Top 10 Richest People in the World and How They Got Rich

Every year the world’s richest list is eagerly awaited. This time the top slot didn’t go to the usual suspect, Bill Gates, but to Carlos Slim Helu, the Mexican businessman who runs the wireless company, America Movil. Bill Gates has held the top slot for 14 out of the last 15 years. Here is a list of the world’s top ten richest people and how they made it to where they are today.

Carlos Slim Helu
Bill Gates
Warren Buffett
Mukesh Ambani
Lakshmi Mittal
Lawrence Ellison
Bernard Arnault
Eike Batista
Amancio Ortega
Karl Albrecht

1. Carlos Slim Helu

Self made business tycoon Carlos Slim Helu is now listed as the world’s richest man with a fortune of $60.6 billion. He is the first Mexican to reach the top spot, which has been mostly held by individuals from the United States. Slim is well known for his aggressive role in the privatization of the Mexican telephone industry during the 1990s. He runs America Movil, Latin America’s foremost wireless carriers with a subscriber base of over 200 million users. In September 2008, he bought 6.4% common stock stake in The New York Times Company. He also purchased 3% of Apple’s stock in 1997 before the company went on to show a significant performance boost.

2. Bill Gates

55 years old and with a net worth estimated at $53 billion, William Henry Gates is one of the most respected entrepreneurs of the Information Technology era. Along with long time friend and Microsoft’s co-founder Paul Allen, Gates developed a BASIC interpreter that became an instant hit with hobbyists in 1975. The team at Microsoft went on to develop the then PC-DOS (later renamed to MS-DOS) and sold it to IBM. Microsoft Windows was officially launched in November 1998. Bill Gates has holdings in Cascade Investments- a private investment company, bgC3 – a rather mysterious think-tank company, Corbis – a digital image licensing firm and TerraPower, which specializes in nuclear reactor designs.

3. Warren Buffett

He is often touted as America’s favorite investor and businessman, with a net worth estimated at $47 billion out of his Berkshire Hathaway holdings. In 1965, Warren Buffet took control of Berkshire Hathaway, a textile company, and shrewdly used it to explore other markets. He went on to invest in Dairy Queen, MidAmerican Energy, Geico and the more recent investment in BYD, an electric car manufacturer. He made a smart investment of $3 billion in GE and $5 billion in Goldman Sachs during the economic upheaval in 2008. He was in the news recently for the purchase of Burlington Northern Santa Fe, a railroad company, for $34 billion.

4. Mukesh Ambani

Son of the late Dhirubhai Ambani, Mukesh Ambani stands as the world’s 4th richest man with an estimated fortune of $29 billion. He is the chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, India’s largest private sector company. His father, the late Dhirubhai Ambani built the business conglomerate and later handed the reigns over to his sons. Mukesh and Anil Ambani split the family business where Mukesh took over petrochemicals and oil and gas. His new petroleum refinery, currently under construction, is likely to be the world’s largest. He holds a 48% stake in Reliance Industries. He has also set up Reliance Infocomm Ltd, one of the biggest information and communication companies in the world, but had to give it away to his brother.

5. Lakshmi Mittal

Steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal owns a huge stake in the world’s largest steel company – ArcelorMittal. His net worth has been estimated at $28.7 billion. He began working in the family business, a steel making factory, and later set up its international division by buying an old Indonesian plant. Mittal is recognized as a pioneer in developing mini-mills and is credited with leading the efforts to consolidate the steel industry globally. He has commissioned the ArcelorMittal Orbit, a high observation tower in London, which is slated to be the world’s largest artistic commission at £19.1 million.

6. Lawrence Ellison

The CEO and founder of software and database giant Oracle has a self-made fortune amounting to around $28 billion. In 1977, he mustered the courage to start his own company, Software Development Laboratories, with just $1400, which he forked out of his own pocket. The first successful innovation was called Oracle database, which signaled a promising beginning. In spite of several challenges, the company managed to hold its own against competitors like Microsoft and Sybase.

7. Bernard Arnault

Luxury goods conglomerate LVMH has seen a 57% jump in its share prices since the recession, making its owner Bernard Arnault, the wealthiest European and the seventh richest man in the world. He began by working in the construction division of his father’s company. He talked his father into selling the construction business and switched over to real estate. An unsuccessful endeavor in the U.S. resulted in his eventual return to France, where he joined as CEO of a luxury goods company, Financiere Agache. In 1987, LVMH was established and within two years, Arnault took over as CEO of the company. He also holds a stake in Carrefour, the biggest supermarket chain in France.

8. Eike Batista

Brazilian billionaire, Eike Batista stands eight in the list with an estimated net worth of $27 billion. Often described as ambitious and daring, Batista began with gold trading and mining. Most of his wealth sprung from his oil and gas company, OGX. He started the company in 2007 and went public in 2008. Among allegations of smuggling gold, police raided his home but nothing came of it. He has pushed forward with his shipbuilding business, OSX. He extended financial aid to the Olympic committee of Rio de Janeiro to bid for the 2016 Olympic Games, which it won.

9. Amancio Ortega

The Spanish owner of fashion firm Inditex is the world’s ninth richest person with an estimated net worth of $25 billion. He holds 59.29% of Inditex. His is a story of small beginnings with his railway worker father. He worked as a gofer in clothing stores and finally struck out on his own in 1963 with Confecciones Goa. He opened the first of many Zara stores in the year 1975. Some of the big Inditex brands include Zara Home, Tempe, Bershka and Pull/Bear Often. He has invested in several ventures and has holdings in banks, tourism and gas sectors.

10. Karl Albrecht

This self-made German billionaire stands tenth in the list of the world’s richest people, a position that in no way can be described as the bottom of the stack! His fortune has been valued at $23.5 billion. His hugely popular supermarket chain, Aldi Sud, has estimated sales of $37 billion. Son of a miner, Karl and his brother, Theo, worked to transform their mother’s small grocery store into Aldi, after Karl finished serving his term in the German Army during World War II. Eventually, the brothers decided to divide the business where Theo took over Aldi Nord (North) and Karl took Aldi Sud (South). In 2002, he completely withdrew from his position as chairman and is said to have retired to a quiet and private life, playing golf and raising orchids.

A closer inspection of the net worth figures of the world’s richest people reveals that the difference in personal wealth is often marginal. With changes in the stock market affecting the net worth of these individuals significantly, the list will keep seeing new members entering the fray and older ones leaving.