Black Affairs, Africa and Development
Meet the 14th Century African king who was richest man in the world of all time (adjusted for inflation!)
An obscure king who ruled West Africa in the 14th century has been named the richest person in history in a new inflation-adjusted list of the world’s 25 wealthiest people of all time.
Spanning 1,000 years and with a combined fortune of $4.317trillion, only three of the list’s 25 are alive today; none of them are women and 14 of them are American.
Using the annual 2199.6per cent rate of inflation, where $100million in 1913 is equal to $2.299.63billion in 2012, Celebrity Net Worth’s list includes familiar names like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett; but sitting at number one is Mansa Musa I of Mali.
Meanwhile John D. Rockefeller, third on the list, is the richest American to have ever lived, worth $340billion in today’s USD at the time of his death in 1937.
In comparison, the poorest man on the list is 82-year-old Warren Buffett, who at his peak net worth, before he started giving his fortune to charity, was $64billion.
1. MANSA MUSA I – $400 BILLION (BORN 1280)
Mansa Musa I, the richest person in history, had a personal net worth of $400billion at the time of his death in 1331.
Born in 1280, he ruled West Africa’s Malian Empire which covered modern day Ghana, Timbuktu and Mali.
His country’s production of more than half the world’s supply of salt and gold contributed to Musa’s vast wealth, which he used to build large mosques that still stand today.
According to the writings of Arab-Egyptian scholar Al-Umari, Musa inherited his throne through a practice of appointing a deputy after the king goes on his pilgrimage to Mecca; later naming the deputy as heir.
Musa was appointed deputy of the king before him, who had reportedly embarked on an expedition to explore the limits of the Atlantic ocean, and never returned.
Just two generations after his death, however, Musa’s world record net worth was diminished after is heirs were not able to fend off civil war and invading conquerors.
2. ROTHSCHILD FAMILY – $350 BILLION (BORN 1744)
Mayer Amschel Rothschild: Thanks to this founding father of international finance, Mr Rothschild’s heirs are worth at least $350 billion
The Rothschild family, known as the House of Rothschild, are the richest people on earth today with assets that total at least $350billion.
As a European banking dynasty, of German-Jewish origin, they established European banking and finance houses starting in the late 18th century.
It all started with Mayer Amschel Rothschild, born in 1744, who developed a finance house and installed each of his five sons in five main European financial centers to conduct business, successfully spreading the family empire.
The Rothschild coat of arms contains a clenched fist with five arrows symbolizing the five dynasties established by the five sons.
The family’s wealth was divided amongst hundreds of descendants, and today, Rothschild businesses encompass the fields of mining, banks, private asset management, mixed farming, wine, and charities.
3. JOHN D ROCKEFELLER – $340 BILLION (BORN 1839)
John D. Rockefeller, third on the list, is the richest American to have ever lived. At the time of his death in 1937, he was worth $340billion in today’s dollars – he was also the first American acquire a net worth over $1billion.
John D. Rockefeller: The richest American to have ever lived was worth $340 billion in today’s dollars
In 1870, he founded the Standard Oil Company, which dominated American Oil production and his monopoly was eventually broken up by the U.S. government into smaller companies including Amoco, Chevron Conoco, and ExxonMobil.
Two years after building an oil refinery in 1863 with his business partner Maurice B. Clark, Mr Rockefeller bought him out for $72,500 and established the firm of Rockefeller & Andrews, which he said ‘determined’ his career.
He then spent the last 40 years of his life in retirement, using his fortune to create foundations that had an unparallelled effect on medicine, education, and scientific research.
In 1884, Rockefeller provided major funding for a college in Atlanta for African-American women, which became Spelman College, also giving $80million to the University of Chicago, turning the small Baptist college into a world-class institution by 1900.
It was after Standard Oil moved its headquarters to Manhattan at 26 Broadway that Mr Rockefeller became a central figure in the New York City’s community.
In 1901, he founded the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, which was instrumental in the eradication of hookworm and yellow fever, and later changed its name to Rockefeller University in 1965.
4. ANDREW CARNEGIE – $310 BILLION (BORN 1835)
Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American industrialist who led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century, made most of his fortune when he sold his Carnegie Steel Company to JP Morgan for $480million in 1901, acquiring a net worth equivalent to $310billion in today’s dollars.
