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Financial Planning > UHNW Client Services > Family Office News

Meet the 25 top billionaires in the world

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If there was a category above the ultra-wealthy, what would you name it? Maybe something like the “spaceship-owning-super-rich”? It’s something to ponder as you peruse the latest list of the world’s wealthiest people, released by Forbes earlier this week.

The report not only names the who’s who of the billionaire club  — all 1,826 of them — but also denotes different trends of wealth acquisition and distribution. For example, billionaires’ aggregate net worth went up from $6.4 trillion in 2014 to $7.05 trillion this year. There are 46 billionaires under the age of 40, and of the 290 newly minted billionaires, 71 are from China. However, most of the ultra rich are from the United States or are first generation Americans.

How does Forbes compile this huge list? Their team of reporters gathers net worth, values individuals’ assets such as stakes in public and private companies, real estate, yachts, art and cash, and take into account billionaire’s estimated debt. They also reach out to billionaires to make sure their numbers are correct and, as their article says, “some cooperate; others don’t.” Another important thing to note is that this Forbes list only ranks individuals rather than “multi-generational families who share large fortunes,” and so you will see that members of the same family are tied or outrank each other on the list. 

Forbes emphasized that this list only includes entrepreneurs, not individuals who are part of a royal family, dictators or other families who control a nation’s riches.

To see the billionaires who made the top 25, keep reading.


25. David Thomson: $25.5B

Thomson Reuters media mogul 

Grandson of Roy Thomson, 1st Baron Thomson of Fleet, David Thomson has been chairman of the board of his grandfather’s media conglomerate, the Thomson Corporation, since 2002. The company acquired Reuters in 2008 to form Thomson Reuters. David now owns 40 percent stake in CTVglobemedia, owners of the Globe and Mail newspaper in Toronto, through the Thomson family investment company the Woodbridge Company Limited. David is currently co-chairman of Woodbridge and is 57 years old.

Sources: and Thomson Board of Directors (AP Photo/Eric J. Shelton)


22. Tie: John Mars, Jacqueline Mars, Forrest Mars, Jr.: $26.6 B (each)

United States
The Mars, Inc. family 

Brother and sister John and Jacqueline Mars, and father Forrest Mars, Jr. are heirs to the Mars, Inc. candy and food makers and distributors giant. Founded in 1911 by their great grandfather, Franklin Clarence Mars, when he started making butter cream candy in his Tacoma, Washington kitchen, Mars, Inc. is America’s sixth largest private company.

Sources:, Forbes (This March 26, 2014 photograph shows the entrance of the new Mars Inc. production facility near Topeka, Kan. It’s the company’s first new North American production facility in 35 years. AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)


21. Georg F. W. Schaeffler: $26.9B

INA Holding Schaeffler GmbH & Co. KG 

Georg hails from Germany and owns 80 percent of the company that his father and his father’s brother started in 1946, which produces ball bearings and other industrial components. Founded after the Second World War was over, the company began selling handcarts and other wood products, and, in 1949, Georg’s father developed the needle roller bearing. Currently, Georg’s mother, Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler, owns the other 20 percent of INA. Georg himself received a law degree from Duke University.

Sources:, (Proprietors Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler, left, and her son Georg F.W. Schaeffler of Ina Holding Schaeffler KG talk during the celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of German carmaker Audi, Thursday July 16, 2009 in Ingolstadt, southern Germany. AP Photo/Daniel Karmann)


20. Sergey Brin: $29.2B

United States
Google’s cofounder 

Born in Russia, Brin emigrated to the U.S. when he was six. Along with Larry Page, Brin founded tech giant Google in 1998, while they were both attending Stanford University for their Ph.D. on computer science. Currently, he directs special projects and has been linked to the secretive wing of the Google corporation called Google X, which researches and develops risky tech projects, such as Google Glass and Google’s self-driving car.

Sources: Forbes, Google, Inc.,, FastCompany (Google co-founder Sergey Brin stands on stage during a bill signing by California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., for driverless cars at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012. AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

larry page

19. Larry Page: $29.7B

United States 
Google’s cofounder 

Google’s CEO and cofounder, Larry Page is tasked with managing the long-term strategy for the search engine giant in Palo Alto. Page has been named a visionary and a great leader by many people, and has even been compared to Thomas Edison at GE. 

Sources: Forbes, Google, Inc., Fortune (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)


18. Sheldon Adelson: $31.4B

United States
Las Vegas Sands 

Owner of the largest gaming company in the world, Sheldon Adelson’s story is one of rags to riches. He started his first business when he was 12: selling newspapers in a corner. Today, most of his fortune comes from his biggest market in Macau, on the western side of the Pearl River Delta in China.

