. 12 min read

It pays to be born with a silver spoon in the mouth, but it pays much better when talent and hard work go with it. This has been proven by the20 richest people in the United States who are in this list.Most of them are progenies of prosperous families.Fortunate scions who were born into wealth and grew it.

There are some of them, however,who also proved that even with just talent and hard work, one can overcome financial limitations and make a break through to become as filthy rich as owning private yachts, a castle or a mansion with fourteen bathrooms.They are the ones who “challenged the norms.” They are the ones who made calculated risks, or risked it anyway.

It does not matter if one is a college drop-out or a Harvard graduate. It does not matter that one once failed. For as long as one picked himself up.   It is in the attitude. In the drive.In the passion.And a twist of luck.



Bornin 1937 to a Jewish merchant family that run a tobacco and candy store in Canada, Mortimer Benjamin Zuckerman made his way to the United States of America to earn a business degree from Wharton (1961) and a master’s degree in law from Harvard (1962) where he joined the academe for nine years. He worked at Cabot, Cabot and Forbes, becoming its senior vice president and chief finance officer.   He plunged into the real estate and publications, made a lot of investments. Among those companies he acquired and sold were the Fast Company, The Atlantic Monthly, and the Boston Properties.Eventually, he became known as a media mogul and real estate tycoon. He was among the wealthy businessmen who fell victim to the Ponzi Schemeoperated by Bernard Madoff, but the loss of about $15 million did not seem to have affected his wealth. Zuckerman’s interests spilled over from business to politics. He considered running for a senate seat at one time, but eventually dropped the plan. Mort Zuckerman has a net worth of $2.4 billion.


18. INDU JAIN $2.6 B


Indu Jain is the widow of Asok Kumar Jain who was the chairman of the Bennett, Coleman and Company, Ltd. After her husband’s death, Indu Jain took on the leadership of India’s largest media company. She sits as its chairperson and her sons, Samir Jain and Vineet Jain, serve as the vice-chairman and the managing director, respectively. Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd. owns and manages The Times Of India, the most widely-read newspaper in India. It also runs other large newspapers and magazines and has stakes in the fields of television and radio. A very rich widow, Indu Jain’s net worth is at $2.6 billion.



Joao Moreira Salles belongs to a family of billionaires. His father, Walther Moreira Salles, was founder of Unibanco, one of the oldest banks in Brazil. When Unibanco coalesced with BancoItau to become ItauUnibanco and the second largest bank in Brazil, Joao was one of the individuals who owned the largest stakes.By 2013, Bloomberg reports the bank to be Latin America’s largest by market value.

The Salles brothers also set their eyes on the mining industry. They own more than half of the shares in a mining company called CompaniaBrasileira de Metalurgia e Mineração (CBMM), said to be the world’s premier supplier of niobium and niobium technology.

As a film maker, Joao Moreira Salles co-founded VideoFilmes, an outfit that produced notable TV documentaries. He also founded a magazine, the Piaui, which comes out monthly in Brazil. His net worth is $2.7 billion.



Oprah Winfrey is what self-made is all about. She worked her way from poverty to prosperity, relying on her own talent and wit. Her unique approach to reaching out to people paved the way to her success on radio when she was in her late teens, and then on TV for the most part of her life. Her success as an actress, producer of TV and Broadway shows, TV talk-show host, book author and publisher of magazines, and later on as owner or TV and radio stations was nothing but stellar.

Her popularity transcending across the globe has earned her the epithets The Most Influential Woman In the US and The Most Powerful Celebrity In The Entertainment Industry. Her 9-figure annual revenue has acquired for her the moniker the Wealthiest African American Woman in the United States. Oprah Winfrey is very rich at net worth $2.9 billion.

15. HAIMSABAN $2.9 B


HaimSaban, an Israeli-Ameridan, acquired his fortune from his business ventures in the entertainment industry. He started out as a rock band member and manager, then moved on to become music producer. He put up a music outfit in the US in 1988, the Saban Entertainment Productions, which provided musical compositions for TVshows.His biggest break came in the 1990s when his company produced adaptations of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Masked Ranger, to name a few.In 2001, HaimSaban formed an investment company, the Saban Capital Group, Inc., and partnered with other investors to acquire media companies such as the Fox Family Worldwide, Inc. and the ProSiebenSat.1 Media and selling them for hefty profits.   HaimSaban’s net worth is calculated to be at $2.9 billion.



