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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Last updated on: April 7, 2010 15:12 IST

Image: Bill Gates.
Photographs: Reuters Agencies

Some people are born rich, others are not so lucky. But it is definitely the self-made billionaire who inspires everyone more than anybody else. The fact that hard work, business acumen, determination, perseverance, and smart decision-making can help even ordinary people become rich appeals to all.

Here are 20 billionaires who were not born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouth, but made it big by the dint of their courage and intelligence. Read on. . .

1. Bill Gates: Net worth -- $53 billion

Bill (William Henry) Gates, chairman of Microsoft, is a business tycoon and a philanthropist. He co-founded Microsoft with Paul Allen.

Gates' father was a lawyer while his mother served on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem and the United Way.

Gates wrote his first computer programme at 13, an implementation of tic-tac-toe. It allowed users to play games on the computer. Gates graduated in 1973, scoring 1590 out of 1600 on the SAT and enrolled at the Harvard College.

While at Harvard, Gates spent a lot of time experimenting with computers. The year 1975 saw the release of the MITS Altair 8800 based on the Intel 8080 CPU and Gates and Allen thought it was high time they started their computer software company.

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Lakshmi Mittal.
Photographs: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

2. Lakshmi Mittal: Net worth -- $28.7 billion

The chief executive officer and founder of ArcelorMittal, Lakshmi Niwas Mittal was born in a middle class business family of Rajasthan.

During the initial years of his career, Mittal worked in the family's steel-making business. His grandfather worked with an industrial firm in pre-Independence India.

Mittal lived in his grandfather's house with an extended family of 20 members that slept on rope beds and cooked on an open fire in the brickyard. In 1976, when the family founded its own steel business, Mittal set out to build its international division and bought a run-down plant in Indonesia.

He founded Mittal Steel (formerly the LNM Group) in 1976.

In 2006, Arcelor SA merged with Mittal Steel and ArcelorMittal came into being. At present, Mittal is the chairman and CEO of  ArcelorMittal. ArcelorMittal is the largest steel company in the world, with over 281,000 employees in more than 60 countries.

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Larry Ellison.
Photographs: Photograph, courtesy: Oracle Website

3. Lawrence 'Larry' Ellison: Net worth -- $27 billion

Born to an unwed Jewish woman, Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO of Oracle Corporation, was adopted by a middle class family in Chicago.

Ellison left the University of Illinois at the end of his second year, after his mother died.

He later studied computer designing and moved to California. There, he did several odd jobs for eight years. As a programmer at Ampex, he participated in building the first IBM-compatible mainframe system.

In 1977, Ellison and his Ampex colleagues, Robert Miner and Ed Oates, founded Software Development Labs, with $1400. The company was later renamed Oracle Corporation.

Oracle is the world's leading supplier of software for information management, and the world's second largest software company. The 65-year-old Ellison often hits the headlines for his extravagant and flamboyant lifestyle.

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Amancio Ortega Gaona.

4. Amancio Ortega Gaona: Net worth -- $25 billion

Gaona is a Spanish fashion entrepreneur ranked by Forbes as Spain's richest man and the 10th richest man in the World in 2009.

With his ex-wife Rosal a Mera, he founded the Inditex Group. He is the group's chairman at present.  Ortega arrived at A Coruna, Spain, at the age of 14. His father was a railway worker.

Starting as a gofer in various shirt stores in A Coruna, Galicia, he founded Confecciones Goa, which made bathrobes.

In 1975, he opened a store called Zara, which later grew to enormous scale as one of the most well known fashion chains of the world. Gaona keeps a very low profile and is known to have never given an interview to the media.

His secrecy is intriguing and it has led to the publication of a book Amancio Ortega: De Cero A Zara (From Zero to Zara).

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Karl Albrecht.

5. Karl Albrecht: Net worth -- $23.5 billion

Karl and Theo Albrecht were born in a middle class family in Essen. Their father was a miner and later a baker's assistant. Their mother had a small grocery store.

