25 Billionaires Who Started With Nothing And Made Their Own Fate

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Not every billionaire success story is written in a billionaire’s home. Throughout the centuries there have been people who have been fuelled by nothing but grit hard work and the burning desire to achieve. Sprinkle a little luck on this, and as a result, you’ll probably get yourself one of the world’s richest persons! These stories are living proof that if you’re willing to take risk and grab the right opportunity at the right time, you’ll see yourself on the cover of Forbes.

1. Sir Richard Branson – Net Worth: 5.2 Billion USD

Richard Branson
Sir Richard Branson is one of Britain’s most talked-about billionaire success story. For those of you who don’t know him, he owns a conglomerate of businesses under the “Virgin Brand”. Some of his most popular products & services go by the name of Virgin Media, Virgin Mobile and certainly Virgin Galactic.
But his humble beginnings make the journey look almost impossible. Starting off his own magazine at the age of 16, Branson showed the tendency to take risks and starting a business. He set-up a mail order record business in 1970 by the name of Virgin Records and by the 80s was expanding his empire with full pace. Spread on almost every continent, Branson’s companies are thriving day by day.

2. Larry Ellison – Net Worth: 51.9 Billion USD

An American entrepreneur who is easily one of the world’s richest persons, Joseph Larry Ellison is the co-founder of the world-famous Oracle Corporation. The company is famous for its database that goes by the same name and is a global leader in the field.
Born in New York but brought up in Chicago, Larry grew up an orphan as his mother gave him away, not meeting her until he was 48! His adopted father lost all his fortune during the Great Depression. The string of difficulties continued to haunt Larry until he attended the University of Chicago and developed an interest in computing!

3. Mohed Altrad – Net Worth: 1.59 Billion USD

Mohed Altrad

This is a truly touching billionaire success stories that shows the power of devotion. Mohed Altrad is a Syrian-born Billionaire who moved to France with the goal to succeed and escape the primitive, nomadic lifestyle.
His mother died when Mohed was young and he was raised by his grandmother. Finding it difficult to adjust into such a closed-minded society, Mohed moved to France, famously living off only one meal a day. His fortunes turned however as he bought a failing scaffolding company, transforming it into the all-powerful Altrad Group.

4. Oprah Winfrey- Net Worth: 2.9 Billion USD

A woman who needs no introduction, Oprah Winfrey belongs to a poor family in Mississippi but had her fate turned upside down when she won a scholarship from the Tennessee State University.
At a time when racial tensions were running high, Oprah became the first African American TV correspondent, that too at age 19.
In 1983, she moved to Chicago and started hosting a talk-show, which would later on become “The Oprah Winfrey Show”.
Today, she’s an established host, author, producer and philanthropist.


5. Howard Schultz – Net Worth: 2.9 Billion USD

For a man who grew up in a housing complex for the poor, being mentally healthy is a feat on its own. For Howard Schultz, however, the sky was the limit. Born in Brooklyn, Schultz always had the urge to do something that would help him escape the substandard lifestyle he resided in.
After getting a scholarship from the University of Northern Michigan, Schultz landed at a random coffee shop called Starbucks. He grew this company to more than 16,000 outlets and is a billionaire who deserves every bit of praise he gets.

6. Roman Abramovich – Net Worth: 8.4 Billion USD

A Russian billionaire success story. It doesn’t get any classier than this. Roman Abramovich was an orphan who grew up in Southern Russia in extreme poverty. Being raised by someone else and in a subarctic region, made him tough physically & mentally.
He started off with a small company producing plastic toys but eventually ventured into the oil business, and quickly made a name for himself.
Today he enjoys watching Chelsea Football Club (acquired in 2003), has the world’s largest yacht and a lifestyle only Kings can imagine.

7. Sir Philip Green – Net Worth: 4.7 Billion USD


Often viewed negatively in his own country, with comparisons being made to Donald Trump, Sir Philip Green may not be the nicest person on the planet but he is a poor billionaire nonetheless.
Born in England, Sir Philip Green left school at 15 and kicked off a retail career, selling jeans to retailers. He formed the Arcadia Group eventually shooting him into stardom and billionaire status.
Today he is surrounded by a string of controversies but his hard work, devotion and humble beginnings are commendable.