Sources: Forbes. (AP Photo/John Locher)

li kashing

17. Li Ka-shing: $33.3B

Hong Kong
Cheung King (Holdings) Limited 

His companies employ a small country of people, 280,000 to be exact. He is, after all, the richest man in Asia. Owner of Cheung King (Holdings) Limited (CKH), a multi-national company that deals with property and real estate management, health related products and other investments, Li Ka-shing is currently the chairman of both CKH and Hutchinson Whampoa Limited. He and his family fled to Hong Kong when he was 12 years old, and by age 15 he had to provide for his family after his father’s death. He worked 16 hour days at a plastics trading company until he was able to start his own plastic manufacturing company in 1950, Cheung Kong Industries. From there, he branched out into real estate investments.

Sources: Forbes, CKH (Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, chairman of Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., and Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd., gestures during a press conference to announce his companies’ annual results in Hong Kong Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

mark zuckerberg

16. Mark Zuckerberg: $33.4B

United States
Facebook cofounder 

With the recent changes in advertising, it’s no wonder that the social media giant increased its revenue 58 percent in 2014, plus it has 1.4 billion users worldwide. Oh, did I forget to mention that Facebook also owns former competitors WhatsApp and Instagram, as well as virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR.

Sources: Forbes, Facebook (Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gestures while delivering the keynote address at the f8 Facebook Developer Conference Wednesday, April 30, 2014, in San Francisco. AP Photo/Ben Margot)

jeff bezos

15. Jeff Bezos: $34.8B

United States founder

Can you imagine running a company that does $74 billion in sales and employs almost 120,000 people? That’s what Bezos does every day. He founded in 1994, after leaving hedge fund D.E. Shaw in New York City. What started originally as an online retailer has evolved into a tech company that sells all kinds of goods. The company focuses on offering great customer service, competitive prices, and soon, same-day delivery … maybe via creepy flying drones.

Sources: Forbes and the Forbes brands list. (In this June 16, 2014 file photo, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos walks on stage for the launch of the new Amazon Fire Phone, in Seattle. AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

michael bloomberg

14. Michael Bloomberg: $35.5B

United States
Bloomberg LP 

New York City’s former mayor, Bloomberg returned to run his media company this year. Originally from Boston, Bloomberg started in an entry level job at an investment bank in 1966 on Wall Street. He rose through the ranks and became head of equity trading and then head of information services at Salomon Brothers. In 1981, he and other investors founded Bloomberg LP. In 2014, he was appointed special envoy for cities and climate change by United Nations’ secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon.

Sources: Forbes (Former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, addresses the audience at the City Climate Leadership Awards, presented by C40 and Siemens, on Monday, Sept. 22, 2014 in New York City. Ed Rieker/AP Images for Siemens)

bernard arnault

13. Bernard Arnault: $37.2B

Chairman and CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton 

He’s the second richest person in France and the 59th most powerful person in the world, according to Forbes. Arnault oversees luxury goods such as Dom Perignon, Bulgari, Fendi and Sephora, under the LVMH company, of which he has been CEO since 1989. He is considered the “world’s ultimate tastemaker” and sees himself as an ambassador of French heritage and culture. Arnault got his start as an engineer at a construction company.

Sources: Forbes, LVMH (AP Photo/Francois Mori)


United States, the Wal-Mart heirs:

12. S. Robson (Rob) Walton: $39.1B

The eldest son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, S. Robson is currently chairman of the board at the company. He also has a venture capital firm, Madrone Capital Partners.

11. Alice Walton: $39.4B

Heiress, along with her brothers, to the Wal-Mart fortune, Alice has dedicated herself to curating art and opening a museum in her hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas, which includes art by Andy Warhol, Norman Rockwell and Georgia O’Keeffe.

9. Jim Walton: $40.6B

Currently the chairman and CEO of Arvest Bank Group, Inc., a group of banks operating in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma and chairman of Community Publishers, Inc. that has newspapers in AK, MI and OK too.

8. Christy Walton; the wealthiest woman in the world: $41.7B

For five of the last six years, Christy Walton has held the title of the richest woman in the world. She married John Walton, one of the Walton family heirs, and inherited his wealth when he died in an airplane crash.

