From very little to very rich
Many of the worlda??s richest people came from humble backgrounds to become billionaires, with childhood poverty, war and other issues driving them on to succeed. Using the Forbes Billionaires List 2018 as a guide, and starting from the least rich to the richest, here are some of the wealthiest people on the planet who survived a challenging upbringing and went on to build huge billion-dollar empires.
Kenny Troutt: now worth $1.4 billion (A?1.09bn)
Telecommunications genius and self-made billionaire Kenny Troutt has now retired but not before making a cool $1.4 billion (A?1.09bn) fortune. An avid horse racing fan, Troutt owns WinStar Farm in Kentucky and is a breeder of thoroughbreds. Troutta??s fortune also allowed him to sponsor his son’s nationally-competitive basketball team for years and even provide them with rides to tournaments on his private jet.
The son of a single mother who worked as a bartender, Troutt grew up in public housing in Mount Vernon, Illinois. What he lacked in funds he made up for in determination, paying his way through Southern Illinois University by selling insurance alongside studying. In 1988 he founded long-distance phone company Excel Communications and in 1996 Troutt took the company public. In 1998, Troutt sold Excel Communications to Teleglobe in a $3.5 billion (A?2.7bn) deal and reinvested the profits in stocks, bonds and horses.
David Murdock: now worth $2 billion (A?1.56bn)
David Murdock, worth $2 billion (A?1.56bn), is the chairman of privately-held Dole Food Products and Castle & Cooke. He owns residential and commercial properties in Arizona, California and Hawaii and a collection of Arabian horses. The 95-year-old has also donated heavily to longevity research and vows to live until he is 125.
David Murdock: then
Murdock, who is dyslexic, dropped out of high school in the ninth grade and worked at a gas station before being drafted into the Army in 1943. After serving in World War II, Murdock found himself homeless with little more than a dollar to his name. After borrowing $900 from a good Samaritan he bought a diner in Detroit and flipped it for a tidy profit. He used the proceeds to buy a car, drive to Arizona and start Castle & Cooke, a real estate company that grew to include Dole Foods Co, a fresh fruit and vegetable producer.
Roman Abramovich: now worth $11.3 billion (A?8.81bn)
Russian business tycoon Roman Abramovich is worth $11.3 billion (A?8.81bn). He has donated more money than any other living Russian, giving away $2.5 billion (A?1.9bn) to the Chukotka region. He is most likely to be seen on his yacht, Eclipse, bought for nearly $400 million (A?309.5m) in 2010 and the world’s second-largest yacht, or cheering on Chelsea, the English soccer club he owns.
Roman Abramovich: then
Abramovich spent his early life in a region far-removed from the riches of his current home in Londona??s Knightsbridge. Orphaned at a young age, he was raised by his grandparents in Komi, a dark region in Siberia. He dropped out of two colleges, yet his entrepreneurial spirit has seen him making money selling stolen gasoline, rubber ducks, perfumes and automotive parts, and from businesses ventures such as pig farming and bodyguard recruitment. Abramovich became friends with one of his countrya??s most influential individuals and became a big player in top circles. His acquisition of the large oil company Sibneft created the vast majority of his wealth. In 2005 he sold the oil company for $13bn (A?10.15bn).
John Paul DeJoria: now worth $2.5 billion (A?1.95bn)
John Paul DeJoria has a net worth of $2.5 billion (A?1.95bn). He is the co-founder of hair care company John Paul Mitchell Systems, which generates $1 billion (A?770m) in annual revenue, as well as high-end tequila company PatrA?n Spirits, which sells more than two million cases each year. DeJoria doesna??t measure his success in terms of dollars though, his wealth makes him “feel really good to be financially blessed and give back.”
John Paul DeJoria: then
When John Paul DeJoria was a child he sold Christmas cards and newspapers to support his family. But sadly it wasna??t enough and he was sent to foster care and wound up in a gang, before finding an olive branch in the form of the military. For a while DeJoria slept in his car and sold shampoo door to door, before he teamed up with Paul Mitchell in 1980 and turned $700 into the hugely-successful John Paul Mitchell Systems. Not too long after their company took off, Mitchell died of cancer and DeJoria took over. In 1989 DeJoria and partner Martin Crowley acquired a stake in boutique tequila maker PatrA?n and have grown it to sales of more than $800 million (A?624m).
