Only a small number of people in the world can lay claim to being a billionaire. Indeed, despite the trillions of dollars floating around the global economy and the total population having reached 8 billion, there are less than 3,000 billionaires on the planet.
But just who are the richest of the richest?
Watch a short video highlighting the top 10 below:
The richest people in the world
Here are the top billionaires in the world, according to Forbes!
20. Rob Walton
Net worth: $57.6 billion
Rob Walton, the eldest son of Walmart founder Sam Walton, ran the retail behemoth for more than two decades as chairman after his father died in 1992. Although he retired in June 2015, he continues to sit on Walmart’s board of directors. He and his siblings own about half of the company’s stock.
19. Jim Walton
Net worth: $58.8 billion
In addition to previously owning a seat on Walmart’s board, the youngest son of Sam Walton runs the family’s Arvest Bank, controlling assets of approximately $26 billion. He retired from Walmart in June 2016 and gave his son, Steuart, the seat. In 2019, he made headlines for donating $1.2 billion of his fortune to charity, though he remains one of the richest people in the world.
18. Julia Koch and family
Net worth: $59 billion
Julia Koch is an American philanthropist and socialite who inherited her fortune from her late husband David Koch. The two met in 1991 on a blind date (which apparently didn’t go well) and later on got married and had three children: David Jr, Mary Julia, and John Mark. Today, Julia and her kids own a 42% stake in Koch Industries, the second largest privately held company in the US.
In the 1980s, Julia worked as a model and assistant to fashion designer Adolfo.
17. Charles Koch
Net worth: $59 billion
Like his late brother David Koch, Charles Koch inherited a 42% stake in Koch Industries. The multinational conglomerate corporation began as an oil refinery firm when Fred Koch (their father) joined forces with Lewis E Winkler. The two improved a method for turning crude oil into gasoline and sold it to various independent refineries.
Upon his father’s death in 1967, Charles became the chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, a title he still holds. Under his command, the corporation operates businesses in a variety of fields, ranging from energy and chemicals to computing and investments.
16. Mark Zuckerberg
Net worth: $64.4 billion
Mark Zuckerberg became one of the world’s youngest self-made billionaires when he took Facebook public in May 2012, just eight years after opening the social network’s web portal doors. Today, perhaps surprisingly, he owns only about 13% of company stock. But Zuckerberg and his internet giant have been the subjects of controversy, especially after the 2016 election when it was discovered that Facebook shares user data with a political consulting firm.
15. Zhong Shanshan
Net worth: $68 billion
Known as a billionaire who lives a modest lifestyle à la Warren Buffett, Zhong Shanshan made his fortune by starting a bottled water company, Nongfu Spring, in which he now chairs. He’s also a significant shareholder in Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise, a manufacturer of vaccines and hepatitis test kits. That's not too bad for someone who started his career as a reporter in the 1980s. Now he can acquire multiple newspapers at home or abroad!
14. Sergey Brin
Net worth: $76 billion
Along with Larry Page, who he met during an orientation for new students at Stanford University, Sergey Brin is the cofounder of tech giant Google. In 2019, he stepped down as president of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, but remains a board member and controlling shareholder. Brin also managers X Development (Google’s clandestine division that develops “radical new technologies to solve some of the world’s hardest problems”).
13. Amancio Ortega
Net worth: $77.3 billion
Amancio Ortega may not be a household name, but his fashion brands certainly are; Zara and Stradivarius need no introduction. Ortega is the wealthiest retailer in the world, controlling 60% of publicly traded Inditex and earning about $400 million a year in dividends. He reinvests his dividends in real estate in key housing markets like New York City, Barcelona and London.
12. Larry Page
Net worth: $79.2 billion
As the second half of Google’s cofounders next to Sergey Brin, Larry Page was also instrumental in coming up with the search engine’s PageRank algorithm. Since then, however, and much like Brin, Page has given up his executive role at Google’s parent company, Alphabet, but remains a board member and a controlling shareholder.
Page is a founding investor in Planetary Resources, a space exploration company, and is also funding “flying car” startups Kittyhawk and Opener Aero.
11. Françoise Bettencourt Meyers and family
Net worth: $80.5 billion
Françoise Bettencourt Meyers is currently the richest woman in the world. The granddaughter of L’Oréal’s founder Eugène Schueller, Bettencourt Meyers is the chairwoman of the cosmetics company and has been sitting on the company’s board since 1997. She and her family control roughly one-third of L’Oréal’s stock.
10. Steve Ballmer
Net worth: $80.7 billion
Steve Ballmer sits among the top 10 richest people in the world — and he may have one of the best success stories ever told. He started his career as a Stanford University dropout and, in 1980, became Microsoft’s 30th employee. Eighteen years later, Ballmer became the tech giant’s CEO, a position he served in until his retirement in 2014. Since then, he has branched out by acquiring the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers for a reported $2 billion.
