Who are the most successful people in business in America?
Forbes recently released its latest ranking of America’s top 60 self-made women and while the usual names like Oprah Winfrey were on the list, so too was soon-to-be 21-year-old cosmetics superstar Kylie Jenner, who chimed in with an estimated net worth of $900 million, almost three times the $320 million average.
While the rankings are about self-made women, it got to me thinking about successful CEOs of both sexes.
Jenner proves that what younger people lack in total years on the planet, they make up for in energy and drive; it’s not easy building a $900 million empire whether you’re a man, woman or child.
Kudos to the Hollywood Glam Girl for taking her celebrity and using it to build a massive business that should pay dividends for decades to come.
So, who are the seven most successful people in business in America?
To make things interesting, I’ve come up with a list of CEOs from their 30s into their 80s and all ages in between. It’s even better if they founded their company.
Most Successful People in Business: Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook (FB)
Not only is Mark Zuckerberg the youngest CEO in the S&P 500 at age 34, but he’s also the third-richest person in the world at $83.8 billion.
Zuckerberg has been on the hot seat of late as he works to extricate Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) from the Cambridge Analytica data debacle.
Zuckerberg’s already testified, and now three more senior executives are set to testify July 17 before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee to answer questions about whether social media companies such as Facebook are filtering content based on their political beliefs.
Mark Zuckerberg is a lot of things, but I highly doubt he wants to ruin his license to print money by supporting a particular political view at the expense of the company’s position as the world’s biggest social media outlet.
He might only be 34 years old, but he’s already faced more problems and hurdles than CEOs twice his age.
Most Successful People in Business: Elon Musk, Tesla (TSLA)
You would think a man who is worth $21 billion would have more self-control when it comes to going off script when he tweets, but as we’ve seen from President Trump, aging doesn’t always include maturing.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Elon Musk is a brilliant person, but calling a diver who’s trying to save a bunch of young boys a pedophile isn’t exactly the sign of a mature person — even if it turns out to be true.
This tweeting only provides fuel for the fire in the shorts camp.
“We’ve been bearish on the company for a while. We’re sticking with that stance,” stated HighTower Advisors managing director Michael Basis recently. “I mean, there’s so much headline risk around them. They can’t meet production, they’re burning through cash.”
Certainly, Musk’s tweeting isn’t helping his cause, but he recently admitted to Bloomberg Hyperdrive contributor Tom Randall that he’s aware he needs to limit his Twitter outbursts and stick to the task at hand — building 5,000 Model 3’s per week on a consistent basis.
What Musk fails to possess in maturity, he makes up for with resilience and persistence, the two traits you need most to do the unexpected.
I fully expect Musk to come through for shareholders.
Most Successful People in Business: Jeff Bezos, Amazon (AMZN)
What hasn’t already been said about Jeff Bezos, the world’s wealthiest person at $152 billion?
It’s astonishing to think that at age 54 — the average age of Fortune 500 and S&P 500 CEOs in 2016 was 50, up from 45 in 2012 — Jeff Bezos is barely getting started.
If he works until Warren Buffett’s age (87), he’ll be growing Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) for another 33 years. I don’t even want to begin to think what his wealth will be like by 2051. He’ll be a country on to himself.
In early January, I suggested that AMZN stock would hit $10,000 by January 2025.
“AMZN first hit $100 on Oct. 23, 2009. It took approximately 91 months to get to quadruple digits leaving investors wondering how long it will take for the Amazon stock price to hit quintuple digits,” I wrote Jan. 3. “In 2009, I’m sure nobody was thinking about $1,000. Yet, here we are in 2018, and the possibility of hitting $10,000 seems very real.”
Trading near an all-time high, I don’t see anything getting in the way of Bezos and company getting AMZN stock to quadruple digits.
Most Successful People in Business: Reed Hastings, Netflix (NFLX)
While you wouldn’t know it given the punishment Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) stock took as a result of missing analyst expectations for second-quarter subscriber growth, Reed Hastings has done a masterful job as CEO and co-founder of the company since launching the video streaming giant in 1997.
As I stated in May, if it weren’t for Hastings’ decision to pivot away from DVDs to video streaming in 2007, Netflix wouldn’t be the company it is today.
Hastings co-founded Netflix when he was 37 years of age. He made the fateful decision to move to video when he was 46. Today, at 57, I’m sure he’ll continue to grow the company’s international business to make up for any so-called “wall” analysts believe it has hit in the U.S.
If you look at the year-over-year net additions, you’ll see that it added 4.47 million subscribers internationally in the second quarter, 330,000 more than it added in the same quarter a year earlier.
As long as it keeps adding U.S. subscribers — albeit in smaller numbers — the international subscribers will take care of growing its profits.
Five years ago, Netflix had an operating profit of $1.50-per-subscriber; today, that’s $10.96-per-subscriber.
Buy on the dip.
Most Successful People in Business: Bob Iger, Walt Disney (DIS)
It might not look like it at the moment, but I’m sure Disney (NYSE:DIS) CEO Bob Iger has enjoyed every minute of his 13 years as CEO of the entertainment giant.
I didn’t think Iger would go above $65 billion, but the 67-year-old CEO showed everyone how serious he was about ending his 13-year reign as top dog with a big $71.3 billion cash-and-stock offer that Comcast is unlikely to top.
Disney’s Fox acquisition might turn out to be his legacy, but Iger’s brightest moment probably is his $4 billion purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012, which gave the movie division a real shot in the arm by adding Darth Vader to its roster of characters.
As CEOs go, he’s been an excellent one.
Most Successful People in Business: Stefano Pessina, Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA)
Stefano Pessina is probably the least known of the names on this list, but he’s no slouch in the wealth department with an estimated net worth of $11.6 billion.
The CEO started his career buying up small Italian drug wholesalers, moving on to the rest of Europe until finally Walgreens came calling.
Acquisitions are his forte so investors can expect more wheeling and dealing in the years ahead despite being 77 years of age.
“Stefano has a very successful track record of doing deals in this space,” RBC Capital Markets analyst George Hill told CNBC in February.
The company’s largest shareholder owning 14.4%, Pessina acquired a seat at the big boy’s table the old fashioned way — he earned it.
Most Successful People in Business: Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A, BRK.B)
If an 87-year-old man walked into your office and asked you for a job, chances are you’d come up with a convenient excuse why you weren’t hiring and politely send him on his way.
In his role as CEO of the world’s largest holding company, the Oracle of Omaha has had a few other jobs in his life, but it’s this one that has been the most rewarding for both he and his shareholders.
The 87-year-old head of Berkshire Hathaway has faced numerous calls to step down as CEO of the company but when you have as much fun as he does every day — Buffett is the largest shareholder with 17.2% of its stock — why would you want to quit?
While the octogenarian might be losing ground to youngsters like Jeff Bezos — Buffett is “only” worth $81 billion — his charitable giving makes him a champion in the eyes of most investors.
On July 16, Buffett gave $3.4 billion to Bill Gates’ foundation as well as four other foundations; to date, he’s given $31 billion to the five charities.
Jeff Bezos could learn a thing or two from Buffett about charitable giving. Not only is the Oracle of Omaha one of the most successful people in business; he’s also one of the most successful people in life.
Stay on as CEO of Berkshire Hathaway as long as you want, Warren. There won’t be another like you.
As of this writing, Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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