one of eight children, Steward milked cows and slopped hogs on the family farm before school every day while his dad worked as a mechanic, trash collector and janitor to make ends meet. After graduating from Central Missouri State University, he sent out 400 resumes over three years before landing his “dream” job as a salesman at Missouri Pacific Railroad Company.
He cofounded IT provider World Wide Technology in 1990, which counts companies like Citi, Verizon and the federal government among its customers. His 59% stake in the $11.2 billion (sales) company, making him one of the richest African-Americans in the country. “I hope what this represents is that all things are possible,” Steward says, a lifelong jazz lover who donated $1.3 million to the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2018 to create a jazz studies program. “We still live in the greatest country in the world, and God blesses persons of color too.”
After making his fortune in retail, Hang is now focusing on politics, too. In the run-up to Brazil’s October 2018 presidential election, he urged his 2 million Facebook followers to back far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who ultimately won by a ten-point margin. (Hang went as far as threatening to leave the country if Bolsonaro’s leftist opponent, Fernando Haddad, won the race.)
Even after the election, he has continued to post live videos of himself on social media almost daily. One recent posting showed him celebrating former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s corruption conviction by dancing poolside to fireworks.
Outside of politics, Hang’s stores are thriving. Havan, the department store chain he cofounded at 24, generated a record $1.2 billion in 2017 sales, up 40% over the prior year. One ingredient in that success: “Always hire happy people; leave the unhappy ones to the competition,” Hang says.
The dermatologists have tapped into the lucrative skin care market with their multilevel marketing firm Rodan + Fields, which boasts $1.5 billion in sales and 300,000 independent “consultants” selling anti-aging creams and more. In February, they launched a new teen acne line, a throwback to their first claim to fame, acne product Proactiv.
The brand took off when the doctors created a licensing deal with infomercial company Guthy-Renker in 1995 to sell their regimen through television advertisements featuring celebrities like Jessica Simpson. The doctors sold their royalty rights in 2016, and now their full attention is on Rodan + Fields. Their goal, Rodan says, is help as many people as possible have “life-changing skin.”
An English major who reluctantly took over his grandfather’s small outerwear company in 2001, Reiss has created the “it” coat of the decade. The Canada Goose CEO marketed his down-filled jackets by giving freebies to people who spent a lot of time in the cold: Bouncers outside of nightclubs, polar explorers and attendees of cold-weather film festivals like the ones in Sundance and Toronto.
His $1,000-plus parkas are now fashion statements, staples on the streets of London, New York and Tokyo and have a strong celebrity following, including Jennifer Lopez, Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig. The stock has climbed threefold since its public debut two years ago; sales rose 46% to $450 million in 2018. Reiss, 45, has kept manufacturing at home as other companies moved offshore: “Making a Canada Goose parka in Canada is like making a Swiss watch in Switzerland.”
She’s just the second woman in Russian to become a billionaire and joins the ranks of the world’s wealthiest thanks to the success of her e-commerce company, Wildberries, which had $1.9 billion in revenue last year. She started the business in 2004 at age 28 in her Moscow apartment while on maternity leave from teaching. She realized how difficult it was for her and other young mothers to shop for clothes for themselves with a newborn at home. Her husband, Vladislav, an IT technician, soon joined her to help grow the business. Today Wildberries sells 15,000 brands of clothing, household products and other items and processes roughly 400,000 orders a day from 2 million daily visitors in Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.
In twenty years at Oracle, Catz, a former investment banker and now the company’s co-CEO, is often credited with leading Oracle’s aggressive acquisition strategy, including two hostile takeovers. In January 2005, Oracle acquired competitor PeopleSoft after an 18-month pursuit for $11 billion, more than double its original unsolicited bid.Three years later in April 2008, it acquired BEA Systems for $8.5 billion, a deal that also involved Carl Icahn, the billionaire corporate raider who was a BEA shareholder and pushed BEA to do the deal with Oracle. “I can’t really speak about [working with Icahn] in open session,” Catz said at a May 2019 commencement speech at the Wharton School. “It would be unladylike.”
Born to two Iraqi parents who came to Israel as refugees, Fattal began working in hotels at age 23 as a receptionist. He toiled in other jobs—bellhop, security guard, salesman—before founding his own hotel company in 1999. “From the day I went into the hotel industry, I fell in love with it,” he says. “There is a glamour to it.”
Starting a business just then in Israel would prove exceptionally tough, especially for a tourism-based one like Fattal’s. The Second Intifada conflict with the Palenstinains began in 2000 and lasted for several years. Fattal, however, thrived by targeting local, rather than international, tourists and by persuading hotel owners to switch from global brands to his more affordable one.
Today, Fattal Hotels, which went public in February 2019, owns and operates 40 locations in Israel and the Leonardo Hotels in Europe. “When you’re approaching the guests, it’s like you are on a stage. You have to be courteous, and I just always felt it was my job to maintain the atmosphere for happy people.”
At 21, Jenner is the youngest-ever self-made billionaire, earning a ten-figure fortune even earlier than Mark Zuckerberg (who joined the billionaires list at 23 in 2008). “I didn’t expect anything—I did not foresee the future,” Jenner says. “But [the recognition] feels really good. That’s a nice pat on the back.” She owns 100% of Kylie Cosmetics, the three-year-old beauty business that did an estimated $360 million in sales last year. Most of the company’s revenue comes from e-commerce. But Kylie Cosmetics also has a new deal with Ulta that put its goods in all the makeup retailer’s 1,163 U.S. stores, “so people that would never buy my products—or that aren’t my fans—can see them in person.”
A successful IPO last year was music to Ek’s ears. Spotify, the music-streaming service he founded 13 years ago, now has a $24 billion market cap. It still hasn’t had a profitable year, though; its focus is squarely on funneling cash into acquisitions. In February it announced a $340 million purchase of podcast companies Gimlet Media and Anchor FM. Ek founded Spotify in 2006 but before that, he found himself adrift as a self-made millionaire in his 20s—clubbing, driving a cherry-red Ferrari Modena—after an early stint at another Swedish tech company. “I was deeply uncertain of who I was and who I wanted to be,” Ek said in 2012. “I really thought I wanted to be a much cooler guy than what I was.”
I never intended to get this far,” said Kenny Park, whose father owned a fishing company. But he has stitched together a fortune making handbags and accessories for U.S. brands such as Michael Kors, Coach, Mark Jacobs and Alexander Wang. His Simone Accessories, named after his wife and 62% owned by Park and his family, makes some 30 million handbags, purses and wallets a year in its factories in Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and China.
His big break came in 1987 after he flew from Seoul to New York City with a sample bag. He pitched Donna Karan executives an offer to supply bags for almost 30% less than what they were paying their European suppliers, but with one caveat: a “Made in Korea” label. Reluctant at first, Donna Karan agreed to a trial order and by the next year was a key customer, one he still supplies today.
-Luisa Kroll; Forbes Staff