Theo completed an apprenticeship in his mother's store, while Karl worked in a delicatessen shop. Karl served in the German Army during World War II. After the War, the brothers took over their mother's business. The first Aldi (Albrecht-Discount) was opened in 1961.

In 1994, Albrecht withdrew from the daily operations of Aldi S d and assumed chairmanship of the board.

In early 2002, he gave up this position as well.

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Ingvar Kamprad.

6. Ingvar Kamprad: Net worth -- $23 billion

Swedish entrepreneur Kamprad is the founder of the home furnishing retail chain IKEA.

According to Forbes, he is the eleventh wealthiest person in the world in 2010. The acronym IKEA is derived from the initials of his name (Ingvar Kamprad), Elmtaryd, family farm where he was born, and the nearby village Agunnaryd.

Kamprad started doing business as a young boy, selling matches to neighbours. Even at that early age, Kamprad found that he could buy matches in bulk very cheaply from Stockholm, sell them at a low price and still make profit.

Over the years, he started selling fish, Christmas tree decorations, seeds, pens and pencils.

When Kamprad was 17, his father gave him a cash reward for exceeding in studies. He used that money to establish IKEA.

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Roman Abramovich.

7. Roman Abramovich: Net worth -- $18.8 billion

Abramovich is a Russian businessman and the main owner of the private investment company Millhouse LLC. In the initial years of his life, Abramovich worked as a street-trader and also as a mechanic at a local factory.

He started his multi-billion-dollar business during his army service where he sold stolen gasoline to some of the commissioned officers of his unit.

In 1996, at the age of 30, Abramovich had become close to President Boris Yeltsin. He moved into an apartment in the Kremlin at the invitation of the Yeltsin family. In 1999, Abramovich was elected governor of Russian province of Chukotka.

He spent Euro132 million on charity to rebuild the impoverished region.

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Mikhail Prokhorov.

8. Mikhail Prokhorov: Net worth -- $9.5 billion

Prokhorov is the richest man in Russia at present and the 40th richest man in the world, according to the 2009 Forbes' list.

After graduating from the Moscow Finance Institute, he made it big in the financial sector. Prokhorov worked in a management position at the International Bank for Economic Cooperation and also as head of management board of the International Finance Company.

In 1993, Prokhorov along with with Vladimir Potanin was instrumental in acquiring Norilsk Nickel by Onexim Bank.

Prokhorov is responsible for transforming Norilsk from a small conglomerate into one of the most profitable natural resource corporations in the world. He is currently the chairman of Polyus Gold, Russia's largest gold producer, and president of Onexim Group.

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Sheldon Adelson.

9. Sheldon Adelson: Net worth -- $9 billion

Adelson is the chairman and chief executive officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. His father was a cab driver in Dorchester neighbourhood of Boston, Massachusetts.

As a youth, Adelson sold newspapers on street corners. He worked as a mortgage broker, investment adviser and financial consultant.

At 12, he started a business selling toiletry kits, and in the 1960s he started a charter tours business with his friends. He went to the City College of New York but did not complete his degree.

Adelson struck gold through the computer trade show COMDEX. The first show took place in 1979. It was the premier computer trade show through much of the 1980s and 1990s. In 1988, Adelson and his partners purchased the Sands Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Steven Jobs.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters

10. Steven Jobs: Net worth -- $5.5 billion

Steven Paul Jobs is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Apple Inc.

Jobs previously served as CEO of Pixar Animation Studios and is now a member of the Walt Disney Company's board of directors. Jobs was born in San Francisco and was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs of Mountain View, Santa Clara County, California.

Jobs went to Cupertino Junior High School and Homestead High School in Cupertino, California.

He was a common face at the Hewlett-Packard Company in Palo Alto, California. He was hired by HP and worked there as a summer employee. In 1972, Jobs graduated from high school and enrolled in Reed College, Portland, Oregon. However, he dropped out after only one semester.