Mohed Altrad: now worth $2.5 billion (A?1.95bn)
EY World Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 and Montpellier rugby club president Mohed Altrad is worth $2.5 billion (A?1.95bn). He heads up the $4 billion (A?3.09bn) Altrad Group, which provides construction and maintenance services, but his start in life was worlds apart from this. Of his past he said: “I had no special dream a?? only the ambition not to accept my initial destiny.”
Mohed Altrad: then
Mohed Altrad came from humble beginnings, born an orphaned Bedouin in the Syrian desert. Raised by his grandmother, Altrad was banned from going to school, but an innate drive to learn saw him attending school anyway. He eventually won a scholarship to study in France despite speaking no French and having very little money. In France, Altrad was poor and lived off one meal a day, yet managed to earn himself an undergraduate degrees in physics and math, and a Ph.D. in computer science. In 1985, after a short spell working for a tech firm and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Altrad bought a bankrupt scaffolding manufacturer in France. With his partner he created the world’s leading scaffolding company.
Howard Schultz: now worth $2.7 billion (A?2.1bn
Howard Schultz is an American self-made billionaire, most famous for making coffee chain Starbucks the global success story that it is. He has a net worth of $2.7 billion (A?2.1bn) and is the 887th richest person in the world. But his upbringing was anything but affluent.
Howard Schultz: then
Schultz was born in 1953 in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in a public housing project. His father was a truck driver and the family were poor. Encouraged by his parents, Schultz got a place at Northern Michigan University via an athletic scholarship. He was the first person in his family to attend college. He worked as a bartender and even sold blood throughout college. After graduating he got a job in sales at Xerox and later became manager of US operations at Hammerplast. By 1982 he became director of marketing for Starbucks and was then CEO from 1986-2000. Under his reign the company experienced an expansion of gargantuan proportions. To this day, Schultz is heralded as the person responsible for revolutionizing the coffee shop industry. For Schultz, it was crucial to build a company with soul. Schultz said he a??wanted to build the kind of company that my father never got a chance to work for, in which people were respected.”
Oprah Winfrey: now worth $2.9 billion (A?2.27bn)
Media mogul Oprah Winfrey, worth $2.9 billion (A?2.27bn), is an American media executive, talk show host, actress, producer and philanthropist. She has a large number of A-lister friends and an impressive number of mansions. Her 65-acre Californian estate is large enough for Winfrey to run a two-mile route without leaving the property.
Oprah Winfrey: then
Winfrey overcame a tough childhood, born to a teen mother in rural Mississippi and raised without indoor plumbing. Winfrey was determined to break away, earning herself a scholarship to Tennessee State University and becoming the first African-American TV correspondent in the state at just 19. Winfrey then parlayed her role as a news anchor into a 25-year talk show gig. Winfreya??s hit talk show has transitioned into a media and business empire, including a magazine and cable channel, OWN. Her 25.5% of the network is worth about $75 million (A?58m) and Winfrey also owns an 8% stake in Weight Watchers, acting as its brand ambassador. Reinvested, the profits from her show add up to nearly $2 billion (A?1.56bn).
Zhang Xin: now worth $3.6 billion (A?2.8bn)
Chinese billionaire businesswoman Zhang Xin has an estimated worth of $3.6 billion (A?2.8bn) and has been called the a??woman who built Beijinga?? due to her groundbreaking career in property. But nothing was handed to Xin on a plate.
Zhang Xin: then
Born in Beijing in 1965, during the Cultural Revolution, Xin grew up with her mother after her parents divorced when she was five. Mother and daughter moved to Hong Kong when Xin was 14 and, to make ends meet, they both got jobs as factory workers. Xin was determined to learn, however, and would attend evening school after work. Aged 19, Xin flew to England to learn English at a language school in Oxford. She got a job at a fish and chip shop to stay afloat. Xin went on to study at both Sussex and Cambridge universities before landing a job at Goldman Sachs, where she worked in floating Chinese factories on the public stock exchange. In 1995, Xin and her husband founded property development company SOHO China. To date, the company has developed over 60 million square feet of land.