Forbes dubbed him as the “Television King of Southern India”, and aptly so,since KalanithiMaran is founder of the largest TV network in India, the Sun Group, of which he is also chairman and managing director. In 1993, he established the Sun TV out of a loan, and the return of investment skyrocketed to an unbelievable high that he became one of India’s instant billionaires.

KalanithiMaran’s large company also operates an internet website (tubetamil.com), numerous FM radio stations and TV channels, newspapers and magazines, and a movie production outfit. Sun Group also made a wise move when it entered the lucrative airline business after it acquired SpiceJet.  This tycoon has a net worth of $3.3 billion.



One look at Steven Spielberg’s filmography will erase all doubts as to how well-off he is that he could afford to purchase a $200 million private yacht. He was director and producer of quality films that hauled in a lot of money and raves to his front door. It all started with Jaws 1 (1975) and ET: the Extra Terrestrial (1982). And after that, a whole line up of movies that include Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Hook, Men In Black, The Color Purple, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, and AI: Artificial Intelligence, just to name a few. Up to the present, Spielberg receives royalties from the Universal Studios whose theme parks feature ET and Jaws as main attractions.

As a businessman, Steven Spielberg and two other partners created a production outfit, the Dreamworks Studios in 1994 which they sold to the Paramount Pictures 7 years later. He also dipped his fingers into creation of video games; credited to him particularly was the Medal of Honors series.Spielberg’s net worth amounts to $3.5 billion.



Barbara Piasecka Johnson, or Basia as she is fondly called, landed in Forbes’ Top 400 World’s Richest when she inherited around $400 million from her late husband, John Seward Johnson of the Johnson and Johnson pharmaceutical company. She was bequeathed the JasnaPolana estate in New Jersey, built for $30 million, the grounds of which she turned into a golf course and the mansion into a clubhouse.

A far cry from the underprivileged life in Poland, where she graduated with a degree of MA in Art History, her coming to the household of the Johnsons as a chambermaid proved to be an act of fate. When Johnson divorced his second wife Esther Underwood, he wasted no time in marryingBasia, to the chagrin of his children. After his death, a legal battle ensued between Basia and the children, which ended in an out-of-court settlement and still leaves the widow a net worth of $3.6 billion.



PatrizzioBertelli is an Italian entrepreneur who once established a leather goods company called Mr. Roberstson which once supplied leather products to Prada. Bertelli later joined Prada, managed by Miuccia Prada, as its partner and business manager. Being an enterprising and intrepid person, PatrizzioBertelli became the driving force behind Prada’s expansions in retail stores and product lines while Miuccia Prada, who became his wife, took charge of the creative designs.The couple’s joint astute business judgment has brought Prada’s value to around $15 billion.Bertelli himself has individual net worth of $3.7 billion.



ArnonMilchan is producer of over a hundred Hollywood films. But before he found his luck in the US in 1977, he managed his father’s fertilizer company back home in the Palestine. At some point inhis life he had also been an arms dealer. In 1991, He founded and is chairman of New Regency Productions, Inc. which churned out box office hits such asPretty Woman, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, 12 Years A Slave, LA Confidential,The War of The Roses, , Once Upon A Time In America, andHeat, to name a few.The company alsohandles programs and sports events on television. What brought him his fortune was largely his partnership with 20thCentruy Fox and Warner Brothers which upped his net worth to $3.8 billion.



Sumner Redstone, a Harvard graduate, is a Jewish-American born in Massachusetts. Hewas heir to his father Michael Redstone’s movie chains company, the Northeast Theatre Corporation, now better known as the National Amusements, Inc., of which Sumner is chairman of the board and owns 80% shares. He also owns a large stock both in CBS Corporation and Viacom, which eventually acquired Columbia Pictures, Twentieth-Century Fox, Orion Pictures and Paramount Pictures.   Sumner Redstone’s wealth amounts to $4.4 billion.



James Douglas Packer, born in Australia, was successor to his late father media mogul Kerry Packer’s $5 billion company, the Consolidated Press Holdings Limited. James would later make a billion profit from selling the company. He invested in a new games amusement company, the Crown Resorts which did business in Australia, Macau and the Philippines. He also made money in film production and in selling advertisements through online sites. He may have lost a lot of money due to some bad business dealings, but Forbes reports his current net worth to be at $4.4 billion, down from around $7 billion in 2006.



George Walton Lucas, Jr., was born in California to an enterprising family that managed a stationary shop. George Lucas; Jr.’s bulk of wealth was acquired largely from his self-created series Indiana JonesandStar Wars, which became an overwhelming success.He also gets revenues from TV spin-offs and merchandise of the latter series, the rights to which he retained even after he sold his company, the Lucasfilms, to the Walt Disney Company for around $4 billion in cash and stock, making him Disney’s second major individual shareholder. This entrepreneur, one of the richest in the United States, is now taking it easy from his journey as film producer, screen writer, and director. Who wouldn’t, if he’s smugly rich by $4.9 billion.

