm, MSD Capital. These include the Four Seasons in Maui, PVH Corp. (owner of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein), and DineEquity (operator of IHOP and Applebee’s).
4. Li Ka-shing – $33.3 Billion
Hong Kong-based magnate Li Ka-shing is Asia’s richest person, and one of the most influential people in the region. However his humble beginnings weren’t exactly a springboard for his future achievement.
Never mind college, Li left school as a teenage to work in a factory in order to support his family. He then built his own factory which made plastic flowers, and subsequently invested in real estate. Nowadays, Li Ka-shing’s empire extends into every industry imaginable, including energy, ports, retail, infrastructure, and mobile networks.
3. Mark Zuckerberg – $33.4 Billion
One of the biggest names of the new wave of hugely successful tech entrepreneurs, Mark Zuckerberg came up with an initial version of what went on to become Facebook while not even 20 years old. A very giften student, especially at writing software, he developed lots of great tools and games while still in his teens. So it’s not surprising he quit Harvard during his sophomore year to focus on Facebook.
The company is now one of the biggest in the industry and incredibly popular worldwide (you probably have it open in a tab right now). Still only 30, Zuckerberg is already hugely influential in the world of tech, and is likely to remain so for decades.
2. Larry Ellison – $54.3 Billion
Another very successful entrepreneur who managed to build a tech empire without the benefits of a college degree, using only his business acumen, Larry Ellison briefly attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Chicago, before moving to California to work in computer technology.
Mostly known as the co-founder and CEO of Oracle, one of the world’s biggest software companies, Ellison is also a philanthropist (a signatory of The Giving Pledge), and an accomplished yachting enthusiast (winner of the famous America’s Cup).
1. Bill Gates – $79.2 Billion
No matter how you define success, Bill Gates is one of the most accomplished people on the planet. A leading figure of the PC revolution, his company, Microsoft, was dominant for decades in software industry, and is still a leading player. In recent years, Gates has devoted most of his energy, not to mention vast amounts of money from his personal fortune, to a number of charitable causes. However, despite the fact he has donated billions, he still remains among the world’s richest people.
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