Earlier this month, Forbes published its annual World’s Billionaires list, which ranks the richest people around the world based on the wealth they’ve accumulated using stock prices and exchange rates as of February 2019. By no surprise, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was named no. 1 due to his staggering $131 billion net worth. However, out of the 607 Americans featured on the list, just four were black. Here’s a list of the handful of African American billionaires.
With a net worth of $3 billion, David Steward ranks as no. 745 on Forbes’ list of global billionaires. In 1990, Steward invested $250,000 that he earned from two auditing ventures to launch World Wide Technology (WWT), an IT provider that offers hardware and software products and services to large public and private customers in various sectors. Its clients include Citi, Verizon, and the U.S. government. Last year, WWT earned $11.2 billion in sales and was ranked as no. 1 on the BE100s — BLACK ENTERPRISE’s annual list of top black-owned companies in the nation. The 67-year-old business tycoon also graced the cover of BLACK ENTERPRISE in June 2001.
Steward, the chairman and majority owner of WWT, grew up during segregation in a poor neighborhood in Missouri. His father worked as a mechanic, janitor, and trash collector to provide for him and his seven siblings.
The “Queen of All Media” has accumulated a massive net worth of $2.5 billion, according to Forbes, thanks in large part to her partnership with Weight Watchers. Back in 2015, Oprah Winfrey bought a 10% stake and became an ambassador for the company. By June 2018, her stake was estimated at $427 million. Winfrey also generates revenue through several business endeavors, including ownership of the cable network OWN, Harpo Films, a multi-year content partnership deal with Apple, and her iconic talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Robert F. Smith
Robert F. Smith is the founder, chairman, and chief executive of Vista Equity Partners. His company was recognized as the top private equity firm on the BE100s last year, generating $14 billion in capital. And, with a $5 billion net worth, he is currently the richest black person in the country.
Heralded as a private equity titan and Wall Street wiz, Smith started his early life out as a computer geek working in STEM before earning a degree in chemical engineering from Cornell University. He also attended Columbia Business School and ended up serving as co-chief of the investment banking division at Goldman Sachs. Smith founded Vista Equity Partners in 2000, which focuses on investing in technology companies.
In 2013, BE named the firm BE100s Financial Services Company of the Year and Smith as one of the Most Powerful Blacks on Wall Street. Smith made a shrewd move in acquiring Sunquest Information Systems Inc., for a relative bargain price of $327 million–$200 million in equity and $127 million in debt.
In a recent transaction, a Vista Equity-acquired company, Marketo, was sold to Adobe for $4.7 billion.
Although considered the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan only made about $90 million during his stellar career in the NBA. However, thanks to lucrative endorsements, like his lifetime deal with Nike, and big investments, like his purchase of the Charlotte Hornets, he has amassed a $1.9 billion net worth.