10 Billionaires Who Were Once Totally Broke

10 Billionaires Who Were Once Totally Broke

As of 2016, there are just 1,810 billionaires in the world. That’s not a lot.

Many on that list were born into well-to-do families, while most came from a financially average background (by the standard set by the developed world, at least).

But there are names on that list that demand some extra kudos – not just for how much money they have earned – but for their incredibly modest beginnings.

1. Roman Abramovich

Born into poverty in southern Russia, Abramovich was orphaned at the age of two. He was then raised by his uncle in the harsh cold of northern Russia.

He grew up to study at the Moscow Auto Transport Institute before starting a small company producing plastic toys. After some success, he made the jump into the oil industry, where he eventually completed a merger that made his company, Sibneft, the fourth largest oil company in the world at the time.

State-run gas giant Gazprom acquired Sibneft in 2005 for a whopping $13 billion, two years after Abramovich purchased Chelsea Football Club for $233m. Oh, and just in case you aren’t already impressed, he also owns the world's largest yacht.

Net worth: $8.3 billion

2. Francois Pinault

Francois Pinault dropped out of high school because the bullying he received for being poor was so extreme.

But despite his humble (and sad) start to life, he adopted a money making strategy which involves buying smaller firms for a fraction of their true cost when markets crash.
Pinault is now the owner of fashion titan Kering (formerly PPR), which owns globally recognized fashion houses including Gucci, Stella McCartney, and Alexander McQueen.

Net worth: $14.2 billion

3. Howard Schultz

In an interview he gave to the British tabloid ‘The Mirror’, Schultz said that:

"Growing up, I always felt like I was living on the other side of the tracks. I knew the people on the other side had more resources and more money. I may have a suit and tie on now but I know where I'm from and I know what it's like."

Schultz grew up to win a football scholarship at the University of Northern Michigan and went to work for Xerox after graduation. Shortly after, he purchased a coffee shop chain called Starbucks, which has 60 shops.

Schultz took Starbucks from strength to strength, becoming the company’s CEO as it opened more than 16,000 outlets across the globe.

Net worth: $2.9 billion

4. Oprah Winfrey

Born into a poor family in Mississippi, Oprah Winfrey worked hard in her early years to win a scholarship at Tennessee State University.

She then used her loveable personality to become the first African American TV correspondent in the Tennessee at the age of just 19.

In 1983, Winfrey was offered the chance to host her own morning talk show which would go on to be known as "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

The rest is history.

Net worth: $3 billion

5. Shahid Khan

Shahid Khan was an immigrant to the US from Pakistan. When he arrived, he landed a job washing dishes for $1.20 per hour as he studied at the University of Illinois.

Today, Khan owns the automotive company Flex-N-Gate, one of the largest private companies in the US. He also owns the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, and English Football club, Fulham.

Also, I’m also pretty sure somebody else now washes his dishes.

Net worth: $4.4 billion

6. Do Won Chang

Do Won Chang and his wife Jin Sook were also immigrants to the US, but this time from Korea. When they made the move in 1981, Do Won had to work three jobs in order to support his family.

But in 1984, they opened their first clothing store as husband and wife, naming it Forever 21. That same company is now the internationally recognised clothing empire that rakes in around $3 billion  year in sales.

Net worth: $6.5 billion

7. Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren is a college dropout. He joined the army soon after his departure from education, and had an idea about brighter designs for men’s ties.

Suffice it to say, he went on to sell $500,000 worth of ties before starting Polo. The success kept coming, and the clothing mogul is now a global icon for the fashion industry.

Net worth: $6.8 billion

8. John Paul DeJoria

At the tender age of 10, DeJoria, a son to immigrant parents, sold greeting cards to help support his family.

After joining and leaving the military, DeJoria co-founded John Paul Mitchell Systems and sold his own shampoo door-to-door while living in his car. Paul Mitchell is now a global brand renowned for their prestigious hair products.

Net worth: $2.9 billion

9. Larry Ellison

Ellison was born to a single mother in New York, but was raised by his aunt in Chicago.

Following the death of his aunt, Ellison dropped out of college (like many other billionaires on this list) and moved to California, where he jumped from industry to industry for nearly ten years.

He eventually founded the software company Oracle in 1977, which has since grown into one of the largest tech companies in the world.

Net worth: $49.8 billion

10. Mohed Altrad

Now here’s a story. Altrad was born into a nomadic tribe in the Syrian desert to a poor single mother who was raped by his father.

Altrad’s mother tragically died while he was young, and so his grandmother stepped in and raised him in the Syrian city of Raqqa.

Altrad grew up to attend university in France where, despite living on just one meal a day, he managed to earn a PhD in computer science. This led to a string of jobs at some of France’s largest companies.

Before long, he acquired a struggling scaffolding company, which he grew into Altrad Group; one of the world's leading manufacturers of scaffolding and construction materials. Altrad has since been named French Entrepreneur of the Year and World Entrepreneur of the Year.

Net worth: $1 billion

It Can Be Done

This all proved one important thing; your circumstances don’t define you.

And since that is so obviously the case, there’s no reason why a billion dollars should be beyond your reach (or mine!). After all, if they can do it, why can’t we?


About the Author

Kaya Ismail is a wordsmith and founder of Employ the Internet. He is a seasoned content marketer with a love for video games and coffee.

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