In today’s day and age, it seems as if everyone who’s got a bit of cash to splash, wants to do just that, and wants to shove their cash in your face so you know that they’ve got money to burn. Sure, these big spenders have the means to do so, but that doesn’t stop their spending habits pissing a lot of people off; whether it’s jealously, or indignation, celebs who flaunt their cash generally aren’t as popular as they think they are, and they tend to have a lot of haters. A lot of these people tend to be rich folk who are already in the public eye – they have big bank accounts and big personalities to match, so when they go on spending sprees, buy fancy cars and massive houses, we tend to hear about it.
But there are plenty of rich people – not just rich, super-wealthy individuals – who are living on this planet who go about their business quietly, acquire their vast sums of wealth, and choose to make wise investments, not flash the cash and waste their fortunes on frivolous things. In fact, some of the wealthiest people on the planet are on this list, and if you met them in person or spent a day tailing them and living their lifestyles, you’d probably have no clue just how rich they really are. They’re humble, down to earth characters, and if they had it their way, would love to stay invisible from society, but sorry folks, you’re getting a mention in this article. Here it is, 15 rich individuals who have lived their lives being stealthy wealthy, men and women who’ve got it, but choose not to flaunt it.
15 Susanne Klatten
Susanne Klatten has a net worth of $21.6bn, is the richest woman in Germany by a pretty fair distance, and is currently the 38th richest person in the world, but I’m pretty certain not many of you have ever heard her name or have a clue who she is.
She acquired her billions when her dad passed away; his 50.1% stake in the pharmaceutical and chemicals manufacturer, Altana, became hers, as did his 12.50% stake in BMW. She also owns stakes in various other companies, and has earned a vast sum of wealth herself, working in banking and finance, doing pretty conventional jobs for a billionaire. Susanne, of course, didn’t work in banking out of necessity; she enjoyed her job and wanted to fit in with her colleagues, hence she didn’t reveal her billionaire status, because that would have inevitably have caused people to treat her differently. In fact, she went to pretty great lengths to ensure people wouldn’t find out about her wealth, and so they wouldn’t make the connection between her and her father, she actually worked incognito for the majority of her working life under the name Susanne Kant.
14 Mukesh Ambani
Mukesh Ambani is the richest person in India with a net worth of $30.7bn. The business magnate is associated with a ton of different companies in the subcontinent, through his company Reliance Industries Limited, which dabbles in different things, meaning Mukesh has his hands in many different pies and has acquired his wealth through different means. He’s been India’s richest man for the last decade with no one coming close to knocking him off the top spot, and is one of the world’s most influential people. Because of the companies he owns through Reliance, pretty much everyone in India has heard of the name Mukesh Ambani. But having said that, he’s not one to bask in the limelight. He prefers to leave the public appearances to his wife and kids, and they’re often seen in place of Mukesh, representing him at various functions, events and soirees. Mukesh earns his cash and stays in the background, so much so that his family and not him have become the faces of his businesses.
13 Vladimir Kim
Kazakhstan businessman and billionaire, Vladimir Kim, is an executive chairman of copper producer Kazakhmys. The company was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2005, and that’s when Kim bought even more shares, expanding his stake in the company, which meant that he began raking in even more cash.
Aside from his dealings in copper production, Kim also holds a stake in a mining company, owning 33% of KAZ Minerals. This has cemented his place as the wealthiest person in Kazakhstan, in the whole of the post-Soviet republics outside of Russia for that matter, and it’s all due his hard work, dedication, and also making shrewd business decisions, being in the right place and doing the right things at the right time.
Kim’s a workaholic, that’s how people see him. Very few things have been said about his private life, and that’s because he likes to keep it under wraps and so we don’t know a whole lot about what he gets up to when he’s not in the office.
12 Peter Buck
Peter Buck’s getting on a bit now, he’s 86, and although he’s still one of the wealthiest individuals on the planet and has continued to rake in the cash, he’s begun to take things easy – it’s safe to say he won’t be out and about speed racing in fancy cars any time soon!
A lot of you have probably never heard of Peter Buck, but most of you have certainly visited his creation. He’s responsible for co-founding the Subway fast food chain restaurants, a chain that’s become popular throughout the world, earning Peter megabucks in the process. Before Subway, his sandwich shops were actually called Pete's Subway, but his family friend got involved in the business and so they decided to ditch the "Pete." It’s just as well they did, because it meant when it started to take off, Peter could stay in the background and look after its operations from afar, which he does to this day as he still owns half the company.