After selling his company, he dedicated his time to charity, giving away the majority of his fortune during his lifetime. His final $30million was then donated after his death.
Men of the 1800’s: Andrew Carnegie (left) made sold his Carnegie Steel Company to JP Morgan for $480million in 1901; Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (right) had a net worth of $300 billion when he was abdicated in 1917
5. TSAR NICHOLAS II OF RUSSIA – $300 BILLION (BORN 1868)
Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov, also known as Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, ruled the Russian empire from 1894, until his abdication in 1917.
With a net worth of nearly $900million, which is the 2012 inflation adjusted equivalent to $300billion, Bolshevik revolutionists (a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party) murdered the Tsar and his family, overthrowing his empire in 1918.
Under his rule, he approved the Russian mobilization of August 1914, which marked the beginning of Russia’s involvement in World War I, in which 3.3 million Russians were killed.
6. MIR OSMAN ALI KHAN – $236 BILLION (BORN 1886)
The ruler of Hyderabad until the country was invaded by India, Mir Osman Ali Khan, also known as The Nizam of Hyderabad, had a personal collection of gold that was worth more than $100million and owned over $400million worth of jewels.
His famous Jacob Diamond, worth $95million today was used as a paperweight in his office. He supposedly owned more than 50 Rolls Royces.
7. WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR – $229.5 BILLION (BORN 1028)
William The Conqueror was most famous for invading and subsequently seizing England in 1066. Born in 1028, he he died in 1087 leaving an equivalent of $229.5billion to his sons.
8. MUAMMAR GADDAFI – $200 BILLION (BORN 1942)
Muammar Gaddafi: According to Celebrity Net Worth, after his capture and death in 2011, reports surfaced he had a secret net worth of $200 billion
According to Celebrity Net Worth, after his capture and death in 2011, reports surfaced that Muammar Gaddafi had a secret net worth of $200 billion.
In the months surrounding his death, nearly $70billion in cash was seized in foreign bank accounts and real estate, his assets frozen.
One of the assets Gaddafi owned was an Airbus A340 private jet, which he bought from Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia for $120million in 2003.
The plane was captured at Tripoli airport in August 2011 as a result of the Libyan civil war, and found by BBC News reporter John Simpson to contain various luxuries including a jacuzzi.
A year prior to acquiring the private jet, Gaddafi purchased a 7.5per cent share of Italian football club Juventus for US$21million.
Nine years later on 25 February, 2011, Britain’s Treasury traced Gaddafi’s assets in Britain after he allegedly worked for years with Swiss banks to launder international banking transactions.
In November 2011, The Sunday Times identified property worth £1 billion in the UK that Gaddafi owned.
9. HENRY FORD – $199 BILLION (BORN 1863)
Henry Ford, founder of the iconic Ford Motor Company, also helped to develop the assembly line technique of mass production.
Although Mr Ford did not invent the automobile, he developed and manufactured the first car that middle class Americans could afford to buy, revolutionizing the U.S. transportation industry; and credited with Fordism: mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers.
At the time of death in 1947, Mr Ford had accumulated a net worth equivalent to $199billion dollars in 2012. While he left most of his vast wealth to the Ford Foundation, his family continues to control the company.
Henry Ford: Pictured with Thomas Edison in his iconic Model T, Mr Ford accumulated a net worth equivalent in 2012 to $199 billion dollars
10. CORNELIUS VANDERBILT – $185 BILLION (BORN 1794)
Better known as the great-great-great-grandfather of CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Cornelius Vanderbilt, born in 1794, is the third richest American to ever live.
Cornelius Vanderbilt: The great-great-great-grandfather of CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Mr Vanderbilt is the third richest American to ever live
Making his first fortune in the steamboat industry, his wealth exploded through his investments in railroads at the age of 70. At his death in 1877, his estate was worth the equivalent of $185billion.
Mr Vanderbilt began working on his father’s ferry in New York Harbor as a boy, quitting school at the age of 11. Eight years later, the 19-year-old married his first cousin, Sophia Johnson, and together they had 13 children.
By the end of 1820, Mr Vanderbilt dominated the steamboat business, and began to take over the management of New York’s connecting railroads, also buying large amounts of real estate in Manhattan and Staten Island, taking over the Staten Island Ferry in 1838.