In 1976, Jobs, founded Apple along with Stephen Wozniak and Ronald Wayne. In mid-January 2009, Jobs took a five-month leave of absence from Apple to undergo a liver transplant. Jobs officially resumed his role as CEO of Apple on June 29, 2009.

Apple recently launched the much-awaited iPad.

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Kirk Kerkorian.

11. Kirk Kerkorian: Net worth -- $5 billion

Kerkorian is the Armenian-American president and CEO of Tracinda Corporation, a private holding company based in Beverly Hills, California.

As a teenager, Kerkorian worked hard, taking up many odd jobs to help his poor parents. He became an amateur boxer under the tutelage of his older brother Nish.

At 17, Kerkorian joined the Civilian Conservation Corps.  In 1973, Kerkorian acquired the famous movie studio MGM and opened the MGM Grand Hotel, which was the largest hotel in the world at that time.

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Mark Zuckerberg.

12. Mark Zuckerberg: Net worth -- $4 billion

An American entrepreneut, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg is known for co-founding the popular social networking site Facebook. Zuckerberg co-founded Facebook with fellow classmates Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin, and Chris Hughes while attending Harvard.

Zuckerberg was born in White Plains, New York to a Jewish family and raised in Dobbs Ferry, New York. He started programming when he was in middle school.

Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his Harvard dorm room on February 4, 2004. There is a movie based on Zuckerberg's life, called The Social Network. It is set to release this year.

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Howard Schultz.

13. Howard Schultz: Net worth -- $1.1 billion

The 56-year-old Schultz is the chairman and CEO Starbucks.  In in 2008, as the CEO of Starbucks, Schultz earned a total compensation of $9,740,471, which included a base salary of $1,190,000

Schultz was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in the Canarsie Bayview Housing Projects. To fight poverty, he turned to sports like baseball, football and basketball.

He went to Canarsie High School and became the first person to graduate in his family.

Schultz's journey towards success began when he went to Seattle to check out a popular coffee bean store Starbucks, which was buying many of the Hammarplast Swedish drip coffeemakers he sold. He joined the company and was promoted as head of marketing and operations in 1982.

But he parted ways afterwards and started his own coffee-bar business, called Il Giornale. However, soon after, Schultz bought Starbucks for $3.8 million.

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Ed Liddy.

14. Ed Liddy

Ed Liddy, former chief executive officer of American International Group, faced a lot of hardships in the early years of his life. Ed Liddy's father died when he was just 12.

Liddy worked with Ford Motor before joining G D Searle & Co in 1981. The 63-year-old Liddy earned about $130 million during his eight-year tenure at Allstate.

Amid the global meltdown, Liddy worked for a salary of $1 to rescue the ailing AIG. But the act turned disastrous when the company handed out employee $165-million bonuses after accepting $170 billion in government bailout funds. This forced Liddy to quit AIG.

Liddy hit headlines in October 2008 for defending a controversial $440,000 AIG retreat for top-performing insurance salesmen at the luxury St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach, California.

The retreat, which was held shortly after the US government rescued AIG from insolvency with $84 billion in loans, included $200,000 for rooms, $150,000 for meals and $23,000 for the spa.

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Ursula Burns.

15. Ursula Burns

Ursula M Burns, CEO of Xerox, is the first black lady to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Burns was raised by a single mother in the Baruch Houses, a New York city housing project. Her mother used to run a home day care centre.

The 51-year-old Burns started her career as an engineering intern in 1980. Burns first worked for Xerox in 1980 as a summer intern and joined a year later after her master's degree.

In April 2007, Burns was named president of Xerox, expanding her leadership to include the company's IT organisation, corporate strategy, human resources, corporate marketing and global accounts.

Burns ranked 10th in the Fortune list of 50 Most Powerful Women in America. Her salary package for 2008 stood at $887,500, but total compensation stood at a whopping $6,003,126.

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Lloyd Blankfein.

16. Lloyd Blankfein

The 55-year old Blankfein is the CEO of Goldman Sachs. He is one of the richest executives in the world. Blankfein's father was a clerk with the Postal Service in Manhattan.

