You know Bezos and Buffett and Bloomberg and Musk. You know Page, Brin, Gates, Zuckerberg, the Kochs and the Waltons.
But the most famous names among the global elite aren’t the world’s only billionaires — or even necessarily the most interesting of the bunch.
According to Forbes, the world is home to nearly 3,000 people who need three commas to measure their wealth. America’s 735 billionaires alone hoard a combined $4.7 trillion in personal fortune.
Although you haven’t heard of most of them, they pull the levers of global influence just like the tech rock stars who are household names. Some of them are self-made men and women. Others were born into the aristocracy. All, however, are among the wealthiest and most powerful people on Earth — yet many remain obscure and relatively unknown by the average person working for a wage.
The following list of unsung billionaires is proof that rich doesn’t always mean famous. Keep reading to meet the richest people you’ve never heard of.
Francoise Bettencourt Meyers
- Net worth: $87.9 billion
You know Oprah, Dolly, Queen Bey and at least three Kardashians, but Francoise Bettencourt Meyers could lose their fortunes in her couch cushions. As the richest woman in the world, she’s reportedly a low-key person who shuns the spotlight, so you might not have heard of the French heiress — but her grandfather’s company will undoubtedly ring a bell.
Bettencourt Meyers and her family inherited the L’Oreal empire, and they still own a 33% share today. She has sat on the corporation’s board since 1997 and chairs its family holding company, but she’s also a skilled pianist, an academic who has published more than half a dozen books on the Bible and Greek mythology, and a philanthropist who funded the repair of the fire-damaged Notre Dame Cathedral.
- Net worth: $31.2 billion
A Neopolitan sea captain by training, it was only natural that Gianluigi Aponte broke into the shipping industry in 1970. He and his wife started a company with just one vessel that moved cargo between Europe and Africa, but today, there’s a good chance that Gianluigi Aponte had a hand in getting some of the stuff you own to your house.
He built the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) into the No. 2 largest shipping conglomerate in the world behind only Maersk. Also the founder of a cruise line, an inland logistics business and a port operations company, there are few corners of the ocean from which Gianluigi Aponte does not go fishing for money.
- Net worth: $80.5 billion
You’ve heard of Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and Coco Chanel, but in terms of purchasing power, they’re all consignment shop discount moguls compared to Amancio Ortega.
After all, you’re talking about a man who earns $400 million a year from dividends alone.
If you shop at GAP, Forever 21 or H&M, you owe Ortega a debt of gratitude — he was one of the most important pioneers of the fast-fashion movement. The Spaniard founded a clothing company called Inditex, and the Madrid-based mega-company now operates eight brands and 7,500 stores around the world.
Along the way, he’s used his dividend income to invest in real estate in New York, Madrid, London, Chicago, Miami and Barcelona.
- Net worth: $27.2 billion
Many of the richest people in the world earned their money the old-fashioned way — they inherited it. But Gina Rinehart inherited a mess, and she cleaned it up so well that she’s now the richest person in Australia.
Her late father, influential and controversial iron-ore magnate Lang Hancock, left Rinehart a company in financial disarray. She rebuilt Hancock Prospecting, though, and took over as its executive chair in 1992. In 2015, she launched the Roy Hill mining project, which is now her biggest asset, and has since paid off the $7.2 billion she borrowed to fund it. As a side hustle, she’s also Australia’s No. 2 biggest cattle producer.
- Net worth: $24.2 billion
At first glance, Susanne Klatten has all the hallmarks of a classic heiress who did little more to earn her station in life than being born. After all, she’s a 19% owner of BMW because her mother was the third wife of an industrialist who pioneered the luxury automobile market.
But a closer inspection reveals plenty of Gina Rinehart’s moxie.
An economist with an MBA, Klatten’s true claim to fame comes from her grandfather on her father’s side, who helped build a chemical company called Altana AG.
Klatten transformed the family business into a global pharmaceutical and specialty chemical multinational giant that does $2.5 billion in annual sales, of which she is the sole owner.
- Net worth: $19.9 billion
Qin Yinglin is an easy person to admire — unless you’re a pig. A self-made man born in China’s most populous province, Yinglin studied animal husbandry at Henan Agricultural University. Upon graduating, he went into business with his wife, Qian Ying, in 1992. The couple started their venture with 22 pigs and grew the business into Muyuan Foodstuff, which today is the largest pig-breeding operation in the world’s biggest pork market.
According to the Financial Times, few people know his name even in his native China — and he owes much of his fortune to a disease that should be his nemesis. When swine flu wiped out half of China’s pigs, Yinglin saw his net worth double in just a few months.
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