During the 1850s, he served on the boards of directors of the Erie Railway, the Central Railroad of New Jersey, the Hartford and New Haven, and the Harlem and in 1869, he directed the Harlem to begin construction of the Grand Central Depot on 42nd Street in Manhattan, later to become Grand Central Station.
His legacy lives on in his family’s long lineage of prominent public figures. For example, Gloria Vanderbilt, his great-great-granddaughter, is also Anderson Cooper’s mother.
Born in 1924, she went on to become an American artist, author, actress, heiress, and socialite, most noted as an early developer of designer blue jeans.
11. ALAN RUFUS – $178.65 BILLION (BORN 1040)
Alan Rufus was the military companion of William The Conqueror, the list’s seventh richest person to ever live.
For his efforts in fighting with William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, in the Battle of Hastings, Mr Rufus was given 250,000 acres of land in England, which at the time was worth the equivalent to $178.65billion.
12. BILL GATES – $136 BILLION (BORN 1955)
While Bill Gates is currently the second richest person alive with a net worth of $62.5billion, at his peek in 1999, Mr Gates’ Microsoft stock soared, giving him a net worth equal to $136billion in today’s dollars.
The former chief executive and current chairman of Microsoft, the world’s largest personal-computer software company, remains the largest individual shareholder, with 6.4per cent of the common stock.
Mr Gates has pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors, donating large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, established in 2000 after he stepped down as Microsoft’s CEO that same year.
Bill Gates: Pictured left in 1984, Mr Gates is the second richest person alive with a current net worth of $62.5billion; at his peek in 1999 (right) , Mr Gates’ Microsoft stock gave him a net worth equal to $136billion
13. WILLIAM DE WARENNE – $146.13 BILLION (BIRTH UNKNOWN)
An English military leader and nobleman, William de Warenne, the first Earl of Surey, was also awarded large grants of land for his service during the battle of Hastings. At his death in 1088, his land was worth the equivalent of $146.13billion.
14. JOHN JACOB ASTOR – $121 BILLION (BORN 1763)
John Jacob Astor made his first million by trading furs from Canada to wealthy women in New York City, using his money to acquire some of Manhattan’s most sought after real estate, with a net worth equivalent to $121billion when he died in 1848.
Mr Astor began buying land in New York in 1779 and acquired sizable holdings along the waterfront. In 1803 he bought a 70 acre farm that ran west of Broadway to the Hudson river between 42nd and 46th streets.
And in the 1830s, he withdrew from the American Fur Company, using that money to buy and develop large tracts of Manhattan real estate.
Predicting the rapid growth northward on Manhattan Island, Astor purchased vast amounts of land beyond the current city limits. However instead of building on his land, he rented it.
In his will, he left $400,000 to build the Astor Library for the New York public, which was later consolidated with other libraries to form New York Public Library, and $50,000 for a poorhouse and orphanage in his German hometown, Walldorf.
15. RICHARD FITZALAN – $118.6 BILLION (BORN 1306)
This prominent English nobleman and land owner, also known as the 10th Earl of Arundel, Richard Fitzalan had a net worth equivalent to $118.6billion at the time of his death in 1376.
16. JOHN OF GAUNT – $110 BILLION (BORN 1340)
The third surviving son of England’s King Edward III, John of Gaunt was English King Richard II’s Regent and had a net worth equal to $110billion in today’s dollars because of very generous land grants.
17. STEPHEN GIRARD – $105 BILLION (BORN 1750)
French born shipping and banking mogul Stephen Girard died with the equivalent of $105billion in 1831, in his adopted home of Philadelphia.
He personally saved the U.S. government from financial collapse during the War of 1812, and became one of the wealthiest men in America. With no children, he left the bulk of his estate to charity, particularly in the education and welfare of orphans.
His father was a sea captain, and when they visited California in 1774, they began to amass a great fortune through trade to and from New Orleans and Port au Prince, two years later settling in Philadelphia.
In 1793, during an outbreak of yellow fever in Philadelphia. Mr Girard stayed to care for the sick and dying while many well-moneyed citizens fled.
After the charter for the First Bank of the United States expired in 1811, Mr Girard purchased most of its stock as well as the building and its furnishings on South Third Street in Philadelphia and opened his own bank with seven other employees in 1812 – becoming a principal source of government credit during the War of 1812.
Towards the end of the war, when the financial credit of the U.S. government was at its lowest, Mr Girard underwrote up to 95 percent of the war loan issue, which enabled the U.S. to carry on the war.
