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10 Self-Made Billionaires Who Came From Nothing

Wondering who some of the self-made billionaires who came from nothing are? We often see billionaires around the world, with luxurious mansions, traveling around the world in private jets, and vacationing at the most exotic spots on the planet. And we do not usually stop and wonder about their origin and beginnings: we take it as it may. That is, they are billionaires, and they must have done something right.  And yes indeed, there is no doubt they had quite amazing careers so as to cultivate such fortunes.

Oprah Winfrey

What can be said about billionaires is that they have probably worked very hard as to be where they are. Some of them we know from magazines and newspapers. And when picturing their everyday life, we typically imagine them spending their fortune on the most exquisite things, and having the most extravagant lifestyle. But of course not all of them hold such a luxurious life. Some are quite cautious with their vast wealth, particularly The 7 Most Frugal Billionaires in the World, as shown on our previous feature list. Despite having billions stashed in their bank accounts, they opt for a relatively simple lifestyle. We’ve compiled a countdown with some of these public figures, such as Carlos Slim Helú (CEO of Telmex) and Warren Buffett (CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A), which seem not to follow the classic mold of rich people.

Some billionaires we see rise, but others’ origins are somehow a mystery. There is no doubt in most cases wealth tends to create more wealth, yet is it possible to come from humble beginnings and still become one of the wealthiest people in the world? We have compiled a list featuring some billionaires who were once dirt poor, and climbed up to the top of the peak with their fortunes. Check out our list and find out who are the ten self-made billionaires who came from nothing.


No. 10 Kenny Troutt – Excel Communications

Net worth: $1.7 billion

Kenny Troutt had a bartender dad, and had to sell his life insurance in order to pay his tuition at Southern Illinois University. In 1988 he founded Excel Communications, and took the company public in 1996. Only two years later, he merged his company with Teleglobe in a $3.5 billion deal.

Our stirring list of self-made billionaires who came from nothing continues on the next page.

No. 9 Howard Schultz – Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX)

Net worth: $2 billion

The founder of Starbucks Howard Schultz grew up in a housing complex for the poor. He was able to go to the University of Northern Michigan through a football scholarship, and started working for Xerox after graduation. He then decided to take over a coffee shop, which he called Starbucks. In 1987 Schultz became the company’s CEO and grew the coffee chain to more than 16,000 outlets worldwide.

No. 8 Kenneth Langone – Home Depot Inc. (NYSE:HD)

Net worth: $2.1 billion

Langone’s parents worked as a plumber and cafeteria worker, and he helped pay for his own tuition to Bucknell University. He had to work at various jobs, and his parents mortgaged their home. Langone teamed up with Ross Petrot and took Electronic Data Systems (HP) public. In 1981, he started Home Depot with Bernard Marcus.

No. 7 Oprah Winfrey – “The Oprah Winfrey Show”

Net worth: $2.9 billion

Oprah Born was born in Mississippi, within a very poor family. She won a scholarship to Tennessee State University, and at the age of 19 became the first African American TV correspondent in Nashville.

No. 6 Shahid Khan – owner Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL) Fulham F.C., Flex-N-Gate

Net worth: $3.8 billion

Mr. Kahn came to the U.S. from Pakistan, and worked washing dishes for $1.20 an hour while attending the University of Illinois. Today, he is one of the wealthiest people in the world, and owns Flex-N-Gate, NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, and Premier League soccer club Fulham.

No. 5 Kirk Kerkorian – Tracinda Corporation

Net worth: $3.9 billion

Kerkorian dropped out of school in the eighth grade in order to help his family financially. He became a boxer nicknamed “Rifle Right Kerkorian.” After the Second World War, he saved most of his wages and got interested in construction in Las Vegas. He is now CEO of Tracinda Corporation.

No. 4 John Paul DeJoria – John Paul Mitchell Systems

Net worth: $4 billion

John Paul DeJoria used to sell Christmas cards and newspapers to help support his family. He spent part of his life in a foster home, and spent some time in a gang, before he joined the army. But he had a vision, and with a $700 loan, he created John Paul Mitchell Systems and sold shampoo door-to-door while he lived in his car. After some time, he eventually built his entire multibillion dollar brand.

No. 3 Do Won Chang – Forever 21

Net worth: $5 billion

Before becoming the founder of Forever 21, Do Won Chang worked as a janitor, a gas station attendant, and as a waiter in a coffee shop. Since Do Won Chang and Jin Sook, his wife, opened their first Forever 21 store in 1984, the company has grown worldwide, with currently more than 480 across the world.

No. 2 Ralph Lauren – Ralph Lauren Corporation (NYSE:RL)

Net worth: $7.7 billion

After graduating high school in the Bronx, N. Y., Ralph Lauren had to drop out of college to join the army. After this period, he started working as a clerk at Brooks Brothers. In 1967, Ralph decided to make his dream come true, and designed his collection of men’s ties. He sold $500,000 worth of ties and started Polo the next year.

No. 1 Francois Pinault –Kering (EPA:KER)


Net worth: $15 billion

Francois Pinault is a French businessman, who was born very poor, and had to quit high school in 1974 after being bullied for being underprivileged. As a businessman, he started buying small firms for a fraction of the cost, when the market crashed. He eventually started Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR) owning high-end fashion houses. In June, 2013, the French multinational company became Kering with a worldwide brand portfolio distributed in 120 countries.