11 Allan Wong
Vtech Holdings is an electrical toymaker company and supplies toys and a number of other electronic products to kids and schools around the world. It also expanded its operations, providing a host of other electronic manufacturing services, becoming one of the top providers of such services in the world. Initially, the company’s primary focus was on developing video games; a home video game console was their first product, and it’s all thanks to Allan Wong and his co-founder. They set up a factory and then went about building their own brand which they’ve turned into a billion dollar business.
Wong’s just added to his wealth since his Vtech days. He’s deputy chairman of the Bank of East Asia and holds a number of other influential positions, including as the non-executive director of Li and Fung, a global supply chain manager for various western brands. All of this has meant Wong’s worth $1.46bn, but meet him, and you’d think he was just another regular guy – there’s nothing flashy about this man and the way he leads his life.
10 Axel Oberwelland
German billionaire businessman Axel Oberwelland is the man at the helm of one of the biggest confectionery manufacturers on the planet. Chances are if you’re into your sweets, you’ve had some of Axel’s creations.
He owns the candy producer August Storck, which is based out of Berlin. You probably haven’t heard of the company, but you’re sure to have heard of or had some of the sweets it’s responsible for, favorites such as Werther’s Original, Riesen, and Toffiffee. The company was founded in 1903, obviously not by Axel, but by his family, and when his dad died in 2005, he inherited $3.9bn, making Axel a candy billionaire, and he subsequently went on to make his family’s company a European candy giant. Since Axel's been in charge, the company’s grown considerably, but Axel still likes to keep himself in the background, pulling strings from afar, and it’s certainly paid dividends for his net worth which has skyrocketed to $4.6bn.
9 John Sall
John Sall has earned his fortune as a software developer and he began putting his skills to good use with a bunch of others right out of university. He co-founded SAS Institute, which is an analytics software company, and then down the line he went on to develop various other types of statistical computing software, such as JMP statistical software, which in a way, means he’s responsible for pioneering certain aspects of computer analytics. It’s a pretty niche specialty but one that had a huge effect and many uses, and consequently, John’s been raking in the cash making him worth an estimated $4.8bn. He currently owns a third of SAS, and sits on advisory boards of various other committees, lending his expertise in the field of computer software developing, writing scripts, coding etc.
It sounds harsh, but John’s your stereotypical software developer, not exactly geeky, but he’s still got that look, the look of a guy who’s extremely passionate about his work and that’s it. The fancy lifestyle isn’t for him; instead he spends his cash on ensuring his employees enjoy as nice a time as possible, a terrific working environment – we know more about the perks of being an employee of his company than about the perks John enjoys due to his billionaire status.
8 James Leprino
Here’s another billionaire businessman who you’ve probably never heard of, but who’s company’s products you’ve probably eaten at some point, on a pizza, in some salad, or on top of some pasta. I’m talking about mozzarella cheese; chances are if you’ve had mozzarella before, anywhere in the world, James Leprino’s cheese making company would’ve been responsible for it.
His is a true rags to riches story, but even now he’s earning $3.1bn, he hasn’t let the success go to his head and he’s kept his feet firmly planted on the ground. After being born in America to Italian immigrants, James wanted to make something of himself and so got involved in something Italians are passionate about: food. He’s now Chairman and CEO of Leprino, and has factories around the world, making him the king of mozzarella. But the king is a pretty illusive figure who loves his privacy, so much so that there are barely any pictures of him doing anything, but trust me, he does exist and he’s still alive and kicking, continuing to rake in the cash from his position of power.
7 Takemitsu Takizaki
This is another guy who’s made his billions through technology, through finding a niche in the market and then filling it, making a ton of cash in the process. What Takizaki’s responsible for has a global influence in pretty much all things that are electronic. He founded a company called Keyence, that’s responsible for developing and manufacturing a range of different things, from barcode readers, laser markers, measuring instruments to digital microscopes and many more. The company focuses more on product planning and development, and is based in Japan where it’s rated as one of the "Top Ten Most Excellent Companies in Japan."
Takizaki’s still on the board of directors and owns a 25% stake in the company, making his net worth to be in the region of $12.8bn, but if you didn’t know him personally chances are you wouldn’t have a clue this technology giant had billionaire status. He’s another guy who’s pretty illusive, doesn’t like to be in the limelight, isn’t fond of having his picture taken or giving interviews, but this certainly hasn’t hindered him as he’s gone about accumulating his fortune.
6 David Murdock
David Murdock is 94 going on 24; it’s truly remarkable the thirst he has for life, making money and dedicating himself, his time, and his cash to good causes. Over the years, he’s been involved in a ton of different things, has made some shrewd financial decisions, but he’s acquired most of his cash as the Chairman and CEO of Dole Food Company, the world's largest marketer of fruits and vegetables. No wonder, with pretty much an endless supply of fruits and veggies, David’s into healthy eating and is still going strong well into his 90s.
