1. Bill Gates
Net Worth: $79.2 billion
Bill Gates is once again the richest person on the planet, a title he's held for 16 out of the last 21 years. He recaptured the top spot in March 2014 after a four-year run by Mexico's Carlos Slim Helu as No. 1. Early on, the stellar performance of Microsoft, which he cofounded in 1975, boosted his net worth but he's been steadily selling his shares in the software company for at least 15 years. He unloaded one third of his remaining stake over the 12 months through February 2015. That included a gift of shares worth $1.5 billion to The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in November 2014, which brought his lifetime giving up to $29.5 billion. Gates, who spends most of his time focused on philanthropy, laid out some decisive goals for his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in his annual January letter. While continuing to work on improving U.S. education and global health, the foundation is also committed to getting Africa to feed itself and wants to help spread mobile banking so that the poor can transform their lives.
|WiPro's Azim Premji, Oracle's Larry Ellison, AliBaba's Jack Ma, and friends.|
Net Worth: $54.3 billion
Larry Ellison is arguably the first Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur to live large and fast. He never met his biological father and was raised in a middle-class Chicago home by his great aunt. After building databases for the CIA, Ellison founded database software firm Oracle in 1977 and has overseen its tremendous growth--revenues in fiscal 2014 grew to $38.3 billion. In September 2014, Ellison shocked the business world by announcing plans to step down as CEO; he is staying on as Oracle's chairman and chief technology officer. A sailing fanatic, he's the main backer of America's Cup winner Oracle Team USA. Ellison has continued to gobble up properties on the Hawaiian island of Lanai, which he bought for a reported $300 million in 2012, and is said to own every hotel room on the island. His daughter Megan Ellison has found success as a film producer; her Annapurna Pictures produced hits like Zero Dark Thirty and American Hustle.
3. Jeff Bezos
Net Worth: $34.8 billion
Despite a rough 2014 marked by the failure of Amazon.com's first smartphone and continued pressure from investors, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos started 2015 strong. Amazon.com won its first ever Golden Globe awards for its original television series "Transparent," for best TV series and best actor in a comedy. Now Amazon is gearing up to jump into the movie business. No longer just an online retailer, the Seattle-based company is responsible for everything from providing servers to host web content to selling diapers. While investors continue to question if the company is spreading itself too thin, Bezos, who still owns 18% of Amazon's shares, will keep on investing in new businesses that he believes will make customers more and more dependent on the brand. Bezos studied electrical engineering and computer programming at Princeton, then worked for hedge fund D.E. Shaw before founding Amazon in 1994.
4. Mark Zuckerberg
Net Worth: $33.4 billion
Facebook cofounder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has led his social network to new heights, even as some younger users have grown tired of it. Revenue grew 58% in 2014 to $12.5 billion, supported by a jump in mobile ads. Some 1.4 billion people around the globe are on Facebook, and those users are watching 3 billion videos a day on the site. Its Instagram unit has more than 300 million users, while mobile messenging app WhatsApp, which it purchased for $19 billion in cash and stock in 2014, has 700 million users and is growing. Zuckerberg is aiming to turn virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR, for which it paid $2 billion in 2014, into a next generation computing platform. First, however, Oculus has to come out with a product. On the personal front, in October 2014 Zuckerberg plunked down $100 million for 700 acres in Hawaii on Kauai's north shore, sources told Forbes. Zuckerberg is also philanthropically active: he and his wife Priscilla Chan committed $25 million to fight Ebola in October 2014 and $75 million to a new trauma center at San Francisco General Hospital in February 2015.
5. Larry Page
Net Worth: $29.7 billion
Google CEO Larry Page runs what is arguably the most influential company of the digital era. Besides dominating in online search, with a 65% share of the global market, there are now more than a billion active devices using its Android operating system, one for every seven people. Page oversaw a string of acquisitions in 2014, including programmable home thermostat maker Nest for $3.2 billion and video monitoring outfit Dropcam for $555 million. In October 2014, he transferred most of his daily responsibilities to Sundar Pichai so he could focus on longer-term strategy. A clean energy advocate, Page's network of houses in Palo Alto use fuel cells, geothermal energy and rainwater capture. In November 2014, Page's family foundation gave $15 million to aid the fight against Ebola.
