Billionaires and How They Made It

By: Erin Carlyle, a Special to Overdrive

Want to be a billionaire? You may want to consider which of the many paths to wealth–ballet flats? real estate in China? the next Facebook?–could be most likely to land you a spot on the Forbes Billionaires List. To give you some ideas, we poured through the wealth database to come up with the industries that give you the best chances. The No. 1 wealth-producing industry: Investments, which made 148 billionaires including George Soros, Carl Icahn and newcomers Seth Klarman and Isabel dos Santos. Investments is a catch-all category we use here at Forbes to categorize the wealth created by hedge fund managers, people who play stockbroker with the family money, and the titans of investing who make moves like snapping up steel assets out of bankruptcy court.

But you often need money – yours or someone else’s – to make this kind of money. Plus it’s not necessarily the most creative endeavor.

You might want to instead consider, of all things, becoming a fashionista. Why should you flip open the fashion mags? Well, because the fashion and retail industry produced the second-highest number of billionaires on the 2013 Forbes Billionaires List: 146. Twenty-one of this year’s new billionaires got rich in this field including Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana of the eponymous luxury fashion house, and Renzo Rosso, founder of Diesel jeans.

Consider too newly-minted billionaire Tory Burch, whose $200 ballet flats and preppy-bohemian women’s wear line have pushed both she and ex-husband Chris Burch to billionaire status. Or Kevin Plank, who made his $1.2 billion with his Under Armour undershirts, which wick away sweat. Or Peru’s Eduardo Belmont, who has reaped a $6.1 billion fortune through his Belcorp, which sends sales folk throughout 15 Latin American countries, vending cosmetics door-to-door. In all these instances, these now billionaires came up with items or stores that resonated with the masses. And therein is perhaps the best bet for becoming a billionaire: inventing, designing, creating something that will have broad appeal to consumers. Two other newcomers to this year’s list, Nicholas Woodman of GoPro (Industry: Technology), which makes video cameras for capturing outdoor adventures, and Hamdi Ulukaya of Chobani yogurt (Industry: Food and Beverage), the thick, tart yogurt flying off grocery stores shelves, also made their riches by filling a consumer desire. In all of these cases, individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to build something from scratch made their own luck.

The No. 3 industry for creating billionaires is Real Estate, which made 129 people rich. After that is Diversified, a category we use for people whose wealth comes from multiple sources. Next is Food and Beverage, and then finally, at the No. 6 spot, Technology. Industries that produce Forbes Billionaires Worldwide 1. Investments: 148 2. Fashion and Retail: 146 3. Real Estate: 129 4. Diversified: 125 5. Food and Beverage: 100 6. Technology: 95 7. Manufacturing 89 8. Energy 83 9. Finance 78 10.Media 69 Of course, different regions of the world tend to specialize in different industries, and thus produce billionaires in those areas. Europe, for example, is the reigning fashion and retail leader, with 62 European fashion and retail billionaires.

The United States is the leader in technology, home to a whopping 53–more than half–of the 95 tech billionaires on the Forbes List. And the Asia-Pacific region has produced the greatest number of real estate tycoons, with 71 billionaires in that region. The Americas is home to 21 billionaires in finance. So take a look at the regional breakdown, and see where you might want to place your bet: Top 5 Billionaire-Producing Industries Per Region Asia-Pacific Real Estate: 71 Diversified: 52 Manufacturing: 41 Fashion and Retail: 29 Technology: 26 Europe Fashion and Retail: 62 Investments: 31 Metals & Mining: 30 Energy: 26 Food and Beverage: 26 Middle East & Africa Diversified: 36 Construction & Engineering: 9 Finance: 8 Metals & Mining: 7 Food and Beverage: 6 The Americas Finance: 21 Fashion and Retail: 19 Food and Beverage: 16 Diversified: 14 Media: 11 USA Investments: 102 Technology: 53 Media: 34 Energy: 33 Food and Beverage: 33

Categories: PEOPLE/STAFF


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