Path to extreme wealth

With the recent release of the world’s most wealthy people, I have made a new realization. In the top 20, only one person, Lakshmi Mittal, is really in manufacturing (Steel). The top one (Bill Gates), along with the usual suspects Larry Ellison and Paul Allen, is in software. A few were in investments. Surprisingly, quite a few made their wealth through the management of channels, such as the supermarket Aldi, furniture retail Ikea, luxury goods LVMH, cosmetics L’Oreal, and retail Hennes & Mauritz. A surprising absentee is the Walmart family (probably because after their inheritance, it’s more diluted.

This is the top 20. Obtained from Forbes

1 William Gates III (Software, Microsoft)
2 Warren Buffett (Investment, Berkshire Hathaway)
3 Carlos Slim Helú (Telecom)
4 Ingvar Kamprad (Retail, Ikea)
5 Lakshmi Mittal (Manufacturing, steel)
6 Sheldon Adelson (Gambling/Leisure, Casinos & Hotels)
7 Bernard Arnault (Luxury Goods, LVMH)
8 Amancio Ortega (Fashion, Zara)
9 Li Ka-shing (Investment)
10 David Thomson (Inherited, Media)
11 Larry Ellison (Software, Oracle)
12 Liliane Bettencourt (Cosmetics, L’Oreal)
13 Prince Alwaleed (Investmet)
14 Mukesh Ambani (Inherited, Investments, Petrochemicals, Reliance Industries)
15 Karl Albrecht (Retail, Aldi)
16 Roman Abramovich (Oil)
17 Stefan Persson (Retail, Hennes & Mauritz)
18 Anil Ambani (Inherited, Investments, Petrochemicals)
19 Paul Allen (Software, Microsoft)
20 Theo Albrecht (Retail, Aldi)

Long gone are the days of the industrialist who operates chimneyed factories (I suspect some one had already proclaimed this earlier last century). Entrepreneurs who invest heavily in manufacturing are only managed and controlled by entrepreneurs who invest in channel management.

Some regions of the world pride themselves with their manufacturing prowess. Many here in Taiwan and China have made their wealth in producing items that are to be sold in market places like Walmart and Ikea. Many people are busy spending their days refining their skills in manufacturing, such as costing-down, researching and development, and even designing. In the whole scheme of things, this is almost like a poor third world artisan finessing his skills in making a handicraft. He is content with the income that he earns from selling his product, but he doesn’t know that his employer sells it for a even larger profit. The truly smart controls the resources, and manages the channels. In today’s world, this means controlling oil, raw materials, and managing retail stores. The truly smart maximizes the number of people working for him, while minimizing his own work load. This is the path to become extremely rich.

Another surprising trend to be observed is on the the age ranking. The youngest people who made the list mostly just inherited their wealth. However, those few who are self-made, made it mostly via the internet. The most obvious heroes were the Google heroes Brin and Page. And, further down the list, there were a few who made it via online gambling and other .

My conclusion is that what we are seeing is a trend of wealth being generated from the abstract rather than from the physicals, such as the management of channels and the controlling of scarce resources. Also, to make it big while you are young, you should do battle on the internet front (but I guess many already realized this).

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