Here are some personalities who through sheer force of will, talent, intelligence, resilience and hard work rose from humble backgrounds to become one of the richest people and famous personalities in the world.
Born to a Jewish family in 1930 in Budapest, Hungary, George Soros survived the Nazi occupation (his father paid off a government employee to save his son’s life) and then escaped the Iron Curtain, fleeing to London, England. A graduate of the London School of Economics, Soros started his own hedge funds in the 1960’s and 70’s.
Since then, the business magnate has donated more than $11 billion to charity. He helped in the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, and currently has a net worth of approximately $8 billion.
He also gave one of the largest education endowments in Europe by helping establish the Central European University (CEU) in his hometown of Budapest, Hungary.
His active involvement in politics and support of progressive social ideas has earned him the scorn of various right-wing groups in his own home country and Europe.
John D Rockefeller
Born in a poor family in 1839, Rockefeller made his living selling candies and other products to neighbours while continuing his studies as an bookkeeper. At the age of 16 he started his own company but his real success came when he formed the Standard Oil company in 1870 which was so successful that he gained a monopoly on the oil industry. He died at the age of 97 in 1937, his total assets equaled roughly 1.5 per cent of US GDP at the time.
The steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal was born to a poor family in Rajastan, India in 1950. Mittal grew his business by purchasing unwanted assets from existing steel mills. Today he has a net worth of approximately $17.4 billion and is known as the ‘Maharaja of Steel’.
J K Rowling
J K Rowling made her living by working as a teacher in Portugal, away from her home in England. She came back to England after the miscarriage of her first baby and then her divorce.
Her Harry Potter manuscripts were rejected by a number of publishers until Bloomsbury ultimately chose to publish. Her assets reached $1 billion in 2011 but she gave a significant chunk of her money to charity. Her net worth was estimated to be $650 million in 2017.
Born to a middle-class family in Lahore, Pakistan in 1950. At the age of 16, he went to the United States for higher education, working at restaurant washing dishes to make his living. In 1978, he formed his own company called Bumper Works which manufactured customised car bumpers.
Today, his estimated worth is approximately $7.6 billion and is the richest person of Pakistani origin. He also owns the English football club Fulham FC and the US National Football League team Jacksonville Jaguars.
Orphaned when he was just two years old and raised by his uncle, Abramovich grew up in abject poverty in Russia. While he was a student, he started his own company, manufacturing plastic toys. Later he formed an oil company and then sold it off to state-owned Gazprom in 2005 for $13 billion.
His current assets are estimated at roughly $11.8 billion. He also owns the English football club Chelsea FC.
Born to a poor family in Sweden, Kamprad grew up selling matches and other such products on his bicycle, all from the age of five. At the age of 17, in 1943, he started his own furniture company called IKEA which is now among the most recognised brands in the world.
IKEA is an acronym for Ingvar Kamprad, Elmtaryd (his birthplace) and Agunnaryd (village where he was raised).
At the time of his death in January 2018, his net worth was estimated at roughly $58 billion.