Sources: Forbes, Walmart (Jim Walton, left, Alice Walton, center, and Robson Walton, right, greet each other during the beginning of the Walmart Stores Inc. shareholders’ meeting in Fayetteville, Ark., Friday, June 1, 2012. The three siblings are the children of the late Sam Walton, founder of Walmart. AP Photo/April L. Brown)


10. Liliane Bettencourt: $40.1B


Liliane Bettencourt is the daughter of L’Oreal founder Eugene Schueller. She is also the richest woman in France. She’s 92 years old and suffers from dementia. Lately, her name has been on the news because ten people are on trial to determine if they stole hundreds of millions of euros from her or if she generously gave away her fortune to her staff. The trial is known as the Bettencourt affair in France and it rivals a soap opera’s storyline. A verdict will be announced late May.

According to The New York Times, “the prosecutors said her advanced age, the beginnings of dementia and a daily medical regimen of 56 pills, including antidepressants, also invited exploitation. And investigators contend that the schemes were so widespread that they included a political scandal involving a former finance minister seeking cash for the 2007 presidential campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy.” Her former nurse who is on trial, Alain Thurin, attempted suicide the day before the trial was to begin and is still in a coma.

Sources: Forbes, The Telegraph, The New York Times (In this March 29, 2012 file photo, L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt leaves the L’Oreal-UNESCO prize for the women in science, in Paris. AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

david koch

6 Tie. Charles and David Koch: $42.9B (each)

United States
Koch Industries 

Between them, the Koch brothers own companies that run the gamut from Dixie Cup manufacturers to LYCRA makers. Charles, the oldest, is the CEO of Koch Industries; David is the executive vice president. Their company is the second largest private company in America.

Sources: Forbes (In this Aug. 30, 2013, file photo, Americans for Prosperity Foundation Chairman David Koch speaks in Orlando, Fla. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

larry ellison

5. Larry Ellison: $54.3B

United States
Oracle’s cofounder 

The main backer of America’s Cup winner Oracle Team USA, Larry Ellison was raised by his great aunt in Chicago. In his beginnings, he built databases for the CIA and then founded what became the database software firm Oracle in 1977. He stepped down as Oracle’s CEO last year, shocking Silicon Valley, but will stay on as chairman and chief technology office.

Sources: Forbes, Oracle (Larry Ellison, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Oracle Corp., waits to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo, Tuesday, April 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Kimimasa Mayama, Pool)


zara paris

4. Amancio Ortega: $64.5B

Zara and Inditex Group

You have probably seen the fashionable clothes, shoes and accessories that Spanish retailer Zara has in its stores located in major metropolitan areas across the U.S. It is owned by Amancio Ortega and managed through Inditex Group, which he founded in 1963. Known as the richest man in Spain, Ortega took Zara from a few stores in Spain to thousands of stores worldwide. They own other clothing brands like Bershka and Pull & Bear and even a home store. Ortega current is a member of Inditex’s board.

Sources: Forbes, (Photo: Zara store at Champs-Élysées in Paris, France.


warren buffett

3. Warren Buffett: $72.7B

United States
Berkshire Hathaway

Of course the one and only Warren Buffett is on this list. His company, Berkshire Hathaway, has the most expensive stock of any public U.S. company, the Class A stock, valued at $217,000 per share. Buffett owns a number of different subsidiaries, including railroads, insurance companies and $16 billion worth of Coca-Cola shares.

Sources: Forbes, Fortune (In this file photo from May 5, 2014, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett laughs in Omaha, Neb. AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

carlos slim

2. Carlos Slim Helu: $77.1B

Telecom and other industries

A veteran of Forbes’ world’s richest people list, Carlos Slim has previously claimed the No. 1 richest man in the world title. This time, he’s the second richest person on the planet. He owns the largest Mexican telecom company America Movil, along with other companies in the construction, energy and automotive industries. Slim is also the largest shareholder of The New York Times with almost 17 percent stake.

Source: Forbes (Honoree Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim attends The Friars Foundation Gala at The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, in New York. Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)


bill gates

1. Bill Gates: $79.2B

United States

Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates has been the world’s richest person 16 times out of the last 21 years, according to Forbes. The hardware and software company that revolutionized how we interact with computers and the digital world, Microsoft was founded in 1975. Gates is also one of the world’s top philantropists through the Melinda Gates foundation his wife founded. Watch this TED talk on why Gates and his wife are giving their fortune away here.

Sources: Forbes, (Microsoft founder Bill Gates arrives at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

See also:

The 10 wealthiest people in America

50 of the wealthiest people in America, by state: Part 4

50 of the wealthiest people in America, by state: Part 3

50 of the wealthiest people in America, by state: Part 2

50 of the wealthiest people in America, by state: Part 1


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