Those few Americans who have had truly groundbreaking commercial ideas during the past century have amassed fortunes in the tens of billions (or had the good fortune to inherit it).
The United States is still home to many of the world’s richest people despite the fact that many other countries are currently spawning new billionaires. It’s worth noting that many of these successful people achieved their success outside of family connections.
However, what about the rest of the world? Who exactly are the world’s richest people? What can we take from from their accomplishments? There are various ways to get rich, as you’ll discover, but two things always help: hard work and good fortune.
This list is dominated by persons who are flush with both…
Net Worth: $73 Billion
He is the son of Lebanese immigrants who settled in Mexico City and built a successful real estate empire.
That sparked a lifelong fascination in accumulating riches in this mega-billionaire, who reportedly made his first stock purchase when he was just 12 years old (Carlos Slim). (Many self-made millionaires and billionaires have spoken about their early exposure to business newspapers like The Wall Street Journal, even as early as junior high school.)
By the time Slim was five, he had accumulated a $40 million fortune through his investing firm, which he used to amass shares in numerous manufacturing companies. Yet he really became wealthy in the 1980s, when few other significant investors had spare capital to spend, by purchasing a number of major Mexican assets at distressed prices.
The main point is that Slim had a head start and benefited from his company’s high level of financial liquidity at a period of downturn in local markets.
Net Worth: $57 Billion
He was the son of a Spanish railroad worker and started working for a tailor when he was just a little lad. In 1972, at the age of 36, he opened his first apparel store, selling primarily quilted bathrobes. A short time after, he launched the first Zara store, which has since expanded to over 70 international locations. The Inditex Group, of which Zara is a part, generates approximately $20 billion in annual sales across its many retail labels.
How did Ortega set himself and Zara apart from the rest of the retail industry? It only takes two weeks to develop and store new items thanks to local production. Because of the worldwide nature of supply chains, competitors often need to make plans six months in advance, increasing the likelihood that they may carry things that have since gone out of style. Ortega reasoned that the retail business may profit from the ‘just in time’ method of inventory management that had been so effective for Japanese automakers.
In the same way that he avoids advertisements, Ortega invests his money in new store openings and a broader selection of products created in smaller quantities. Other multinational merchants will rather order hundreds of identical products in a single size and color, and then try to sell them all. That usually results in a profit-eroding strategy of lowering prices. Ortega is quite reclusive, giving few interviews to the media in the past decade.
The upshot is that, unlike other shops, Ortega prioritized quality, word-of-mouth, and limited production runs in order to keep costs down and inventory low.
Net Worth: $31 Billion
Though now Asia’s wealthiest person, he started off working 16-hour days as a teenager for a Hong Kong plastics company. At the age of 22, he was already running his own plastics business, which he then quickly expanded into the real estate, telecommunications, banking, and hotel industries. (His quick rise to wealth has been attributed, at least in part, by some to his privileged marriage.
With operations in over 50 countries, Li’s empire today supports over 250,000 workers. That enormous hegemony originated in what Western financiers call a “Keiretsu” (similar to Japan’s) or a “Chaebol” (similar to Korea’s), in which contracts between companies in different sectors are fed by the interlocking ownership of those companies.
Takeaway: While many U.S. billionaires make their money in a single sector, Li has worked to derive synergies across his several business endeavors, a strategy that is much more common in Asia than in the West.
Net Worth: $30 Billion
Bettencourt, who owns a majority share in the L’Oreal cosmetics company, is the second-wealthiest person in the world after the United States’ own Bill Gates, with a net worth of $30 billion. Her fortune is not the result of hard work on her part, thus we will not be addressing how she became wealthy.
But we will say this: Liliane and other billionaires are part of a small group that has known about a secret to become rich for a long time, and now you can too. Companies with “Rich Parent” companies have the same perks as Liliane’s family business because of the resources available to the parent company. Learn here how to get the benefits.
Net Worth: $29 Billion
To get his start, this French tycoon was able to persuade his father to sell the family business in construction in 1976 so that he could invest the proceeds in property. But high-end fashion was his true love, so he invested about $15 million over the next decade to become a part-owner of Christian Dior and Bon Marche.
A series of legal tactics on Arnault’s part enabled him to turn a very small initial investment into a share that is now worth more than $1 billion.
By the late 1980s, he was completely enamored with this sector of the retail industry, and he eventually came to manage LVMH, the parent company of such formidable (and lucrative) brands as Louis Vuitton, Moet & Chandon champagne, and Hennessy Cognac.
More than a dozen high-end labels and design studios are under LVMH’s wing today, and many of them benefited from the company’s rapid expansion thanks to massive investments. Over the subsequent 25 years, LVMH’s worth increased by more than 15 times. Arnault now owns a world-class art collection in addition to his investments in grocery chains and yacht manufacturers.
The most important thing to remember is that Arnault has only bought companies that rank highly in terms of brand prestige and profit margins.
The Investing Response: While becoming a billionaire is a rare opportunity, new millionaires are created every day all across the world.
Wealth is sometimes passed down through families. On the other hand, many other wealthy people worked hard to achieve their success. There are several commonalities among these prosperous businesspeople: They began amassing riches at a young age, and as their resources grew, they invested in things that would increase their returns on existing holdings.
In contrast, the wealthiest Americans tend to invest heavily and narrowly in a single sector or industry in order to protect and grow their fortunes.