Girard Bank merged with Mellon Bank in 1983, and was largely sold to Citizens Bank two decades later, its headquarters still standing at Broad and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia.
18. ALEXANDER TURNEY STEWART – $90 BILLION (BORN 1803)
In 1823, Alexander Turney Stewart arrived in the U.S. from Ireland and created the world’s largest department store at the time, becoming the developer of mail-order shopping. When he died in 1876 he was worth the equivalent of $90billion.
After returning to Ireland to receive the money his grandfather had left him, between $5,000 to $10,000, Mr Turney Stewart opened a New York dry-foods store and by 1848 he had built the largest retail store in the world at that time on Broadway between Chambers Street and Reade Street.
‘He created the world’s largest department store at the time, becoming the developer of mail-order shopping’
A.T. Stewart & Co. had branches in different parts of the world and owned several mills and factories, with Mr Turney Stewart amassing an estimated annual income of $1million in 1869.
His flagship store offered imported European women’s clothing, and its second floor offered the first women’s ‘fashion shows’. A.T Stewart & Company also allowed women across America to purchase and order items from his wholesale department store – and mail order shopping was born.
In 1868, Stewart began receiving letters from women in rural parts of the U.S. requesting his merchandise, to which Mr Turney Stewart replied and sent out the requests, even paying postage. Once received, women would send back the money needed to pay for their orders.
By 1876, he profited over $500,000 from the mailing business alone, and other retailers like Sears, Montgomery Ward and Spiegel’s quickly followed suit.
Out of the twenty-four clerks who entered A.T Stewart & Company in 1836, six still worked for the company in 1876, and Mr Turney Stewart left them more than $250,000 (equivalent to $5,036,719 in 2009) in his will.
19. HENRY DUKE OF LANCASTER – $85.1 BILLION (BORN 1301)
Henry Duke of Lancaster was an English nobleman who lived from 1310 to 1361 and acquired a net worth equivalent to $85.1billion in modern dollars.
20. FRIEDRICH WEYERHAUSER – $80 BILLION (BORN 1834)
Friedrich Weyerhauser made his first fortune in the timber business, buying enough land to make him the largest private land owner in America. When he died in 1914, his estate was worth the equivalent of $80billion in 2012 dollars.
21. JAY GOULD – $71 BILLION (BORN 1836)
Jay Gould was Cornelius Vanderbilt’s public enemy, the infamous railroad king amassing $71billion by the time of his death in 1892.
Known as the epitome of a ‘robber baron,’ the pejorative term used for a powerful 19th century American businessman who used questionable practices to amass their wealth, Condé Nast Portfolio ranked Mr Gould as the eight worst American CEO of all time in 2009.
These ‘questionable practices’ usually included selling products at extremely low prices (paying their workers very poorly to do so); buying out competitors that couldn’t keep up to secure a monopoly, before hiking prices far above the original level.
‘The railroad king was Cornelius Vanderbilt’s public enemy, amassing $71 billion by 1892’
In August 1869, Mr Gould allegedly began to buy gold in an attempt to corner the market, hoping that its price increase would in turn increase the price of wheat, causing the amount of bread stuffs shipped eastward to double – increasing freight business for the Erie railroad.
These speculations in gold culminated in the panic of Black Friday, on September 24, 1869, when the premium over face value on a gold Double Eagle fell from 62per cent to 35per cent.
Mr Gould made a nominal profit from this operation, but established his reputation in the press as an all-powerful figure who could drive the market up and down at will.
22. CARLOS SLIM – $68 BILLION (BORN 1940)
Mexican business mogul Carlos Slim Helu is the richest living person today, with a current net worth of $68billion ($5.2billion more than Bill Gates, today).
Presently he is the chairman and chief executive of telecommunications companies Telmex and América Móvil, which in 2010 was Latin America’s largest mobile-phone carrier, accounting for approximetly US$49 billion of Mr Slim’s wealth.
At the age of 12, with the help of his father, Mr Slim bought shares in a Mexican bank. At the age of 17, in 1957, he earned 200 pesos a week working for his father’s dry-food store company.
Slowly, by focusing on construction, real estate and mining businesses, as of 1972 he had established seven businesses in these categories, including one which rented construction equipment.
