C-Suite Lifestyle

The Billionaire Classes: Innovators And Inheritors

While the billionaire population is a small part of the business community, Billionaires are different from each other in many ways for eg: Innovator Billionaires and Inheritor Billionaires.

What is very noticeable about the 10 richest billionaires is that they are mostly innovators, including Jeff Bezos ($146.9 billion), Bill Gates ($106.5 billion), Mark Zuckerberg ($86.5 billion), Larry Ellison ($66.4 billion), Steve Ballmer ($65.4 billion), Larry Page ($63.6 billion), Sergey Brin ($61.3 billion), founded their own technology businesses.

By contrast, many of the richest billionaires are dynastic heirs, they are from the inheritor class, who have won the lottery of life by being born into established industrial, retail, and property empire. Among the top 10, Jim Walton ($55.2 billion), Alice Walton ($55 billion), Rob Walton ($54.8 billion), Francoise Bettencourt Meyers ($54.5 billion), Charles Koch ($46.5 billion), Julia Koch ($46.5 billion).

A Peterson Institute study of 20 years of data drawn from the Forbes World’s Billionaires List, found that globally, wealth is increasingly self-made. There is somewhat less dynamism in the other advanced economies, especially Europe, where fortunes are older and aging over time. The United States is relatively more dynamic.

In Europe, inherited wealth still makes up the majority of billionaire wealth, while the growth in US billionaires has been driven by self-made wealth.

Determining the extent to which wealth is inherited or self-made is challenging since some billionaires inherited a vast fortune already worth billions when they made it on the richest list, while others built up a smaller company into a billion-dollar one.
Wealth is considered inherited if a billionaire is a relative (sibling, child, spouse, etc.) of the founder of the company from which the primary source of wealth is derived. Wealth is classified as “self-made” either when the individual listed as the founder of the company, or when their source of wealth is a result of their position at a particular company. In parent-child, sibling, and husband-wife partnerships, both members are considered to be self-made if both members of the partnership were involved in the founding.

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Sophie Ireland

Sophie Ireland

Contributors Editor
Sophie Ireland is the Contributors Editor at for CEOWORLD magazine, where she covers hiring trends, money, the future of work, and lists and rankings, and all things related to professional success for readers. She has ten years of experience in research, spanning market research, data analytics, macroeconomics, and financial services. She can be reached on email sophie-ireland@ceoworld.biz. You can follow her on Twitter at @ceoworld.