8. Li Ka-Shing – Net Worth: 31.3 Billion USD


Famous for simply being Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-Shing made his way to the top of China’s complex eco-system with sharpness, an opportunist attitude and devotion.
Li’s father died from Tuberculosis after he returned from the Sino-Japanese war. At age 12, Li had to quit school to work at a watch-strap company. By 14, he was fully immersed in plastics. The long-hours and unforgiving managers only helped motivate Li into achieving the extraordinary.
Soon he opened up his own plastic toys and from thereon started up an entire conglomerate. Today he employs more than 290,000 people and is one of the world’s richest persons.

9. Amancio Ortega – Worth: 70.1 Billion USD

A conquistador no-less, Amacio Ortego rules the world’s fashion industry with textile brands like Zara, Pull&Bear, Massimo Dutti, etc. He started off with a meagre textile company with little marketing and caught the entire retail establishment off guard. Today he invests in all types of industries, specifically real-estate and regularly switches places with Bill Gates as the world’s richest man!

10. John Fredriksen – Worth: 9.8 Billion USD


A self-made billionaire, John Fredriksen is not only rich but is proudly the owner of the world’s largest oil tanker fleet! Born in Norway, Fredriksen was the son of a welder who knew he had to capitalize his way to the bank.
He was quick to buy off slumping drilling companies and operated them on a profit, eventually becoming a poor billionaire off it. It is thought that the Norwegian has a mega cash pile of $5 billion!

11. Sheldon Adelson – Worth: 32.2 Billion USD

A political heavy-weight and a casino magnate; all came from nothing. Sheldon Adelson is a prime example of survival of the fittest and extreme payback of extreme risks.
He grew up on the floors of a Boston tenement and started regular work at a newspaper corner, which he bought with a loan. He then did a string of jobs before joining the army and finally settling down giving chartered tours.
He transformed the millions he earned from this business into billions from his casinos!

12. Leonardo Del Vecchio – Worth: 18.7 Billion USD

One of the world’s richest persons, and the second-richest in Italy, Del Vecchio is the owner of Luxottica, an eyewear giant. At the age of 7, Del Vecchio was sent to an orphanage because his widowed mother did not have the strength to bear the expenses of her 5 children.
Del Vecchio payed his way through design school by working at a factory at the age of 14. He holds the firm believe that work comes before everything else, something that led him to open up his own factories and bring innovations in the field of optics!

13. Ingvar Kamprad – Net Worth: 41.8 Billion USD

Efficiency, efficiency and a little more efficiency is what Mr. Kamprad desired and what he achieved. The son of a farmer and now a Swedish business magnate, Ingvar rose the ranks of the world’s richest persons with nothing but smartness. It is said that he sold individual matches to his neighbors on his bike and still made a profit.
He eventually founded IKEA in 1943, and since then has become a giant in the global furnishing market.

14. George Joseph – Net Worth: 1.66 Billion USD

Born in Beckley, West Virginia in a Lebanese family, Joseph had a tough life from the very beginning. His youth was characterized by the horrors of World War II, during which he served as a B-17 pilot.
Upon returning he earned a degree at Harvard, and took a long, difficult path. He worked as a system analyst by day and an insurance salesman by night.
Eventually he developed his own insurance company, Mercury General and propelled all the way to the top. His company’s revenues in 2009 were $3.1 billion!

15. Alan Gerry – Net Worth: 1.15 Billion USD

Alan Gerry is a person who was surrounded by hardships until he decided to do something about them. Born to Russian immigrants, Gerry was forced to drop out of school due to his family’s financials. He joined the Marines and soon-after started a small television repair business.
From thereon, he worked ground-up and became a poor billionaire. His company expanded into a cable company, which he later sold to the Time Warner Company.

16. Kenny Troutt – Net Worth: 1.41 Billion USD

Known for being a pioneer of long-distance communication, Troutt is the proud owner of the billion dollar Excel Communications. But everything wasn’t butterflies & rainbows for Troutt.
The son of a bartender, he was always financially burdened. He had to sell life insurances and pay for his way through the Southern Illinois University. However, he used his expertise and innovation to form a long-distance company, at a time when there weren’t many competitors. Today he has a billion-dollar empire, sponsors his sons’ basketball teams and owns 300 – 500 houses at any particular time!

17. John Paul DeJoria – Net Worth: 3 Billion USD

This is a billionaire success story bound to motivate you.
John Paul DeJoria was born to an immigrants’ family of mixed race. His parents divorced when he was only two and hardships forced him to start selling Christmas cards at only 9 years of age.
At one time, he was even a member of a street gang, but he left the work for an honest earning. After having served in the Navy for two years he decided to make something of himself and formed John Paul Mitchell Systems, a haircare company.
The venture was a success, and soon Paul had more money than he knew what to do. He was clever and invested in The Patron Spirits Company, buying up 70% of the shares. Today he owns several nightclubs and small businesses, and enjoys all the luxuries of life, he once couldn’t think of.

