They say that while the poor get poorer, the rich get richer. This may very well be the case, as there are now more billionaires than ever before. Every March, Forbes Magazine ranks the richest people on earth, compiling the renowned “The World's Billionaires” list. This year’s list is made up of 1,862 individuals with billion dollar fortunes, a significant increase from the 1,645 reported just last year.
The list is typically compromised of the usual magnates: Global investor, Warren Buffet, the third richest man in the world with a $72.7 billion dollar net worth, industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch valued at $42.9 billion dollars respectively, and of course Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, who with a net worth of $79.2 billion, has held the title of the richest man in the world for sixteen out of the past twenty-one years.
However, there are a few surprises.
Basketball great, Michael Jordan, for example recently joined the billionaires club with a net worth of $1 billion. A few more women have also joined the league. This year there were 197 women billionaires, up from the 172 the year before. Christy Walton, widow of John Walton, son of WalMart founder Sam Walton, is currently the wealthiest woman in the world, with an inherited net worth of $41.7 billion. Liliane Bentacourt, heiress to L’Oreal cosmetics, is the second, her net worth valued at about $40.1 billion.
What’s perhaps most surprising however, is that although many of the world’s billionaires achieved their wealth through inheritance alone, most of them are actually self-made. A notable example is Elizabeth Holmes, whom after dropping out of Stanford at 19 years old, has not only revolutionized health care with her blood testing company, Theranos, but has managed to become the worlds youngest female billionaire in the process. Then there’s Jorge Perez, who immigrated to the US from Argentina to become an urban planner, and is now amassing billions developing luxury condos in Florida.
There are many other Latinos and Hispanics counting their billions all the way to the bank. For example, there’s Jorge Paulo Lemann, the richest man in Brazil, who accumulated his wealth as a beer baron through stakes in the world’s largest brewery and the richest man in Colombia, banker Luis Carlos Sarmiento, who’s investments have earned him a $12.5 Billion net.
At 30 years old, the youngest Latino Billionaire is Julio Mario Santo Domingo, III, a New York City DJ and heir to grandfather Julio Mario Santo Domingo’s Colombian beer company fortune. Other notable Latino billionaires include, Mexican business woman Eva Gonda Rivera, widow of Eugenio Garza Laguera, former chair of Latin America's biggest independent beverage distributor and Peruvian Eduardo Belmont, owner of the cosmetics company Belcorp.
The wealthiest Latina woman in the world is Iris Fontbona. The Chilean businesswoman ranks 82 among the world’s billionaires. After inheriting her late husband Andronico Luksic’s mining business in 2005, her net worth is currently estimated at $13.3 billion.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, two of the top five wealthiest billionaires are Latinos. Amancio Ortega, founder of the retail company Zara, ranks as the fourth richest person in the world. The son of a railway worker, Ortega’s first job was in a shirtmaker’s shop. Now, his very own clothing company has accumulated him a worth of $64.5 billion.
Finally, there’s CarlosSlim Helu. With a net worth of $77.1 Billion, the Mexican investor is considered the second richest man in the world. At a point, he even out-earned Bill Gates, and was named the richest man on earth from 2010-2013. Helu’s wide array of business ventures extends across a number of fields, from telecommunications, to retail, to automotive services to energy and construction, to name just a few. With stakes in so many places, Gates better watch out, it looks like Helu is still out for that number one spot.
Originally published in LatinTrends Magazine, August 2015