6. Sergey Brin
Net Worth: $29.2 billion
Google cofounder Sergey Brin runs Google X, the secretive division of the search engine company that focuses on risky projects, such as smart contact lenses, airborne wind turbines and the ill-fated Google Glass. In January 2015, Google announced it would stop making the current version of the augmented reality spectacles, which had become Brin's signature accessory and were slated to be sold commercially. Brin made headlines in the fall of 2013 for his affair with a 27-year old Google executive, which caused him to separate from wife Anne Wojcicki and reportedly sparked a rift with Page.The son of two academics, Brin emigrated to the U.S. from Moscow when he was six. He founded Google with Page in 1998, when they were both computer science Ph.D. students at Stanford University. Google has 40,000 employees in 40 countries and still dominates online search, with a 65% share of the global market.
7. Jack Ma
Net Worth: $22.7 billion
Former English teacher Ma captured the world stage like no other Chinese businessman in September 2014 with the record-breaking $25 billion initial public offering of his e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba Group on the New York Stock Exchange. His Ant Financial Services Group, is pushing beyond its Alipay online payment business into financial services, including a consumer money market fund and a private bank. Ma has said he plans to take it public in China. He also has more than a dozen other investments, from a stake in a soccer team to a film production studio. An active philanthropist, he sits on the board of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences with fellow billionaires Mark Zuckerberg and Yuri Milner. Ma has claimed that he got rejected from Harvard 10 times.
8. Steve Ballmer
Net Worth: $21.5 billion
Steve Ballmer retired as CEO of Microsoft in February 2014 and didn't take long to move onto his next job, boss of the Los Angeles Clippers. In August he closed a $2 billion purchase of the team, the highest price ever paid for an NBA squad. Ballmer's passion for basketball is nothing new. He began buying season tickets to the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1980s, and Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, owner of the Portland Trail Blazers, encouraged Ballmer to buy a team of his own. He failed in two previous bids - one to buy the SuperSonics in 2006 and another to acquire the Sacramento Kings in 2013 - before purchasing the Clippers. Detroit native, Ballmer dropped out of Stanford M.B.A. program to join Harvard classmate Bill Gates 1980 as employee number 30. He officially became Microsoft's largest single shareholder in April 2014, as Gates continued to sell shares as he diversifies his fortune.
9. Laurene Powell Jobs
Net Worth: $19.5 billion
Laurene Powell Jobs is making more of a name for herself as a political and social influencer, more than three years after the death of her husband Steve Jobs. She is the founder and chair of the Emerson Collective, an organization that focuses on using entrepreneurship to advance social reform and help under-resourced students, and College Track, a nonprofit college completion program. In conjunction with President Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" program, Emerson Collective and its partners announced a $50 million commitment in July to collaborate with certain school districts to design better high school programs. Powell Jobs is among the top donors to Ready for Hillary, a super PAC that has already raised millions of dollars in support a Hillary Clinton presidential run. She also makes regular visits to Capitol Hill to discuss pathways to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants, an issue she describes as "a waste for our country not to have the human capital that we developed." The Laurene Powell Jobs Trust is the largest individual shareholder in Disney, with a 7.7% slice of the company, a result of Disney using its shares to buy animation studio Pixar, run by Steve Jobs, in 2006. The Disney stake is worth more than $13 billion. An angel investor, Powell Jobs is a backer and board member at startup Ozy Media. She also sits on Stanford University's Board of Trustees.
10. Michael Dell
Net Worth: $19.2 billion
Michael Dell says his computer company is thriving since he took it private in October 2013. The business no longer has to disclose its financials, but Dell claims it is growing faster than its rivals Oracle, IBM, Cisco and Hewlett-Packard. He founded the eponymous company in his Texas dorm room with $1,000 in 1984 when he was 19. Four years later, it went public with a market capitalization of $85 million. By the time Dell took it private again in 2013, the company was worth $25 billion. He still holds a 70% stake in the company, but he keeps most of his fortune in his private investment firm MSD Capital, whose wide array of investments includes the the Four Seasons in Maui, PVH Corp. (parent to Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein), and DineEquity (operator of IHOP and Applebee's). Dell and his wife started the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation in 1999 and have since given away more than $1 billion, putting most of their money toward promoting education in the United States, South Africa and India
11. Azim Premji
Net Worth: $19.1 billion
Tech tycoon Azim Premji's Wipro, India's third-largest outsourcer, reported a 9% rise in net profits to $348 million in the last quarter, on the back of new business from clients such as Levi Strauss and Cairn India. But it still lags rivals like Tata Consultancy Services, flagship of the Tata Group. Premji has denied rumours that his son Rishad, who heads strategy and also overseas Wipro's $100 million venture capital fund, will be appointed on the board and named as vice chairman. Premji's private investment arm has picked up stakes in e-tailer Myntra-now part of Flipkart, which is India's Amazon. com, and e-commerce company Snapdeal. Premji is among Asia's most generous tycoons, having given away more than $4 billion of his fortune. Wipro was set up 70 years ago by his father as Western India Vegetable Products.
