Year after year, one of the markers of how well an economy is doing is also the profits that the businesses make in the country. But what this data doesn’t show us is the widening gap between the rich and the poor.
A recent report by Oxfam, An Economy For The 99%, found that eight of the richest men in the world actually “own the same wealth as the poorest half of the world”. Quoting outgoing US President Barack Obama, the report says: “A world where 1% of humanity controls as much wealth as the bottom 99% will never be stable.”
But who are these eight men? They aren’t obscure names, but those at the top of Forbes’ billionaire list. Incidentally, seven of the eight are white men, and not a single woman makes the list.
1. Bill Gates
With a real time net worth of $84.2 billion, Bill Gates founded Microsoft and also the philanthropy giant, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In the mid-1970s, Bill and his childhood friend Paul Allen created a programming language for the first microcomputer. And in 1975, they set up Microsoft, to realize their dream of making personal computing accessible.
While Gates quit Harvard to run the company as CEO, Microsoft became world’s largest personal computer software company.
It later went into the gaming console business with Xbox and found phenomenal success there as well. Bill retired at Microsoft chairman in 2014, with Satya Nadella becoming the CEO.
2. Amancio Ortega
He’s the man behind clothing brand Zara’s parent company, Inditex. With a net worth $72.8 Billion, he is the second richest man in the world, and the richest in Europe.
Like Bill Gates, Amancio opened the first Zara store in 1975 with his ex-wife Rosalia Mera. He had expanded the chain across Spain by 1980s, opening the maiden Zara store in the US in 1989.
The 80-year-old has been known for his low-profile lifestyle and old-school management of the company. As per a report in The Independent, Amancio has never had an office, desk or computer. Instead, he chooses to go about business in a design room for Zara Woman. He also prefers oral or written communication over email.
3. Warren Buffet
Warren Buffett with Barack Obama in 2010. Photo by White House/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons
An American businessman, “investment guru” and philanthropist, Warren Buffet’s net worth stands at $72.5 Billion.
Known to have demonstrated business skills at an early age, Warren’s first big venture was Buffet Partnership Ltd, which he established in 1956 in Omaha, his hometown. Here he identified undervalued companies and investing in them to become a millionaire when he was only 32.
Like Amacio, Warren too prefers for non-digital communication. According to a report in Wall Street Pit, he has only sent one email in his entire life. He has also pledged 99% of his wealth to charity, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
4. Carlos Slim Helu
Carlos Slim Helu/Facebook
Carlos is the Chairman and CEO of Teléfonos de México, a telecom company which handles between 80% and 90% of landline phone calls in Mexico. He also runs América Móvil (AMX), which provides service to 70% cell phones in the country.
The 76-year-old telecom tycoon’s interests however, are known to reach far and beyond telecom. It is estimated that he has some controlling stake in 40% of the listings on Mexican stock exchange.
However, the Carlos is also 2016’s “biggest billionaire loser” according to Forbes as his fortune suffered a loss worth $15.9 billion in the year due to weak performance by AMX. His worth also fell by $5 billion in the aftermath of Donald Trump being elected at the next American president.
5. Jeff Bezos
Bezos is the founder and CEO of Amazon.com, which recently branched into video streaming with Amazon Prime. The 53-year-old’s net worth is worth is $70.4 billion.
After dabbling in various jobs and ventures in the field of aerospace as well as news technology, Jeff set up Amazon in 1994.
6. Mark Zuckerberg
The co-founder and CEO of Facebook, the largest social media network in the world, is only 32 and makes it to the sixth richest person in the world with a net worth of $53.8 billion.
The story of Facebook – and how it emerged in 2004 from a dorm room in Harvard – is well documented in popular culture through films like The Social Network. However, Mark has objected strongly to the film’s content, saying that it didn’t portray what happened accurately.
Like Bill Gates, Mark too dropped out of Harvard in 2004 and devoted himself to Facebook full time.
7. Larry Ellison
The American businessman and entrepreneur is the co-founder of Oracle Corporation, which was third in the list of top software companies in the world in 2015, after Microsoft and IBM. The 72-year-old has a net worth of $48.6 billion and says that he never took a computer class in his life and is largely “self-taught”.
In 1977, he left his programming job at Ampex Corporation to start a database management company, now known as Oracle.
And guess who Oracle’s first customer was – the CIA itself. And despite almost going bankrupt in the early 1990s, Oracle survived.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Larry was the top paid executive in the US until he resigned from the post of CEO in 2014. He is now the executive chairman and Chief Technology Officer at Oracle.
8. Michael Bloomberg
Michael Bloomberg: Photo by Bloomberg Philanthropies/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons
Michael is the founder and CEO of Bloomberg LP, which is involved with financing, mass media and software creation globally. The 70-year-old author, entrepreneur and politician’s net worth stands at $41.8 billion.
Originally called "Innovative Market Solutions" but renamed later to Bloomberg LP. Enjoying immense success in the 1980s, the company worth rose up to $2 million by 1989.
Michael also took up politics, running for New York city mayor in 2002, won and held the position for 12 years. He also owns a charitable organization, Bloomberg Philanthropies.
There you have it. The world’s richest men who own as much wealth as the poorest 50% of the world. And while all eight men are also known philanthropists, as per Oxfam’s report, one of the causes for rising inequality is also that major businesses and corporations continue to work for the rich.
Corporations are known to maximize profits by dodging tax (by using countries which are tax havens, for instance) and also paying the top executives disproportionately higher salaries than workers.
“The CEO of India’s top information firm earns 416 times the salary of a typical employee in his company,” says the report, a reference to Tata Consultancy Services and its CEO N Chandrasekaran.
It also points out how, in endeavoring to maximize profits of their shareholders, who also happen to the rich, corporations widen inequality. Oxfam also found that “one-third of the world’s billionaire wealth is derived from inherited wealth, while 43% can be linked to cronyism”.