Ten rags to riches billionaires

It's not always easy on the way up


Making your way to the top isn't always easy, and these well known faces know exactly how hard it can be.

Find out how these celebrities made their fortune, turning their lives from rags to riches.

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Oprah Winfrey


It's estimated that the talk-show host has a net worth of $2.9 billion, but she came from humble beginnings. She initially grew up with her grandmother in Mississippi where she had to wear potato sacks because they couldn't afford clothes. She later lived with her mother in Milwaukee, before moving to Nashville to live with her father, where her career started. Before the age of 20 she became the first black female news anchor on Nashville's WLAC-TV. She moved to Chicago at 29 to work on a talk show that later became 'The Oprah Winfrey Show'. Winfrey was placed second on 2016's Forbes list of 'America's Richest Self-Made Women'.


Chuck Feeney

Feeney grew up in a modest family in New Jersey during the Great Depression. He started his career selling duty-free liquor to US naval personnel at Mediterranean ports in the 1950s. He later made his billions as a co-founder of the Duty Free Shoppers Group which pioneered the concept of duty-free shopping. Feeney never desired to keep his fortune and gave it away in secret until his identity was revealed after a business dispute in 1997. It's estimated that over the course of his life he has given away more than $8 billion.


Mohed Altrad

From Bedouin tribe member to businessman, Mohed Altrad's success story is like no other. His mother died during childbirth and he was left in the care of his grandmother - she banned him from attending school, believing he was destined to be a shepherd. He went to school anyway, excelled in exams and later moved to France to go to university. He got a PhD in computer science, worked for some major French companies and saved enough money to buy a failing scaffolding company. He transformed the company into a world leader in scaffolding and cement mixers and currently has a net worth of $8 billion.


Do Won & Jin Sook Chang

Chang moved from South Korea to California with his wife in 1981 - once they arrived he juggled three jobs to try and save money. After three years of hard work the couple pooled their $11,000 savings and opened the small fashion shop Fashion 21 in LA. The store hit $700,000 in its first year and was so popular the couple opened a new shop every six months and changed its name to Forever 21. Now an international 790 store empire, the combined net worth of the couple is $3 billion.


Larry Ellison

Ellison was adopted as a child but only found this out at the age of 12. He dropped out of college twice before moving to California and working odd jobs for the next eight years. He later became a self-taught computer programmer and founded his own company, Software Development Labs, in 1977. By 1986 the Oracle Relational Database had gone public and its first customer was the CIA. It became the most popular database ever sold and Ellison's current net worth is around $48.7 billion.


Howard Schultz

The Starbucks CEO was the first in his family to graduate from college, having arrived there thanks to an athletic scholarship. Following graduation he went to work for Xerox and was promoted to a full sales representative. He joined Starbucks as a Director of Marketing in 1982 when the chain only had 60 shops. Five years later, after leaving the company to set up his own coffee shop, the original Starbucks management sold its retail unit to Schultz for $3.8 million. Schultz changed the name of his own coffee shop, Il Giornale, to Starbucks and expanded to more than 24,000 outlets worldwide. His net worth is now a staggering $3 billion.


Leonardo Del Vecchio

Del Vecchio was born in Milan to a very poor family - his father died before he was born and his mother gave him to an orphanage shortly after his birth. He later worked in a factory make moulds of auto parts and glasses frames. At the age of 23 Del Vecchio opened his own molding shop which expanded to become the world's largest maker of sunglasses and prescription eyewear. According to Forbes he's the second richest man in Italy with a net worth of $18.7 billion.


Roman Abramovich

The multi-billionaire business tycoon and Chelsea Football Club owner had a tough start in life. He was orphaned at the age of two and was then raised by his uncle in subarctic north Russia. Abramovich started a small company producing plastic toys in 1987 which eventually helped him found an oil business. He later merged with the fourth biggest oil company in the world. The company was sold to state-run Gazprom in 2005 for $13 billion. Abramovich now has a net worth of $8.5 billion.


George Soros

Soros was just 13 when the Nazis invaded Hungary - with the help of his parents, Soros posed as the godson of a Hungarian Minister of Agriculture to stay safe during the occupation. He escaped to live with relatives in London in 1947 and put himself through the London School of Economics while working as a waiter and railway porter. He then started work as a banker in New York. In 1991 his famous bet against the British pound during a currency crisis in the UK made him a profit of $1 billion and his bet ultimately cost the country $4.1 billion. His current net worth is almost $25 billion.


JK Rowling

Although she is now estimated to be worth around $1 billion, JK Rowling's journey wasn't easy. In the early 1990s she was a single parent living on benefits in Edinburgh. After writing Harry Potter she was rejected by 12 different publishing houses, but finally accepted by Bloomsbury in London. The initial print for the first book was for just 1,000 copies. The franchise is now worth an estimated $25 billion.

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