It is the ‘American Dream’, and as it is being told- it can become a reality for anyone with the right ingredients and push for success.
Here is Forbes’ Keren Blankfeld’s top 10 list of rags-to-riches…
HONG KONG. Li Ka-shing. NET WORTH: $33.3 Bil
Asia’s wealthiest man quit school at age 12 and took a job at a watch-strap factory to support his family. Li got his start selling plastic toys and other items in Hong Kong in 1950 and later retooled his factory to focus on making plastic flowers. Today his interests expand from retail to property, ports and technology, employing 270,000 people in 52 countries.
ITALY. Leonardo Del Vecchio. NET WORTH: $20.4 Bil
When Del Vecchio was 7 his mother sent him to a Milan orphanage because she couldn’t afford to care for him. At 14 he began an apprenticeship in an eyeglass factory. Eleven years later he founded Luxottica. Now the company manufactures glasses for luxury brands around the world, including Burberry, Bulgari, Chanel, Coach, DKNY, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Tiffany and Versace.
U.S. Jan Koum. NET WORTH: $6.6 bil
WhatsApp’s cofounder emigrated from Ukraine at 16 with his mother and swept floors in a grocery store to help pay the bills. They lived off her disability when she was diagnosed with cancer. Koum put himself through college and worked at Yahoo as a security and infrastructure engineer. In 2009 he started WhatsApp, the world’s biggest mobile messaging service. Facebook bought it for $19 billion in cash and stock in 2014. FORBES featured him on their cover in 2014.
RUSSIA. Roman Abramovich. NET WORTH: $9.1 bil
Abramovich was orphaned by age 4 and raised by relatives. After dropping out of college he served with the Soviet army before selling plastic toys from his apartment. Abramovich made a series of oil-export deals in the early 1990s and in 1995 teamed up with Boris Berezovsky to take over oil giant Sibneft at a fraction of its market value.
INDIA. Micky Jagtiani. NET WORTH: $5.2 bil
Jagtiani dropped out of accounting school to clean hotel rooms and drive a taxi in London before moving to Bahrain to help run his family’s baby products shop. He was suddenly in charge after his brother, father and mother all died within a year of one another. Today his retail empire Landmark Group generates $5 billion revenues annually from more than 1,900 stores across the Middle East, Africa and India.
U.S. David Murdock. NET WORTH: $3.1 bil
A dyslexic, Murdock dropped out of high school in the ninth grade to work at a gas station before being drafted into the Army in 1943. When he returned from WWII, he borrowed $1,800 to open a diner. He eventually became the chairman of Dole Food, today the world’s largest producer of fruits and vegetables.
U.K. Christos Lazari. NET WORTH: $2.1 bil
The London real estate investor moved to the U.K. from a small village in Cyprus at age 16 with 20 pounds on hand. In London, he washed dishes and waited on restaurant tables, saving enough money to enroll in a London Fashion Design course and to set up the hit Drendie Girl label. In 1978 he began investing in real estate. Today his Lazari Investments owns 2.5 million square feet of London real estate, mostly office rentals.
U.S. Sheldon Adelson. NET WORTH: $31.4 bil
The son of a cab driver, Adelson grew up sleeping on the floor of a Boston tenement house. He bought his first newspaper corner with a $200 loan from his uncle when he was 12. Over the decades he built a fortune running vending machines, selling newspaper ads, helping small businesses go public, developing condos and hosting trade shows. He now runs the largest casino company in the world, Las Vegas Sands.
U.S. John Paul DeJoria. NET WORTH: $2.8 bil
DeJoria spent a brief period of the 1980s sleeping in his car in LA’s Sunset Strip. The navy vet sold shampoo door-to-door, transforming $700 in savings to hair giant John Paul Mitchell Systems, which he cofounded with Paul Mitchell. Today his empire extends from shampoo to tequila (Patrón Spirits) and most recently the wireless phone business (ROK mobile).
U.S. Oprah Winfrey. NET WORTH: $3 bil
The media mogul was born to a teenage mom and raised by her grandmother on a Mississippi farm. She became a TV newscaster in Nashville, Baltimore before joining a Chicago TV station and transforming a third-rated morning show into the nation’s No. 1 talk show. Today Winfrey’s entertainment empire spans from broadcast to Hollywood and publishing.