The letters C-E-O conjure up images of private jets, massive expense accounts and country club business deals hashed out over golf and caviar. For the richest of the rich corporate bosses, however, that’s all child’s play. The titans of the business world who inhabit the tippy top of the pyramid are wealthy beyond the wildest reaches of the imagination. They can and do gain and lose billions of dollars in a single day depending on the price fluctuations of their company stock.
The following CEOs are part of that club. For the most part, they’re household names — rock stars of the business world — and the companies they run are part of daily American life. In many cases, the CEOs are the very people who founded those companies. Here’s a look at the CEOs whose personal fortunes would be the envy of most corporations.
Before Mark Zuckerberg, rich guys had a look, but the controversial Facebook founder refused to lose the dorm room jeans and hoodie even once the real money started rolling in — and it did. The godfather of social media made his first million when he was 22 years old. Just one year later, Zuckerberg became the youngest self-made billionaire in history at the age of 23.
Microsoft was reborn under the stewardship of Satya Nadella, who became CEO in 2014. He spent the ensuing years adding hundreds of billions of dollars to Microsoft’s market cap while revitalizing the brand and making the software giant relevant again. Considering his track record, Nadella is one of the industry’s most underpaid CEOs, according to a salary analysis CNBC conducted in 2019 on Nadella’s five-year anniversary with Microsoft.
Jeff Bezos is so good at being rich that he lost 11 figures in a divorce and is still the wealthiest person in the world. Although his net worth has since receded, the Amazon founder became the first person in history to achieve a personal fortune of $200 billion in August 2020, just one year after the $35 billion spousal separation.
Did You Know: Jeff Bezos’ Most Outrageous Business Failures
The only other superstar CEO in Bezos’ universe is Elon Musk, the wily Tesla boss with the world’s No. 2 net worth, as of Jan. 26, according to Forbes. No one else is close to the dueling duo, with the world’s third-richest individual looking up from tens of billions of dollars behind. Musk spent much of the holiday season nibbling at Bezos’ heels, with the former briefly eclipsing the latter before Bezos reclaimed his title as the world’s cash king. Musk’s rise has been incredible to watch. His net worth grew by an astonishing $150 billion in the short, chaotic time between March 2020, when the virus arrived, and the turn of the new year.
Apple CEO Tim Cook didn’t become a billionaire until August 2020, right around the same time the company he heads approached a market value of $2 trillion. Back then, nine other people could still claim to be richer than Elon Musk, whose net worth last summer could still be counted with 11 figures. Although Cook can’t come close to touching the net worths of the world’s top dogs, his wealth reflects his achievement. It’s very rare for non-founder CEOs to become billionaires. Steve Jobs founded Apple, but it was Cook who built it into the world’s most valuable company.
Looking Back: The Year 2020 for Apple
Sundar Pichai was the CEO of Google for four years before his efforts got him promoted to boss of Alphabet. That’s Google’s parent company, which owns the search giant and a whole bunch of other subsidiaries. He had been making $650,000 a year with $200 million in stock grants, according to Forbes. His new position gives him a hefty raise to $2 million a year with $250 million in equity awards if all incentives are met by 2022.
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