12. Paul Allen
Net Worth: $17.5 billion
Paul Allen went to the same private Seattle high school as Bill Gates, dropped out of Washington State to work at Honeywell in Boston, then cofounded Microsoft with high school buddy in 1975. He left 8 years later, after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. He has been living large ever since, as the owner of 3 megayachts known to land at places like Cannes and the Sochi Olympics. He plays guitar in a rock band called the Underthinkers and owns an aircraft company aiming to put people into space. He also has three professional sports franchises. He bought the first one, the Portland Trail Blazers, for $70 million in 1988. Local politicians talked him into buying the Seattle Seahawks for $288 million in 1997. They were just trying to keep the team from moving, but it turned out to be a great investment. The Seahawks are now worth $1.33 billion, coming off of two straight Super Bowl appearances. Plus he has an interest in the Seattle Sounders, the most valuable Major League Soccer team in America, worth $175 million. A two-time cancer survivor, Allen has given away over $1.5 billion, including a half billion to his Allen Institute for Brain Science, which studies the brain's connections with health and disease
13. Pony Ma Huateng
Net Worth: $16.1 billion
Ma Huateng, also known as "Pony" Ma, turned Chinese Internet firm Tencent into a giant on the back of profits generated from online games, offering them alongside free services like messaging. Tencent's weChat mobile texting service has attracted nearly 440 million users who are introduced to Tencent's revenue-generating offerings. In the past two years, the company has taken stakes in logistics firm China South City and e-commerce firm JD.com to make more inroads in e-commerce. Ma, chairman and CEO of Tencent, has made good use of his computer science degree, obtained from Shenzhen University in 1993.
14. Robin Li
Net Worth: $15.3 billion
Robin Li is the CEO of Nasdaq-listed Baidu, China's largest online search company. Through acquisitions, Baidu has bolstered its wireless business, and it is working full speed on the next generation of search through voice and image recognition. After getting an undergraduate degree in information science, Li obtained a master's degree in computer science in the U.S. in 1994, and worked as a consultant at a subsidiary of Dow Jones. He later joined search engine InfoSeek in Silicon Valley as a senior engineer. Li cofounded Baidu in China in 2000. He has become more involved in politics; in 2013 he became a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
15. Shiv Nadar
Net Worth: $14.8 billion
Shiv Nadar, cofounder of the $6.5 billion (revenues) HCL Group added $3.7 billion to his fortune on rising shares of software outfit HCL Technologies, which reported net profits of $1 billion on revenue of $5.3 billion in the year ended last June. The company caused a stir in the IT industry when it rewarded its best performing executives with such perks as a Mercedes Benz car and foreign vacations. Nadar's newest venture is in health care: he's set up HCL Avitas to build a chain of clinics in partnership with John Hopkins Medicine International. He denied reports that he was mulling selling out of HClL saying his daughter, Roshni, who's CEO of holding outfit HCLCorp., wants to keep the business.
16. Lei Jun
Net Worth: $13.2 billion
Known by many as the Steve Jobs of China, black-jeans-and-t-shirt-wearing Lei Jun co-founded fast-growing mobile phone maker Xiaomi in 2010 with his friend and fellow billionaire Lin Bin. Xiaomi has become hugely popular because its phones offer the high power of rivals at a much lower price. A serial entrepreneur, he also chairs gaming company Kingsoft. Its spinoff, Cheetah Mobile, which provides mobile application software, went public in New York in May 2014. Another company backed by Lei, Internet services supplier Xunlei, went public on the Nasdaq in June 2014. He also chairs U.S.-traded YY, a Chinese social site he co-founded. He sits on the board of Wuhan University, where he earned a BA in computer science in 1991.