In 1976, he formed Grupo Galas as the parent company that had interests in construction, mining, retail, food, and tobacco. Fast forward to 2006, Mr Slims licensed the Saks name and opened Saks Fifth Avenue in Santa Fe, Mexico. The following year saw him take a 6.4per cent stake in The New York Times Company.
His ever-growing fortune, amassed in a developing country where per capita income does not surpass $14,500 per year, and nearly 17per cent of the population lives in poverty, has caused controversy.
Critics claim that Mr Slim is a monopolist, pointing to Telmex’s control of 90per cent of the Mexican landline telephone market, which charges among the highest usage fees in the world, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
22. STEPHEN VAN RENSSELAER – $68 BILLION (BORN 1764)
Stephen van Rensselaer’s family owned much of what would become New York State, including Manhattan.
Born in 1764, to Catharina Livingston, the daughter of Philip Livingston, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Mr van Rensselaer inherited the 1,200 square mile estate from his father when he turned 21.
Later becoming Lieutenant Governor of New York, Mr van Rensselaer granted the 3,000 tenants of his land perpetual leases at moderate rates, which saved them from having to pay all of their money up front.
‘As Lieutenant Governor of New York, he voted to extend suffrage and advocated a canal from the Hudson River to the Great Lakes’
Farmer’s, who did not have to work in fear of sudden foreclosure or unfair treatment, were able to invest more in their operations and focus on their work, leading to increased productivity in the entire Albany area.
Mr van Rensselaer, over his time in politics voted in favour of extending suffrage, going against much of New York’s upper class in doing so.
He was one of the first to advocate a canal from the Hudson River to the Great Lakes and was appointed a commission to investigate the route in 1810.
His eldest son, also named Stephen, inherited the manor in 1839 by his father’s will. However during the anti-rent troubles in 1839 he sold his townships, and at his death the manor passed out of the hands of his descendants.
23. MARSHALL FIELD – $66 BILLION (BORN 1834)
The founder of Marshall Field and Company, a Chicago-based department stores, real estate mogul Marshall Field was worth $66 billion, inflation adjusted, at the time of his death in 1906.
Mr Field and New York’s John D. Rockefeller, together founded The University of Chicago to rival nearby Evanston’s Northwestern University.
24. SAM WALTON – $65 BILLION (BORN 1918)
Sam Walton, the man who gave America Walmart, had a net worth of $65billion at the time of his death in 1992, which he left to his widow and three children.
Ten years later, the total value of that stock split among his heirs has grown to over $100 billion.
After leaving the military at age 26 in 1945, Mr Walton took over the management a variety store. A few years later, with the help of a $20,000 loan from his father-in-law, plus $5,000 savings from his time in the army, Mr Walton purchased his first Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Arkansas.
Less than 20 years later, Mr Walton opened the first true Wal-Mart in Rogers, Arkansas, which was called the Wal-Mart Discount City store.
He launched a determined effort to market American-made products, often finding American manufacturers who could supply merchandise for the entire Wal-Mart chain at a price low enough to meet the foreign competition.
25. WARREN BUFFETT – $64 BILLION (BORN 1930)
Warren Buffett, widely considered the most successful investor of the 20th century, had a peak net worth of $64billion before he started giving all his money to charity.
Warren Buffett: Widely considered the most successful investor of the 20th century, he had a peak net worth of $64billion
The 82-year-old is the primary shareholder, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, ranked as the world’s wealthiest (living) person in 2008 by Forbes, and as the third wealthiest person in 2011.
While still in high school, Mr Buffett made his money by delivering newspapers, selling golf balls and stamps, and detailing cars.
In 1945, in his sophomore year of high school, Mr Buffett purchased a used pinball machine with a friend, which they placed in their local barber shop. Within months, the pair owned several machines in different barber shops.
By 1950, at the age of 20, Mr Buffett had saved $9,800 (nearly $94,000, inflation adjusted, for 2012), and in 1956, through investments, his personal savings were over $174,000 ($1.47 million inflation adjusted to 2012).
Pledging his fortune to charity, Mr Buffett’s children will not inherit a significant proportion of his wealth. He once commented: ‘I want to give my kids just enough so that they would feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they would feel like doing nothing’.
In 2010, Mr Buffett, Bill Gates, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, signed a promise they called the ‘Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge’, in which they promised to donate to charity at least half of their wealth over time, and invited other wealthy elite to donate 50per cent or more of their wealth to charity.