18. Ralph Lauren – Net Worth: 7.9 Billion USD

Believe it or not but Ralph Lauren, the trend-setter in the world of fashion, was once a man who dreamt of achieving greatness. Born in The Bronx, New York City, Lauren grew up in an immigrant family. He had a moderate lifestyle, which passed with ease, however his dreams only became bigger with time.
From 62 – 64, he served in the Army, and then left it to work for the Brooks Brothers. There he thought of starting his own clothing lines, which he called the Ralph Lauren Corporation in 1967. The corporation eventually gave birth to brands such as Polo, Black Label, Chaps, Denim and so on.
Today, Ralph Lauren is a household name and one of the top choices for all shopaholics.

19. George Soros – Net Worth : 25.2 Billion USD

The controversial Trust Fund Manager & entrepreneur wasn’t always covered in hedge funds. George Soros has a billionaire success story that comes straight out of a movie. Born in Nazi-occupied Hungary, Soros had no option but to flee that country. He got himself into the London School of Economics, where he had to work as a railway porter to stay alive.
Through his intuitive knowledge and natural mind for numbers, he started off Soros Fund Management, which is now worth over $30 billion.

20. Lakshmi Mittal – Net Worth: 13.3 Billion USD

Born in 1950 to a poor Indian family, comfort for Mittal wasn’t an option. He worked from his very childhood to be an intelligent, well-prepared and risk-taking individual. His father’s steel business became a liability after the Indian government curbed steel production.
But this didn’t stop Mittal from working. He opened up a steel factory in Indonesia and from there started importing into India. Today, the small-scale steel business has turned into the world’s largest yet cheapest steel business, making Mittal a multi-billionaire.

21. Kirk Kerkorian – Net Worth: 4.0 Billion USD

A mega-resort owner today, Kirk Kerkorian was born to an economically-ill Armenian immigrant family. His troubles forced him to drop out of school in the 8th grade. Kirk was so angry that he decided to become a professional boxer.
It wasn’t long until World War II kicked off. Kerkorian started working for the RAF, but he decided to do something new with his life as soon as the war was over. He amassed most of his wages during the war and used the money to become a general aviation pilot. From there-on, he bought some surplus bombers, eventually selling them and starting off a chain of resorts in Las Vegas.

22. Harold Simmons – Net Worth: 40.0 Billion USD

Growing up without one’s wants is another thing, but growing up with the basic needs is a whole other one. Counted as one of the world’s richest persons, Harold Simmons grew up in a shack in Texas without any electricity.
He managed to make his way through the University of Texas. His fortunes were about to change as he got his first big break with a chain of drugstores. This helped him accumulate $50 million, which he used to make corporate buyouts till the day he died at the age of 82.

23. David Murdock – Net Worth: 2.7 Billion USD

David Murdock was not only financially troubled from the very beginning but he had trouble thinking too. He was dyslexic from childhood, forcing him to drop out of high school while in the 9th grade. He started working at a gas station before getting drafted for World War II.
He started a small diner from his wages and later on got interested in Real Estate. He now owns property in various states and spends a part of his fortune on longevity research, vowing to live until he’s 125!

24. Harold Hamm – Net Worth: 5.8 Billion USD


For someone who grows up milking cows and gathering eggs, venturing in the oil & gas sector can be nothing less than a nightmare. Nonetheless, Harold made his way through everything, thick & thin.
The youngest of 13 kids, Harold always wanted to make a name for himself. He entered the oil & gas sector by being a logistics provided to a drilling company. It was from these humble beginnings that he was able to build an entire empire, today known as Continental Resources.

25. Ken Langone – Net Worth: 2.8 Billion USD

The grandchildren of Italian migrants, Langone had a difficult childhood in a working-class family. His mother worked in a cafeteria while his father was a plumber. From his youth, Langone worked on several jobs, such as a butcher’s assistant, a ditch digger, etc.
He struck gold after graduation when he began his career at R.W. Pressprich. Here he realized the potential to move up in the world and convinced the Wall Street company to handle Electronic Data System’s IPO. The move would make him the president of the company and a poor billionaire, per se.

Today he has multiple investments, and is known as the co-founder of the construction-retail company Home Depot.

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