The richest business people in America
Last week, Bill Gates was briefly overtaken by Inditex owner Amancio Ortega as the richest man in the world – for just two days.
Inditex is a Spanish fashion group which most famously includes Zara. Zara has 6,000 stores across 90 countries.
Ortega holds a 59.3 percent stake in Inditex, and when a 2.5 percent share jump occurred last week, his fortune reached $79.5 billion – ahead of Bill Gates’s $78.5.
Gates famously funnels an impressive amount of his fortune into his charitable foundation, and if he kept that money to himself, nobody would ever get close enough to his wealth to overtake him.
Gates is obviously the richest person in America – and the world – but who else is in the top six?
6. Larry Ellison
Net worth: $45.3 billion
Larry Ellison is a co-founder and former CEO of software company Oracle – the biggest in the world after Microsoft. Ellison started the company in 1977, building a database management system for the CIA before the project became Oracle Corp. Ellison famously reduced his yearly wage from $1 million to just $1 in 2010, but thanks to stock awards, still rakes in millions. He is now the CTO of the company, and invests in wildlife conservation, disease prevention, and is a member of the Giving Pledge alongside Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
5. Charles Koch
Net worth: $46.8 billion
Koch Industries is an American multinational with its fingers in numerous pies. Its services stretch across various sectors, and Charles Koch – as Chairman and CEO – runs the business alongside his Executive Vice President brother David. Koch Industries generates around $115 billion a year in sales, and employs around 100,000 staff worldwide.
4. David Koch
Net worth: $47.7 billion
Koch Industries is the world’s second largest private company, which David Koch runs with his brother Charles. The brothers are outspokenly conservative and pour large portions of their wealth into campaigns and causes, although they have stated that they are not backing any current GOP candidate. David Koch also gives very generously to cancer research and education through his own charitable foundation.
3. Jeff Bezos
Net worth: $56.6 billion
Jeff Bezos invented the concept of e-commerce with the inception of Amazon in 1994. It began as a book retailer and soon went public, swiftly becoming the largest online marketplace of its kind. Bezos has invested large chunks of his money in the aerospace industry, his purchase of The Washington Post, and a company which aims to create a blood test for detecting any kind of cancer.
2. Warren Buffett
Net worth: $60.7 billion
As the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett is the second richest man in the world – and has been for some time. He made his first steps in business at age 11, and was mentored under famous value investor Benjamin Graham. He bought Berkshire Hathaway in 1969 and turned it into an enormous holding company, and he has invested in some of the biggest cash cows in the world, including Dairy Queen, Coca-Cola, and General Motors. He has given away around $21.5 billion of his fortune already, and is dedicated to his and Bill Gates’s Giving Pledge.
1. Bill Gates
Net worth: $78.5 billion
Gates co-founded Microsoft at age 20, and by 31, he was a billionaire. He was CEO until 2000 and chairman until 2014. Now, while he remains on Microsoft’s board, Gates is no longer actively involved with the business and focusses on his philanthropy instead. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been working since 1999 to rid the world of infectious disease and allow mobile banking for adults who do not have a bank account. He co-founded the Giving Pledge with Warren Buffett in 2010, which enables billionaires to donate half of their fortunes to worthy causes, and has invested alongside Jeff Bezos in Grail, the company which is creating cancer-detecting blood tests.
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Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.