Ken Langone: now worth $3.6 billion (A?2.8bn)
Self-made investor Ken Langone is now worth $3.6 billion (A?2.8bn). Langone is a philanthropist and in 1999 donated $10 million (A?7.7m) to NYU’s part-time MBA program and $200 million (A?155m) to the university’s medical center in 2008. However, the 82-year-old has not forgotten his humble beginnings and still phones his electricity provider if he needs to challenge his bill.
Ken Langone: then
The grandson of Italian immigrants, Langone’s father was a plumber, and his mother ran an elementary school cafeteria. Langone dug ditches for the Long Island Expressway and his high school principal advised his parents not to waste their money sending the a??unpromisinga?? student to college. Thankfully they disagreed and his parents mortgaged their house so that he could study economics at Bucknell University. Once there, Langone worked as a caddy, butcher and ditch digger to stay afloat. After two years in the US Army, he made a name for himself on Wall Street, taking Ross Perot Sr.’s Electronic Data Systems public in 1968. In 1978, Langone co-founded US retail giant Home Depot with Arthur Blank and Bernard Marcus. All three are now billionaires.
Do Won Chang: now worth $3 billion (A?2.34bn)
Do Won and his wife Jin Sook Chang, co-founders of the $4 billion (A?3.12bn) fast fashion darling Forever 21, are worth $3 billion (A?2.34bn). Family and faith are more important to the Changs than wealth. Their Ivy League-educated daughters, Linda and Esther, work alongside their mother in merchandising. They go to early morning prayer every day and have the bible verse John 3:16 printed on the bottom of their company’s shopping bags.
Do Won Chang: then
Before the couple founded the incredibly successful clothing empire, Do Won struggled to make ends meet. The pair moved to the US from South Korea in 1981 with not much more than a high school education. Do Won worked three jobs simultaneously a?? in a coffee shop, as a gas station attendant and a janitor a?? to support his family. In 1984, the Changs started the business in a 900-square-foot store in Los Angeles thanks to a mere $11,000 in savings. Capitalizing on wholesale closeouts, they bought merchandise for cheap and hit $700,000 in first-year sales, prompting them to open a new store every six months. Forever 21 now has 790 stores spanning 48 countries.
Ralph Lauren: now worth $6.2 billion (A?4.9bn)
Fashion designer Ralph Lauren has an estimated wealth of $6.2 billion (A?4.9bn) and comes in at number 281 on the Forbes Billionaires List of 2018, making him one of the richest clothing moguls on the planet. But the founder of the preppy all-American clothing empire grew up in less-than-comfortable surroundings.
Ralph Lauren: then
Lauren, the youngest of four siblings, was born and brought up in the Bronx, New York City, to Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants. His mother Frieda was an artist, his father Frank was a house painter and money was tight. Ralph Laurena??s surname was actually Lifshitz but he changed it to Lauren when he was 16 to avoid mispronunciations. After dropping out of college and a stint in the army, Lauren started work as a sales assistant at Brooks Brothers department store. In 1967, he started making ties in a small office in New York and the Ralph Lauren Corporation was born. The business soon become something of an empire, its Polo line and fragrances selling millions worldwide and Ralph Lauren became one of the fashion world’s most recognizable brands.
Amancio Ortega: now worth $70 billion (A?55bn)
Amancio Ortega has a mammoth net worth of $70 billion (A?55bn) and is the sixth richest person in the world. How did he do it? He co-founded Inditex, best known for its Zara fashion chain, which he started in 1975. But Ortega came from very humble beginnings.
Amancio Ortega: then
Ortega was born in 1936, just before the outbreak of Spaina??s Civil War, and grew up in Leon where his father was a railway worker. Artega left school at 14, moved to A CoruA?a, and started working as a shop hand at a local shirtmaker. This is where he learnt to make clothes by hand. Once Ortega had gained enough experience, he and his wife launched a textile manufacturing company then, later on, the Zara brand. Zara soon became very successful due to its quick turnaround of stock and stores opened all around the globe. As for Ortega, he is notoriously private, rarely gives interviews and, unlike fellow billionaires, is known for maintaining a simple lifestyle.