David is one of these guys that doesn’t flash the cash and he never really has. He’s not into the fancy lifestyle, living a life of luxury, and isn’t too fond of conducting interviews about business or his wealth. He does step in front of the cameras to discuss the charitable causes he’s involved in though, and is today more into giving away large portions of his $3bn as an avid philanthropist.
5 Bradley Hughes
Self-made billionaire Bradley Hughes, made his $3.1bn after turning a pretty simple concept into reality, and reaping the rewards. Back in the 1970s, he witnessed a warehouse that was being used for storage, turning people away, and thought he could do something with this, he could get all these people who needed storage space to go with him instead. So, he bought warehouse space and turned it into a storage facility. It’s now a publicly-traded firm and has become the biggest self-storage company in the world. His company has facilities in many different locations around the world, in Europe and the U.S. and although stock has decreased drastically over the past few years, he’s still continuing to rake in the dough.
Bradley’s only luxury has been his thoroughbred racehorses which he owns and raises. Aside from that, meet Bradley and you wouldn’t have the foggiest he’s rich. He’s heavily into philanthropy, donates to worthwhile causes, but aside from these philanthropic efforts, he keeps a low profile.
4 Birgit Rausing
Birgit Rausing and her kids became billionaires when Birgit’s husband died in 2000. Upon his death, they ended up inheriting US$13 bn, making Birgit the third wealthiest person in Sweden at the time. Her husband himself inherited his cash; his dad founded Tetra Pak, which became a billion-dollar company when it came out with its new aseptic packaging technology, revolutionizing the way milk and juice drinks are packaged, without the need for refrigeration.
Birgit’s sons are actively involved in the company’s operations, and hold positions sitting on Tetra Laval's board. But Birgit herself is an elusive figure; from time to time she makes appearances to get involved with some charitable cause or another, but aside from that, she’s not actively involved in any aspect of Tetra Pak. She’s made a concerted effort to keep a low profile over the years, as have her kids, which is perhaps due to the attempted kidnapping of Brigit’s son in 1989.
3 Zhang Li
After starting out as an industrial worker, Zhang Li then had a stint working for the local government before becoming a hotel manager – a pretty varied work history. But it’s when he decided to enter the construction industry that things really took off. He developed his own business and then began investing heavily in real estate, but his smart move was getting involved with business dealings and opportunities that came about because of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
His business, which he founded with fellow Hong Kong billionaire Li Sze Lim, Guangzhou R&F, is one of the biggest property development companies in the world, snapping up properties all over the place to add to their already considerable portfolio.
Zhang started off small and he likes to keep things that way. His humble beginnings have kept his feet firmly on the ground, despite him being one of the wealthiest people in China.
2 Charles Koch
This guy’s not just a big fish, he’s a whale in terms of his finances, a guy whose net worth of $48.7bn dwarfs other billionaires in comparison. He’s co-owner, chairman of the board, and chief executive officer of Koch Industries, a company which began life as an oil refining company, but later expanded and is now involved in many different areas of trading, manufacturing, and investments.
Charles Koch has trodden a notoriously secretive path as he’s gone about amassing his billions; it’s only when he became really rich did people begin giving the guy attention, and even then it was more for his philanthropy than any of his business dealings. Charles speaks out only when it comes to politics and philanthropy – aside from that he’s a pretty elusive figure. Sure, he’s in his 80s now, but he’s always been like that, not what you’d expect from an oil billionaire who has a ton of influence over, well, pretty much everything.
1 Mark Zuckerberg
This is one guy who you’ve most definitely heard of. When Mark Zuckerberg launched the global phenomenon that is the social media site Facebook from his university dorm room, little did he know that under a decade later he’d become a billionaire. That would be any young person’s dream, to have that amount of cash in your bank account when you’re in your 20s; most would do the usual thing that young rich people do nowadays, buy the fancy cars, designer jewellery and just splash the cash around for frivolous things. But Mark, with his net worth of US$55.9bn, couldn’t be more different from that stereotypical rich person persona. Always seen in that customary grey t-shirt, Mark doesn’t eat at fancy restaurants and instead is regularly spotted eating McDonalds, he drives a black Volkswagen GTI (costs around $30,000), and amazingly gives himself a whopping salary of… $1 a year. He’s been described as the poorest richest person on the planet, and that’s just the type of life Mark wants to lead, the life he loves.