Black billionaires

Black billionaires

:"This article refers to actual or incipient billionaires (as measured by U.S. dollars) who have some degree of black ancestry. Not everyone in this article is considered black by all definitions. According to the 2008 Forbes International Billionaire List, Aliko Dangote, with a net worth of $3.3 billion is the richest black person in the world, overtaking Oprah Winfrey who was listed as the only black billionaire for three straight years. Oprah is the second richest with $2.7 billion. [] South African gold magnate, Patrice Motsepe, was also listed with a net worth of $2.4 billion. Aliko Dangote and Motsepe are the first black Africans to ever appear on the Forbes international rich list, [ [ World's Billionaires - ] ] however, Mobutu, the Congolese president, and Sani Abacha, the Nigerian military leader, were probably billionaires when they were alive but Forbes could never confirm this (according to Forbes magazine's Kerry Dolan). [cite web | url= | title=Billionaires 2000: The World's Richest People | author=Kerry Dolan | date=2000-06-19 | publisher=Forbes | accessdate=2006-05-11]

From 2001-2003, Forbes listed Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson as a billionaire [cite news | url= | title=The Cable Capitalist | author=Brett Pulley | date=2001-10-08 | publisher=Forbes | accessdate=2006-05-11] , but dropped him after his fortune was split in his divorce from his wife Sheila. [cite news | url= | title= Billionaires' ranks open to 'Harry Potter' author | author=Michael P. Regan | date=2004-02-27 | accessdate=2006-05-11 | publisher=Arizona Daily Star] He returned to Forbes international rich list in 2007 with a net worth of $1.1 billion USD. In 2008 Johnson's wealth dropped further to approximately $1.0 billion USD even. [ [ World's Billionaires - ] ]

Afro-multiracial billionaires have also been identified. Forbes international richest list includes Michael Lee-Chin of Canada, who is of Chinese and Jamaican ancestry. Saudi-Arabian billionaire Mohammed Al Amoudi has black ancestry because his mother is from Ethiopia, but rich lists classify him as Arab. [ [ The World's 50 Richest Arabs] (Arabian Business)] . Also included is Mo Ibrahim, a British billionaire of Sudanese Nubian ancestry [ [ East African Business Week - Celtel’s Mo Ibrahim passes on mantle to Lord Cairns ] ] .


*"It should be noted that Forbes recently estimated Winfrey's worth to be $2.5 billion in their U.S. rich list, however the chart above is based on the international rich list which won't be updated until March 2008."

Current trends

Peoples of predominantly sub-Saharan ancestry constitute 8% of the world’s population [cite web | url = | title = The Origin of Races | first = Bert | last = Thompson | publisher = Apologetics Press | accessdate = 2007-05-29 ] (though this figure may have increased because of rapid population growth in sub-Saharan Africa relative to the rest of the world) however as the above chart shows, they were 0% of the world’s billionaires in 1999 and 2000, 0.19% in 2001, 0.20% in 2002, 0.42% in 2003, 0.17% in 2004, 0.14% in 2005, 0.13% in 2006, and 0.21% in 2007. The dearth of black billionaires may be a reflection of poverty in Africa and the fact that within the U.S. the median income of African Americans as a group is roughly 65 percentcite web | url = | title = Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004 | month = August | year = 2005 | publisher = United States Census Bureau | accessdate = 2007-05-29 |format=PDF] of that of "white" people, that is, "people having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa" [cite web | url = | format = PDF | title = The White Population: 2000 | work = Census 2000 Brief | publisher = United States Census Bureau | month = August | year = 2001 | accessdate = 2007-05-29 ] according to 2000 United States census.

Despite this, there are signs of black economic progress, especially within the United States. Over 1.7 million African Americans have gone off the poverty rolls; earnings by African American women have moved to within a few percentage points of white women's, and purchasing power of black women in the United States has surpassed that of white women. Unemployment among blacks in recent years has dropped below the 10 percent mark. The poverty rate among African Americans has dropped from 26.5% in 1998 to 24.7% in 2004. The growth in African American incomes is translating into big gains in buying power and opportunities for black businesses. If these trends continue, Blacks (especially in America) can be expected to increase their percentage of the world’s billionaires.

