The anatomy of a billionaire



This is the financial destination most if not all people aspire to. Few desire it beyond just dreaming about it and take action to pursue it and even fewer still reach this coveted financial state of being. This is if statistics published by Forbes magazine are to be believed.

Forbes, the revered United States based financial and business magazine publishes an annual compendium of the world’s wealthiest people and a list of the 400 wealthiest Americans. At last count Forbes magazine estimated that there are approximately 2,668 billionaires worldwide in 2022. This figure was 87 billionaires shy of the count that Forbes reached in 2021.

  • Billionaires are individuals whose wealth comprises of assets or investments worth at least US$ 1 billion or more.
  • Forbes magazine which is based in the United States estimated that there were at least 2,668 billionaires or people with a net worth of a billion dollars or more in the world in 2022.
  • The publication’s figure was slightly less than it reported in 2021.

A billionaire refers to an individual with assets or a net worth of at least one billion currency units in their native currency such as dollars, euros, or pounds. Billionaires are extremely rich, with assets ranging from cash and cash equivalents, real estate, as well as business and personal property. This is according to Investopedia.

The reduction in the world population of billionaires was down to war, the pandemic, and what Forbes described as sluggish markets. All the billionaires of the world are collectively worth US$ 12.7 trillion dollars!

For perspective, if the common market that AfCFTA area aims to achieve in Africa is realized, it would be worth one-third of the collective wealth of the world’s global billionaires.

The wealth of the 2,668 billionaires collectively is 4 times higher than China’s foreign exchange reserves. As spectacular as this may sound this collective number of the wealth of billionaires is US$ 400 billion lower than the collective tally for 2021. The drop in the collective wealth of the world’s richest people was due to the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The world’s billionaires should make a note to send the Russian strong-man a postcard this year for making them all poorer…

Read: Patrice Motsepe: How he made his billions

Ironically the country with the greatest number of individuals who have dropped from the billionaire league tables is actually in Russia… Mr. Putin… The other country that recorded a high number of individuals whose wealth fell beneath the billion-dollar threshold is China.

The Asian country implemented crackdowns on technology companies that had fallen out of favour with Beijing, resulting in the wealth of the businessmen running those companies plummeting. Despite there being a reduction in the number of billionaires in 2022, Forbes found that 1,000 billionaires became richer in 2022. During this year, 236 individuals became billionaires.

Most notably Robyn Rihanna Fenty, the musician, was propelled financially into the billionaire high stakes through her beauty and cosmetics brand Fenty Beauty.

  • Of the individuals whose fortunes reduced in value most were of Russian origin.
  • The year welcomed Robin Rihanna Fenty into the billionaire ranks according to Forbes magazine. The Barbadian musician made her billions from her beauty and cosmetics company, Fenty Beauty.
  • The Barbadian billionaire joins other entertainment billionaires Dr Dre and Jay-Z.

The Barbadian joins fellow music and entertainment dons Sean “Jay-Z” Carter, Beyonce Knowles, Kanye West, Tyler Perry, and Andre “Dr Dre” Young who are billionaires in their own right. Other entertainers who have leveraged their fame into billion-dollar fortunes include Kylie Jenner who comes from the world-famous Kardashian family. This family is famous for being well, famous.

Jenner parlayed her fame and fortune into… wait for it… a cosmetics business which she managed to sell to beauty and cosmetics giant Coty in 2019. The transaction went like this… Ms. Jenner agreed to sell a 51% portion of her business to Coty for US$ 600 million and retained the difference. This transaction valued the Kylie Jenner company at US$ 1.2 billion… Not bad for a young twenty-something… The only problem was the company that Coty bought from Kylie Jenner was nowhere near worth the US$ 600 million that it had paid for it…

There can be no doubt that Jenner is a shrewd businesswoman for closing a deal worth US$ 600 million at the ripe young age of 22. However, the aftermath of the transaction casts doubts on the authenticity of the valuations used to determine whether or not a person is worth a billion dollars. This is in the specific case of entertainers who leverage their personal brands into product endorsements and by doing so assume almost automatic billionaire status.

No shade to Rihanna but it would be nice to see how Fenty Beauty reached the multibillion-dollar valuation that catapulted her into the billionaire league tables. The same can be said about Kanye West who became wealthy from his music career but grew richer from his partnership with a leading sports brand to produce his specially branded Yeezy sports shoes.

The BBC reported earlier this week that this same sports brand was reconsidering their partnership with West. This development is certain to have a bearing on West’s wealth, not in a good way.

It seems to be an inexact science calculating the wealth of a person who is already famous and ascribing a certain figure to their net worth. This is unlike the case of Tyler Perry, Jay-Z and Dr Dre who developed notable and substantial business interests whose intrinsic value can be appraised at over a billion dollars. Dr Dre for instance through his record label Aftermath Entertainment has produced a litany of superstars and made millions of dollars from publishing and promoting music.

The veteran music producer also created Beats by Dre an electronics firm he then sold to Apple for an estimated US$ 800 million. This paper trail can be verified. Jay-Z also has a massive portfolio of business interests spanning music, clothing, and alcohol. His portfolio contains hard assets that can be appraised to yield a billion-dollar valuation.

Interestingly, 18 of the world’s billionaires are from Africa. Only 18.

Read: Jayesh Shah Zimbabwe’s reclusive multimillionaire

What makes a billionaire?

What all of the billionaires have in common is that they are driven. They have an extraordinary work ethic that causes them to work harder and go further than the average person can. Most of the billionaires on the Forbes list are first-generation. This means that they did not inherit their wealth. They worked for it and earned it from scratch.

One particular billionaire who has legions of fans is Jean Paul Dejoria.

He owns and operates a leading global spirits business and at one time was homeless and would redeem empty beer bottles for cash. Another hallmark of a billionaire where historic or contemporary is that they are pioneers and creators of industries that they operate in.

Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate was one of the pioneers of the steel industry and made a fortune from it. He is rumoured to be the first person to be ascribed the title of a billionaire. Jean Pierpont Morgan, the progenitor of the venerable US investment bank is considered to be the father of modern-day corporate finance and he became a billionaire from it. Henry Ford, the father of the automobile became a billionaire from his invention and so did Thomas Edison the founder of General Electric and the inventor of the light bulb.

Also read: Gautam Adani: The second richest person in the world

It will always come down to work ethic. According to Insider, Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple routinely begins to email employees at 0430 in the morning. Historically, Alfred Beit who was Cecil J. Rhodes second in command at the diamond mining company in the 1800s used to start his days at 0500 in the morning and would often stay at his desk well past midnight.

You will hardly find a billionaire who is first-generation wealthy and is lazy or work-shy. Heirs and trust fund babies do not count… Paris Hilton and company. Tim Cook in terms of work ethic is a class act. Insider reports that while Steve Jobs left big shoes to fill, Tim Cook has always been a workaholic. It is reported that he would hold staff meetings on Sunday nights in preparation for the coming week!

Mark Cuban, serial entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks never took a holiday during the first 7 years of starting his business. As if that is not enough Cuban routinely stays up until 2 am working. Aliko Dangote in an interview with CNN stated that he always begins his day at 5am regardless of the time that he goes to bed!

Read: Mike Teke South Africa’s charismatic mining tycoon

I am a financial services professional with a strong background in diverse areas of banking. My skill set includes among others International Banking, Trade Finance, Commercial Lending, Customer Service, Finance, Banking, Corporate Finance, and Investment Banking. Africa is my home and I am passionate about its development,

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