Blankfein started his career as a corporate tax lawyer for the law firm Donovan, Leisure, Newton Irvine. In 1981, he joined Goldman's commodities trading arm, J Aron, as a precious metals salesman in their London office.

Blankfein hit the headlines recently when he apologized for Goldman's role in the financial crisis. The bank 'participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret', he said.

Blankfein's total compensation in the last fiscal stood at $25.84 million.

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Frank Stronach.

17. Frank Stronach: Net worth -- $661 million

An Austrian-Canadian businessman, Stronach is the founder of Magna International, an international automotive parts company based in Aurora, Ontario, Canada, and Magna Entertainment Corp., which specializes in horse-racing entertainment.

Magna International is today a global automotive empire with 326 manufacturing plants, engineering centers and sales offices across North America, South America, Asia and Europe that employ about 82,000 people.

Stronach was born in the small town of Kleinsemmering, Styria, Austria to working-class parents. Stronach's childhood was marked by the Great Depression and the Second World War.

At the age of 14, he left school to apprentice as a tool and die maker. In 1954, he arrived in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and later moved to Ontario.

In 1956, Stronach started his company Multimatic Investments Ltd in Toronto. In 1969, his firm merged with Magna Electronics and in 1973, the merged company was rechristened Magna International Ltd.

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Ken Langone.

18. Ken Langone

Sir Kenneth Langone is a venture capitalist, investment banker and financial backer of The Home Depot, and a former director of the New York Stock Exchange.

His total compensation as director of Home Depot in 2008 stood at $1,136,219. Langone was elected as director of Yum! and is a member of the Audit Committee.

His father was a plumber and his mother worked in a cafeteria. His parents had to mortgage their house to send Langone to Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. Langone worked as a ditch digger and a butcher's assistant to make money while studying.

After graduating from NYU, Langone began his business career with the IPO deal he set up for Ross Perot's company Electronic Data Systems.

Langone spent a lot of time studying the home improvement business and eventually bought stock in Handy Dan, a home improvement chain.

Langone's attempted purchase of the New York Stock Exchange hit the headlines in recent times. As an investment banker and entrepreneur, his business record highlights the values of persistence and sound business principles.

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Ken Lewis.

19. Ken Lewis

Kenneth D Lewis is the former CEO, president, and chairman of Bank of America, the largest bank in the United States. On September 30, 2009 Bank of America confirmed that Ken Lewis would be retiring by the end of the year. He was replaced by Brian Moynihan on January 1, 2010.

In the early days of his life, Lewis worked as an accountant and an airline ticket-agent, graduating with a finance degree in 1969.  He also worked as a credit analyst at North Carolina National Bank. The bank was eventually taken over by Bank of America.

He became Bank of America's chief operating officer in 1999 and chairman in 2005.

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World's 20 self-made billionaires

Image: Angelo R Mozilo.

20. Angelo R Mozilo

Angelo R Mozilo was the co-founder and chief executive officer of Countrywide Financial until July 1, 2008. The 70-year old Mozilo started the company in 1969.

The company soon grew to become one of the biggest mortgage lenders in the US. Countrywide was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1984. They granted huge loans to borrowers without verifying their repayment abilities.

Promoting risky loans, the company played a crucial role in huge subprime mortgage crisis. Finally, this led to the collapse of the company.

The company was subsequently taken over by the Bank of America. CNN named Mozilo as one of the 'Ten Most Wanted: Culprits' of the 2008 financial collapse in the United States.

The Securities and Exchange Commission in June filed civil-fraud charges for 'deliberately misleading investors about the significant credit risks being taken in efforts to build and maintain the company's market share.'

Mozilo's compensation during the housing bubble from 2001-06 is under scrutiny. During that period, his total compensation (including salary, bonuses, options and restricted stock) was $470 million.

A butcher's son, Angelo Mozilo worked hard right from his childhood to make ends meet.