Billionaires in countries with high rates of Black ancestry


Aliko Dangote, according to Forbes 2008 is now the richest Black Billionaire. He is considered the First verifiable billionaire in Nigeria. However, an editor for Forbes claims that dictator Sani Abacha (who died in office in 1998) probably was a billionaire after all. Abacha's position as an allegedly corrupt dictator made his wealth unusually difficult to track and so his exact net-worth was a subject of much dispute. Abacha has been accused of siphoning off $2.2 billion in foreign assets to his family and their representatives (some have put the figure as high as $3 billion), however this fortune may have been divided among the foreign bank accounts of too many people for Abacha, or any individual in his inner circle to have ever qualified as a billionaire. In April 2002, Switzerland, which began blocking Abacha's assets in late 1999, decided that Nigeria would get back $1 billion of the money allegedly embezzled by Abacha and his family with $535 million of that sum being transferred to the Bank for International Settlements in Basel to be used "in favor of the federal government of Nigeria," the justice office said.

According to the terms of a deal reached with the Abacha family, the Nigerian government agreed to drop all criminal charges against Abacha's son Mohammed Sani Abacha and businessman Bagudu Abubakar and would also allow the Abacha family to keep $100 million which were "acquired prior to Abacha's term of office and which . . . demonstrably do not derive from criminal acts," the Office of Justice said.

"The Nigerians talk about $2.2 billion being plundered from the Treasury. They already received around $1 billion between 1998 and 2001, and now they are getting another $1 billion, which corresponds more or less to the $2.2billion," said Folco Galli, a justice office spokesman [ [ Swiss banks to return $1 billion in funds allegedly embezzled from Nigerian government - African Affairs] ] .Nigerian officials however, continue to insist that only some of the funds that Abacha allegedly embezzled are in Switzerland and have requested assistance from the United States, Britain, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Germany to find the rest.

outh Africa

According to Forbes magazine, South Africa has the most billionaires in sub-Saharan Africa. While the above mentioned Patrice Motsepe has become South Africa's first Black billionaires:

South African Patrice Motsepe.The lawyer who bought several unprofitable gold mines and turned them round, now has a fortune of $2.4bn is South Africa first black billionaire(

*Nicky Openheimer & family (De Beers) $4.6 billion
*Johann Rupert & family (luxury goods) $3.3 billion

Note: Forbes lists individual fortunes only but when they are not sure which member of the family owns the fortune or how it is divided among them, they list the person who created or controls the fortune, followed by "& family".


There is evidence that during the 20th century, Zaire/Congo, may not only have had a billionaire, but a Black one. Although no one with any known degree of Sub-Saharan ancestry appeared on Forbes billionaire list until 2001, a Forbes editor has gone on record claiming that Mobutu was probably a billionaire but the magazine could never confirm it. reported that Mobutu may have been worth as much as $5 billion [cite news | url = | title = Mobutu dies in exile in Morocco | publisher = CNN | date = 1997-09-07 | accessdate = 2007-05-30 ] , an amount almost equivalent to his country's foreign debt during the 1980s (the time the wealth was allegedly acquired), and, by 1989, the government was forced to default on international loans from Belgium. He owned a fleet of Mercedes-Benz vehicles that he used to travel between his numerous palaces, while many of his people starved. Infrastructure virtually collapsed, and many public service workers went months without being paid. Most money was siphoned off to Mobutu, his family, and top political and military leaders. Only the Special Presidential Division — on whom his physical safety depended — was paid adequately or regularly. A popular saying that the civil servants pretended to work while the state pretended to pay them expressed this grim reality. However when one of Mobutus's Swiss Bank accounts was investigated, only $3.4 million was found [cite news | url = | title = Swiss banks find only $3.4 million in Mobutu assets | publisher = CNN | date = 1997-06-03 | accessdate = 2007-05-30 ] leading to speculation that the money was spent, or that the claims that he looted his country's fortune were politically motivated. While many believe that Mobutu actually did steal billions, in an effort to evade detection, the fortune may have been split among so many friends, family members, and government officials, that no single individual in Zaire ever qualified as a billionaire.


