Forbes recently published its annual list of billionaires for 2020. For the third time, I’ve painstakingly gone through the billionaire list to figure out which ones are immigrants based on information that I’ve gathered from the web.
“But why should we follow these super-rich guys we have no chance of replicating?” you might ask.
Immigrant billionaires, in particular, are the epitome of the American Dream. They came to the country with nothing except their hopes and dreams and ended up with everything. They serve as a reminder, we don’t have to be born into privilege to become successful. This way, we don’t sit on our laurels waiting to get stimulated by a government stimulus package.
Follow a rock star or other celebrities in the entertainment industry, and you become just a fan, or worse, a groupie. If you follow a billionaire, study their traits, and make a plan that you can put into action. Guess what? You become a millionaire!
Winners, losers, and other highlights
As you probably already know, the U.S. stock market gained an exceptional 28% last year, but the gains quickly dwindled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The biggest losers in my list are Rupert Murdoch and Micky Arison, who lost over $4 billion each while the biggest winner is Elon Musk, who gained a whopping $16 billion compared to last year.
Arison is the owner of the Carnival Cruise Line and the Miami Heat NBA basketball team— both non-essential businesses (unless you’re in the business of getting the virus). Not only did he lose 29% of his net worth, he also lost his spot on my “highly-coveted” top-ten immigrant billionaire list!
Here are the richest immigrants as of this writing.
George Soros, Hungary, $8.3 billion
Tenth on my list is Budapest-born hedge-fund manager George Soros, 89. He was born into a well-off Jewish family, only to end up emigrating to England in 1947 to escape Nazi Germany’s occupation of Hungary.
In 1956, Soros moved to New York City, where he worked as an arbitrage trader. That career enabled him to amass half a million dollars enough to start his first hedge fund.
He is well-known as “The Man Who Broke the Bank of England” after shorting selling $10 billion worth of British Pounds.
Had he not given away $32 billion of his personal fortune towards his philanthropic efforts, he would have easily ended up first in the list!
Shahid Khan, Pakistan, $9.5 billion
Ninth on my list is Pakistan-born Shahid Khan, 69. This newcomer is the CEO and owner of Flex-N-Gate, an American automobile OEM manufacturer. He’s also the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars football team.
He moved to the States in 1967 at age 16, alone, to study at the University of Illinois, staying at a $2/night room at the school’s YMCA. His first job was washing dishes for $1.20 an hour.
Khan worked at the automotive manufacturing company Flex-N-Gate Corporation while attending the university and became its engineering director shortly after graduation.
In 1978, he started Bumper Works, which made car bumpers for customized pickup trucks and body shop repairs using a $50,000 small business loan and $16,000 of his own savings.
Two years later, he bought Flex-N-Gate from his former employer, bringing Bumper Works into the fold. By 1989, his company became the sole supplier of bumpers and other components for Toyota, and eventually, other automakers in the United States.
Sun Hongbin, China, $9.6 billion
Eight is Chinese-born engineer Sun Hongbin, 57. This newcomer was born in the Shanxi province of China. He obtained a master’s degree in engineering from Tsinghua University.
Very little information written in English that can be found about his early life. And how Hongbin became an American citizen (or why he’s maintaining his citizenship); other than he attended a six-week advanced management program at Harvard.
In 1992, he was jailed in China following an embezzlement conviction which was later overturned. I’m sure this experience was more educational
Hongbin is the founder and chairman of Sunac China Holdings, one of the largest real-estate companies in China.
Jan Koum, Ukraine, $10 billion
Seventh is Ukraine-born ex-janitor of a grocery store— probably explains why he’s wearing a T-shirt in this picture.
Jan Koum, 44, is now the CEO and co-founder of WhatsApp, a mobile messaging application. The company was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $19.3 billion.
He was born in Kiev (then part of the Soviet Union). He moved with his mother and grandmother to Mountain View, California in 1992, where they were living in government-assisted housing and collecting food stamps.
Koum started working as an infrastructure engineer at Yahoo in 1997 while still attending Computer Science classes, but eventually dropped out. He worked there for nine years prior to founding the company.
Pierre Omidyar, France, $12.6 billion
Sixth on the list is Pierre Omidyar, 52. The Paris-born son of Iranian immigrant parents who had been sent to France by their parents for college.
His father, a urologist, moved to the United States when Omidyar was a child. He later acquired a degree in Computer Science.
He co-founded Ink Development in 1991, a pen-based computing startup that later was rebranded as an e-commerce company and renamed eShop, which was later acquired by Microsoft.
In 1995, he started writing the code for an online venue to enable the listing of a direct person-to-person auction for collectible items. That project later evolved into the popular auction site we know today as eBay.
Rupert Murdoch, Australia, $16.3 billion
Murdoch inherited his father’s papers and continued to purchase other media outlets over the years. In the 1970s, he started buying American newspapers. He founded News Corporation, a multi-national mass media empire, in 1979.