6. Dina Merrill $5 B

6-Dina Merrill

Dina Merril, or NedeniaMarjoria Hutton, was born in New York in 1923. Her wealth came largely frominheritance from her parents which bloomed from good investments she made.Merril not only inherited her parents’ combined wealth but also their business acumen. She put up a line of cosmetics, the Amaranthe which, unfortunately, could not run against Estee Lauder’s market positioning.Years after her father’s death, she won a seat as one of the board of directors at his investment firm in Wall Street, the EF Hutton. She also served as a board of director at Lehman Brothers Holdings. Her husband, Ted Hartley, was an actor and co-founder of Pavilion Communications, Inc. Together they acquired a major share of RKO Pictures, sealing a merger with Pavilions. Ted Hartley sat as chairman of the new company, the RKO-Pavilions, and Dina Merril as vice chairman and creative director. Her net worth is placed at $5 billion.



Donald Edward Newhouse is an American media magnate who, along with his brother Samuel Newhouse, Jr., gained control of wealth and leadership of Advance Publications, a private publishing company founded by their late father Samuel Irving Newhouse., Sr. Dividing areas of concentration, Donald took charge of the newspaper businesswhile Samuel handled the magazine aspect (Vanity Fair, Vogue and Wired among its products). They also own Bright House Networks (a cable company), Reddit (a website) and a chunky 31% share in Discovery Communications, whose media products include digital textbooks and various TV programs and channels such as Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. Listed in the College Drop Outs Hall of Fame, Donald Newhouse is among those who became successful intheir fields of interest despite not being able having graduated from college. This college drop-out is worth $6.4 billion.

4. JOHN KLUGE $6.5 B


John Werner Kluge was a German immigrant who came to the US at a very young age and started to work at his stepfather’s business and shortly, at aFord’s assembly line and a paper company. A risk-taker, John Kluge grew his fortune buying and selling radio and television stations, cell phone providers, and food chains, film studios, and an advertising outfit, among others, under his firm, the Metromedia. A frugal spender, John Kluge was known to promote cost-cutting practices in his offices butwas very liberal with his donations to the Library of Congress, University of Virginia and the Columbia University. This risk-taking young man who bought his first radio station out of his military discharge money in 1946 had become a self-made media mogul worth $6.5 billion by the time he passed away in 2010.



Jewish-American fashion designer Ralph Lauren rose from the ranks because of his ties. Literally.He left his job as a salesman at Brook Brothers to be his own company, the Ralph Lauren Corporation, designing and supplying ties to small shops and big upscale department stores such as the Neiman Marcus and the Bloomingdales. The Brook Brothers Company allowed him to use Polo as the trademark for his ties. Later on Ralph Lauren expanded his merchandise to full men’s clothing, then women’s using his own name. Shoes and perfume lines followed, and pretty soon Lauren ventured into jewelry, bags and other accessories, bed and bath as well as kitchen luxury items. The name Ralph Lauren has become synonymous to “high end.” With all his assets, including his collection item cars and watches and posh homes, Ralph Lauren is placed at net worth $7.5 billion.



Keith Rupert Murdoch, an Australian –American business czar who took over the family business, News Limited, when his father died. He brought the company to greater heights by procuring more newspapers in Australia and expanding to New Zealand and the United States.Later on, he expanded business interests in the United Kingdom, Britain and Asia. His media influence and power seemed limitless because of his immense holdings that range from more newspaper companies, publishing companies, the 20thCentury Fox , the Wall Street Journal, LA Dodgers, digital services in partnership with Apple, and many other ventures. To this date, despite his notoriety at unconventional journalism and breach of privacy issues, Rupert Murdoch’s net worth is placed at $7.6 billion.



John Walton, heir to Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, was chairman to several boards before his untimely death. He was founder and chairman of the board of True North Partners, a company that helped upstart new ventures through capital lending. He was founder and chairman of the board of Corsair Marine, manufacturer of multi-hull sailboats or yachts. He was also founder and chairman of SATLOC, a company that built flow control monitors guided by GPS system, a technology used for crop-dusting. He was chairman of the board of Wal-Mart and, upon his death, was replaced by his brother, Jim Walton. John and Jim Walton each has a net worth of around $18 billion which, after inflation adjustments, amounted to $21 billion.