Unverified claims

Donald V. Watkins, an African-American businessman/attorney originally from Birmingham, AL who now resides in Miami, FL [cite news | url= | title=Donald Watkins moves to Miami, joins the 'titans' | author=Malena Cunningham | date=2005-10-07 | publisher=Birmingham Business Journal | accessdate=2007-05-07] claims also to be one of the richest African-Americans, though some dispute this claim. His wealth was reportedly in the $1.4 billion range in 2002, though Watkins refused to defend this claim to journalists. [cite news | url= | title=Donald Watkins Is Made Of More Than Money: The Billionaire Next Door | author=Tom Finkel | date=2002-01-23 | accessdate=2007-05-07 | publisher=Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages] Watkins attempted to purchase the Minnesota Twins professional baseball franchise, the deal didn't go through after the team's president declared that Watkins was unable to secure $150 million. [cite news | url = | title = Former slugger Canseco will pitch his own book | date = 2002-09-04 | author = Rovell, Darren | publisher = ESPN | accessdate = 2007-05-30 ] In 2003, Watkins attempted to purchase the Anaheim Angels, but as with the Minnesota Twins, the deal did not go through. Watkins has stated he has no need or desire to be "listed" as a billionaire.cite news | title= A Wealth of Questions About Watkins: Money Mystery Surrounds Baseball's Prospective First Black Owner | author=Kenneth Bredemeier | date=2002-05-15 | accessdate=2007-05-07 | url= | publisher= Washington Post ] The Washington Post claimed that if the 2002 estimate were correct, Watkins would have been the richest African American at the time, but notes that many in his hometown doubt he's worth anywhere near a billion. Forbes magazine has reason to doubt the 2002 estimate of Watkins' worth and he has never appeared on Forbes billionaire list. [cite news | title = Show Me the Money | first = Monte | last = Burke | date = 2002-04-01 | url = | accessdate = 2007-05-30 | publisher = Forbes ] According to Watkins, "There are only 12 investment bankers that have the expertise to properly calculate my net worth. But this isn't about how much money I make. I don't work for money. Money is not happiness. The fulfillment of achieving goals is happiness. Money doesn't motivate me, but achievement does." "He's riding around the country saying he's a billionaire," says Jimmy Blake, a political adversary of Watkins. "No one knows how he got it. I don't believe anyone thinks he's got it."

On February 6th, 2003, Martin Bashir asked Michael Jackson how much he was worth. Bashir asked, "How much do you think you're worth?" Jackson replied "It's way up there." Bashir later asked, "A billion dollars?" to which Jackson replied "It's over there." Bashir asked for confirmation: "Over a billion dollars!" to which Jackson replied "Yes." When the interview was aired in the United States, broadcaster Barbara Walters replied, saying, “As for his claim to be worth over a billion dollars,” Walters explained, “his actual worth is in the two or three hundred million range. That’s hardly bad, but it’s nowhere near a billion”. During Jackson's trial, defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. said that the Beatles catalogue (of which Jackson owns 50%) was worth $1 billion in 2003. There have been estimates it's now worth between $4 billion and $5 billion [cite news | url =,2933,155356,00.html | title = Witness: Jacko Lived Way Above Means | publisher = Fox | date = 2005-05-03 | accessdate = 2007-05-30 ] , but forensic accountant John Duross O'Bryan testified that the total value of Jackson's assets was $130 million. In November 2006 "The Guinness Book of Records" presented Jackson with eight certificates for musical achievements. Among them "The Most Successful Entertainer of All Time" and "Highest paid Entertainer of all time" (he received $125 million in album and tour sales in 1989 alone)