In 1985, Murdoch branched out into the entertainment industry with the purchase of 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, which he recently sold much of the stake to the Walt Disney Company. The media empire was later renamed to 21st Century Fox in 2013. He continues to serve as the Executive Chairman.
Thomas Peterffy, Hungary, $16.6 billion
Fourth on the richest list is a Budapest-born digital trading pioneer, Thomas Peterffy, 76. He came to America in 1965, at age 21, penniless and unable to speak English. He defied the odds to start a career in the United States as an architectural draftsman and later as a computer programmer.
Peterffy purchased a seat on the American Stock Exchange (AMEX) in 1977, where he developed computerized equity trading models. He revolutionized the stock exchange industry by using a hand-held computer to trade equity options.
He is the CEO and founder of Interactive Brokers, a company that markets specialized trading platforms to sophisticated investors.
Len Blavatnik, Ukraine, $18.2 billion
Third on my list is another Ukraine-born British-American investor Len Blavatnik, 62. His family immigrated to the United States in 1978. He received a master’s in computer science from Columbia University and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1989.
He founded Access Industries, an international conglomerate company located in New York in 1986. The company’s diversified portfolio to include investments in industries such as oil, entertainment, coal, aluminum, petrochemicals and plastics, telecommunications, media, and real estate.
Blavatnik now lives next to the Kensington Palace in London while maintaining his U.S. citizenship.
Elon Musk, South Africa, $38.4 billion
Second is a South African-born serial entrepreneur Elon Musk, 48. Musk taught himself computer programming at the age of 12. He moved to Canada when he was 17, and later to the United States to pursue degrees in physics and economics.
In 1995, he co-founded Zip2, which was sold to Compaq. Musk later founded X.com in 1999, which later became PayPal. He founded two other companies: SpaceX in 2002 and Tesla Motors in 2003. He started three other technology companies in 2015. One of them is Neuralink, which aims to integrate the human brain with artificial intelligence.
Musk is probably the most ambitious among the billionaires on this list– one of his goals is to reduce the “risk of human extinction” by establishing a colony on Mars.
Sergey Brin, Russia, $56.3 billion
Musk may be closing in, but Russian-born Sergey Brin, 46, is still the richest immigrant on the list for a third year in a row. He immigrated with his family, at age six, to the United States to escape Jewish persecution.
Brin was a Ph.D. student at Stanford University when he met Larry Page. The two created a search engine, Google, that would sort web pages based on popularity. It has since then become the most popular search engine in the world.
He currently serves as the president of Alphabet, the public holding company that owns Google, Inc.
The complete list
|Rank||Name||Country of Origin||Net Worth (Billions)||Source#546||Forbes Rank|
|2||Elon Musk||South Africa||$38.4||Tesla Motors||#23|
|4||Thomas Peterffy||Hungary||$16.6||discount brokerage||#65|
|5||Rupert Murdoch||Australia||$16.3||newspapers, TV network||#68|
|8||Sun Hongbin||China||$9.6||real estate||#162|
|9||Shahid Khan||Pakistan||$9.5||auto parts||#163|
|10||George Soros||Hungary||$8.3||hedge funds||#190|
|11||Patrick Soon-Shiong||South Africa||$6.8||pharmaceuticals||#261|
|13||Li Ge||Taiwan||$5.7||medical supplies||#329|
|12||Micky Arison||Israel||$5.4||Carnival Cruises||#353|
|15||David Sun||Taiwan||$4.9||computer hardware||#395|
|15||John Tu||China||$4.9||computer hardware||#396|
|14||Dagmar Dolby||Germany||$4||Dolby Laboratories||#550|
|15||Lin Bin||China||$3.7||consumer electronics||#546|
|15||Min Kao||Taiwan||$3.7||navigation equipment||#617|
|14||Roger Wang||China||$3.6||real estate||#609|
|16||Romesh T. Wadhwani||India||$3.4||software||#665|
|17||John Catsimatidis||Greece||$3.3||oil, real estate||#681|
|22||Andrew & Peggy Cherng||China||$3||restaurants||#763|
|25||Thai Lee||Thailand||$3||IT provider||#764|
|21||Haim Saban||Israel||$2.8||TV network, investments||#830|
|25||Kavitark Ram Shriram||India||$2.2||venture capital, Google||#1061|
|25||Vinod Khosla||India||$2.2||venture capital||#1088|
|23||Aneel Bhusri||India||$2||business software||#1178|
|29||Evgeny (Eugene) Shvidler||Russia||$1.6||oil & gas, investments||#1444|
|30||Bharat Desai||Kenya||$1.40||IT Consulting||#1678|
|30||Fayez Sarofim||Egypt||$1.3||money management||#1737|
|31||Alexander Rovt||Ukraine||$1.30||fertilizer, real estate||#1806|
|26||Niraj Shah||India||$1.2||online retail||#1859|
|32||Jayshree Ullal||United Kingdom||$1.1||technology||#1969|