9. Mukesh Ambani
Net worth: $83.4 billion
Mukesh Ambani is one of the many thriving businessmen in the emerging market known as India. Ambani runs Reliance Industries, which owns businesses in natural resources, retail, telecommunications, and oil and gas. It was founded by his late father Dhirubhai Ambani, who started Reliance as a small textile manufacturing company. Like the nation itself, Reliance has transformed into a juggernaut.
Ambani has become quite the controversial figure in recent years, mainly for Jio, a 4G phone service that offers free domestic calls and cheap data plans.
8. Carlos Slim Helú and family
Net worth: $93 billion
Perhaps surprisingly, Carlos Slim Helú is quite well-known outside the borders of Mexico. He began his wealth by acquiring a stake in Mexico’s only phone company, Telmex, in 1990. In addition to controlling Latin America’s largest mobile telecommunications firm, América Móvil, he has stakes in domestic consumer goods, mining, construction and real estate companies. He also owns 17% of the New York Times.
7. Michael Bloomberg
LeeSnider / Depositphotos.com
Net worth: $94.5 billion
Michael Bloomberg has quite the résumé: a billionaire businessman, former mayor of New York City, philanthropist and 2020 presidential candidate. Bloomberg began his career in 1966 when he was hired as an entry-level clerk at investment giant Salomon Brothers, where he was fired in 1980. A year later, Bloomberg founded financial information and media behemoth Bloomberg LP, controlling 88% of the business to date and generating $10 billion a year.
6. Bill Gates
Net worth: $104 billion
Bill Gates changed the world forever when he and Paul Allen cofounded Microsoft in 1975. Resigning as CEO in 2000, he held membership in the software giant’s board until 2020. That’s when he stepped down, after an investigation deemed a prior relationship of his with a Microsoft employee inappropriate.
Today, he owns just 1% of Microsoft stock after selling or giving it away to charity but continues to invest in stocks, startups and other assets. His main passion, however, is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which aims to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty on a global scale.
5. Warren Buffet
Net worth: $106 billion
Considered the most humble and likable billionaire, Warren Buffett got his start in the world of financing at the age of 11 when he purchased his very first stock. The “Oracle of Omaha”, Buffett runs Berkshire Hathaway, which owns or invests heavily in dozens of well-known brands, including restaurant chain Dairy Queen, food brand Kraft Heinz, Bank of America, and insurance firm Geico. He has pledged to donate 99% of his wealth to charity upon his death.
4. Larry Ellison
drserg / Depositphotos.com
Net worth: $107 billion
Larry Ellison made his fortune by delivering stellar CRM programs from his company Oracle. Although he stepped down as CEO in 2014, he remains as chairman of the board and chief technology officer. He also launched a wireless startup called Sensei. Like other billionaires, he has contributed to many causes, including a $200 million donation to the University of California’s planned cancer treatment center.
3. Jeff Bezos
Net worth: $114 billion
What started out as a business in a garage in Jeff Bezos’s home in Seattle, Washington, Amazon.com has since become a trillion-dollar company. Today, Bezos has been succeeded as CEO by Andy Jassy, but still holds the position of chairman and owns roughly 10% of Amazon’s stock.
He has also delved into other areas by purchasing the Washington Post, launching spaceflight startup Blue Origin, and making personal investments through his venture capital firm Bezos Expeditions.
2. Elon Musk
Net worth: $180 billion
Billionaire. Chief executive officer. Crypto puppet master. Troll King. Elon Musk goes by many nicknames. But the brain behind Tesla Motors, SpaceX and The Boring Company has become the world's second wealthiest man by defying the short-sellers and through investors pouring into the electric automaker, which he conceded was not sustainable.
Overall, despite intense critics, Musk is not only one of the richest men on the planet, but he may also go down in history as the man who took astronauts on Mars!
1. Bernard Arnault and family
Net worth: $211 billion
Bernard Arnault, founder and CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, became the wealthiest person in the world by satisfying the tastes of the rich and famous. The luxury brands group, which controls 60 subsidiaries including Christian Dior and Givenchy, became the first company to hit a $500 billion market value in the eurozone in 2023.
The richest man on Earth is also a patron of the arts, donating millions to museums and has even pledged $220 million to repair the fire-stricken Notre Dame Cathedral.
Most of the names on this list are individuals who established a product, built a business and satisfied consumer demand.
Be it Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, these individuals on our billionaire list took a gamble and it paid off big time. But that does not mean they did not run into brick walls and make mistakes on their way to success. Indeed, this is one of the first things they will tell you.
If you’re a budding entrepreneur, take a page out of these billionaires’ books, and see where that take you!
Are you surprised to see anyone on Forbes’s list? Let us know in the comments section below!
Originally published on October 27, 2019. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.