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I’m in the wrong business (10 people on the Forbes richest list who made their money in interesting ways)

March 16, 2010

Despite the recent global economic slowdown, there are more billionaires on the Forbes list this year than last year.  Among them are the normal assortment of bankers, real estate tycoons, oil men, media moguls, software developers, and those who were lucky enough to inherit a mass fortune. Mexico’s Carlos Slim Helu topped the list.  The telecom giant posted a net worth of $53.5 billion.  He was followed by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.  In an interesting sidenote, the four Walton kids have a combined $83.6 billion, meaning that if Sam Walton were alive today he would be 56% richer than anyone else.

Paying for the ridiculously large inheritances of four people

It took me a while, but I went through most of the people on the list looking for interesting ways people made their money. (There’s over 1000 on the list, but I stopped after 750.  I had to click through and read them one by one and it took me forever.)  Not everyone made their billions from the traditional ways.   Here are a few that stuck out to me.


Kunio Busujima 

Rank: 143 ($5.4 billion)

Kunio is in the gaming industry.  Specifically, he owns Sankyo.  They make the classic pachinko machines that I didn’t even know were still being produced.  I have an old one that I’m trying to fix up right now.

This one

Maybe I should give this guy a call to see if he’ll give me a discount on parts.


Dietrich Mateschitz

Rank: 208 ($4.1 billion)

This guy made all his money off the caffeine craziness of the world today.  He threw together a couple of ingredients, put it in a blue and silver can, and said “I think I’ll call it Red Bull.”  We all know where that went.  He currently owns 49% of the beverage company that sold $4.7 billion worth of heart explosions last year.


Haim Saban

Rank: 287 ($3.3 billion)

The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  Need I say more.  Well, I will.  He created the show back in the early 90’s and rode it all the way up on its improbable success.  He then used that money to make his own little media empire. 

It's easy to make billions when you only spend $5 on wardrobe

Amazing what you can do dressing some teens up in funny costumes and having them karate chop people in terrible monster suits. 


Frits Goldschmeding

Rank: 297 ($3.2 billion)

Who knew there was so much money in finding other people jobs?  Frits owns Randstad Holdings, the world’s second largest temp agency.  His may be the most noble occupation on the list.  He may make a lot of money, but at least it’s through a vehicle that helps other people make money too.


Martua Sitorus

Rank: T-316 ($3 billion)

Martua is one of about five entries I saw on Forbes list that made their money though palm oil sales.  I wasn’t sure what palm oil is because I’ve never used it.  Apparently it’s widely used for cooking in Asia and Africa.  And they must use a lot of it to put several billionaire’s kids through college.


I didn’t see a single vegetable oil or corn oil billionaire.  I guess they wasted all their money in alternative fuels.


David Green

Rank: T-316 ($3 billion)

Green may have the coolest job of all the world’s billionaires. (Well, except for maybe the heirs and heiresses who don’t have to do anything.)  He is the founder of Hobby Lobby.  So in his down time, he gets to play with slot cars and remote-controlled helicopters.  I wonder if he watches “I Love Toy Trains”?


Ty Warner

Rank: 342 ($2.9 billion)

Ty made his money off a 90’s fad much like Haim Saban above.  Remember Beanie Babies?  They don’t sell a whole lot of them these days, but back in the mid 90’s they sold enough to make it so only 341 people in the world have more money than Ty.  Back then, they compared it to the pet rock.  I don’t think the guy who invented the pet rock made this much.


Keiichiro Takahara

Rank: 488 ($2 billion)

Takahara makes his money off paper products.  More specifically, diapers and tampons.  I think I’ll leave well enough alone on that one.


Isaac Perlmutter

(I searched everywhere and couldn’t  find a picture.  Must be a private guy.)

Rank: 616 ($1.6 billion)

Comic books can still fetch a fair price.  Perlmutter moved from Israel in the 60’s with $250 and started a toy shop.  His stores grew and he soon was able to acquire Marvel Comics out of bankruptcy on the cheap.  He sold the company to Disney a few years ago for $4 billion.  Not a bad income jump.  It makes me wonder how much money Stan Lee has.


Yoshikazu Tanaka

Rank: 721 ($1.4 billion)

Tanaka is one of the world’s youngest billionaire at 33 years old. (Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest at 25)  He also made his money in arguably the most ridiculous way.  The majority of his fortune was made by selling virtual clothes to people for their avatars.  That’s right, he made a billion dollars selling something that doesn’t exist.

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