17. Hasso Plattner
Net Worth: $9.1 billion
In 1972, Hasso Plattner and four colleagues left IBM to found German software company SAP (Systems, Applications, Products), which went public in 1988. He has served as chairman of the supervisory board since May 2003, when he stepped down as CEO. Now a market leader in the B2B space (enterprise and mobility applications, analytics, databases, cloud computing services, etc.), SAP has over 74,000 employees worldwide and generates annual revenue in excess of $20 billion. Passionate about promoting scientific and technological research, innovation and entrepreneurship, Plattner founded the Hasso Plattner Institute for IT Systems Engineering at the University of Potsdam in 1998. At HPI, as the institute is known, he serves as a professor of enterprise software systems. He also has a business incubator and venture capital fund, Hasso Plattner Ventures, to support young entrepreneurs in the IT sector, and a foundation that has made contributions to institutions in South Africa to support medical research on HIV/AIDS and promote healthcare and health education, as well as projects providing daycare and sports activities for children. In 2008, Hasso Plattner Ventures Africa began operating in Cape Town with a $50-million fund. In 2013, he signed The Giving Pledge, thereby committing to give at least half of his fortune to philanthropic causes either during his lifetime or in his will. (Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates formed The Giving Pledge in 2010, originally seeking to enlist American billionaires.) A sports enthusiast, Plattner sails competitively on his yacht, Morning Glory, as well as skis, snowboards and plays tennis. Also an avid golfer, he owns Fancourt Golf Estate, a luxury golf course and hotel in South Africa's Western Cape province, a region where he likes to spend time. In the U.S., Plattner is an investor in San Jose Sports & Entertainment Enterprises, which owns the San Jose Sharks, and other related properties as well as managing the city-owned SAP Center at San Jose. In 2013, Plattner bought out two of the partners in SJS&E and began serving as the Sharks' representative on the National Hockey League's Board of Governors.
18. Eric Schmidt
Net Worth: $9.1 billion
Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt has sold off some of his Google holdings to diversify his assets and gift stock to nonprofit foundations, but he still owns more than 4.5 million shares of each class of Google stock. He earned an electrical engineering degree from Princeton and a PhD in computer science from U.C. Berkeley, then worked in software at Bell Labs and Xerox PARC. In 1983, before its IPO, he joined Sun Microsystems where he led the development of Java and rose to chief technology officer. He headed Novell before serving as CEO of Google from 2001 to 2011. He now serves as Google's global ambassador, traveling to Cuba, Myanmar and North Korea to promote an open internet and taking a seven-city tour of Europe after a European court ruled in 2014 that people have a right to be removed from search results. His Schmidt Ocean Institute is working to preserve reef habitats and study pollution. He is also a founding partner of Innovation Endeavors, a venture capital fund that invests in emerging technologies that target global markets.
19. Hiroshi Mikitani
Net Worth: $8.7 billion
Hiroshi Mikitani, Chairman and CEO of Japan's biggest e-retailer, Rakuten, is always on the hunt for a deal. His latest acquisition: Ebates, an online rebate site in the United States that allows people to earn cash back when buying goods at stores like Macy's and Home Depot, which he bought for a cool billion.He heads the Japan Association of New Economy, a group of technology companies that work with Japan's Prime Minister Abe to ramp up the country's economic growth. Mikitani is building a $20 million-plus home in Tokyo's trendy Shibuya ward; he's also made the U.S. his second home.
20. Klaus Tschira
Net Worth: $8.6 billion
In 1972, Klaus Tschira and four colleagues left IBM to found German software company SAP (Systems, Applications, Products), which went public in 1988. Tschira retired from the company in 1998, and stepped down from its supervisory board in 2007. Now a market leader in the B2B space (enterprise and mobility applications, analytics, databases, cloud computing services, etc.), SAP has over 74,000 employees worldwide and generates annual revenue in excess of $20 billion. For many years in its estimate of Tschira's net worth, Forbes excluded the value SAP shares held by his charitable foundation, believing them to be irrevocably owned and controlled by a charity. It turns out that the foundation, founded in 1995, is a limited liability company with a charitable purpose, over which Tschira has full control. One of Germany's largest philanthropic organizations, it has provided over $350 million in funding and in-kind donations to promote science, mathematics and computer science in schools and extracurricular settings, and to support research projects by young scientists and to improve the communication skills of scientists. "I can create more benefit for society by directing the money than if I left it to the state through taxation," the benefactor told the Wall Street Journal. A trained physicist, Tschira has taken up astronomy as a hobby, and has an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter named after him
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