Michael Jackson has never appeared on Forbes international billionaire list nor has he ever been ranked among Forbes 400 richest Americans, a list which has often required less than even half a billion for membership. When Forbes editor Peter Newcomb was asked in 2003 to explain Jackson’s absence from their lists he replied “MJ owes $250 to $300 million to a consortium of banks; you will see him selling his publishing company any month now, my prediction”. [cite news | url = | title = Chat With Forbes Editors | work = The World's Richest | publisher = Forbes | date = 2003-03-05 | accessdate = 2007-05-30 ]

Allegations of racism

Reports have surfaced that even Black billionaires are not immune to the racism. In 2001, then Black billionaire Robert L. Johnson accused Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y of racism when Schumer attempted to block Johnson’s efforts to start “DC Air," a regional airline that would include slots in New York City and reach airports in upstate New York. [cite news | url = | title = Black Billionaire Accuses Liberal Sen. Schumer of Racism | date = 2001-01-30 | publisher = | accessdate = 2007-05-30 ]

Johnson sent Schumer a letter reading:

"As an African-American businessperson who has a personal net worth significantly greater than the market capitalization of [rival companies] Jet Blue and Air Tran combined, I am offended that you could argue that these two companies deserve an opportunity that should be denied to me.

"It cannot be that you believe that they are better businesspersons; perhaps it is because they are white businesspersons."

Schumer's office released a statement saying the senator’s decision was based on "how it would benefit the people of New York, not on the basis of any political or racial consideration."

Racism was also suspected when Oprah Winfrey was denied entrance to HermèsParis flagship store when she arrived after the formal closing time, despite the fact that the store was still very active and despite the tradition of high-end stores routinely extending hours for VIP customers.In living rooms and Internet chat rooms across America, Winfrey’s case sparked discussion of what many see as a serious problem of Blacks receiving poor treatment or outright suspicion no matter how well-educated or rich they are - particularly in high-end stores. [cite news | url = | title = Oprah-Hermes spat sparks talk of racism | publisher = Associated Press | first = Erin | last = Texeira | date = 2005-06-29 | accessdate = 2007-05-30 ] "The presumption in America is that if you have the wealth, you'll get equality - but where's Oprah's equality?" asked Bruce D. Haynes, a sociologist at the University of California, Davis. "It picks up on every inkling of discrimination that a black person might experience in daily life."Haynes added: "Many people are saying, 'I don't have the money, but Oprah represents what I could be. … She's like the black Donald Trump. And if it can happen to Oprah, it could happen to anyone."

Derrick K. Baker writes ina "Houston Chronicle" commentary: "While liberals and fairy-tale-living Republicans might be inclined to believe that financial prosperity and global humanitarianism are great equalizers and neutralizers of all things racial, black skin sadly remains the great diminisher."

In September 2005, Hermès CEO Robert Chavez appeared on Winfrey’s show to apologize for the incident.

Racism has also been blamed for derailing the careers of Blacks who appeared headed for billionaire status. Author and activist Dick Gregory says "Michael Jackson did something that no one thought a Black man would do. He purchased the Beatles catalog for $48 million and today it is worth $1.5 billion. He didn't know when he bought it that the Beatles owned Little Richard's music. Michael gave it back to Little Richard, who is very happy now. Michael also owns the Elvis Presley catalogs. A Black man owns (the music of) two of the most important music figures in the world and anytime something is played by either of them, Michael gets paid… He's a good man and I feel that he’s been the target of a conspiracy to destroy his career. In my opinion, there are people who have a financial interest in bringing Michael down." [cite news | title = Conspiracy of deceit | url = | work = One on one with Dick Gregory | publisher = | date = 2004-01-16 | accessdate = 2007-05-30 ] - When posted an image of Michael Jackson in handcuffs with the heading "Black America is spitting mad" readers commented that "The public is lynching our men" and "No matter how much money you have… society will remind you that you can only go as far as they [whites] will let you." [cite press release | title = IS MICHAEL JACKSON A VICTIM OF RACISM? | url = | date = 2003-11-03 | publisher = Brotherhood Organization of A New Destiny | accessdate = 2007-05-30 (Google cache) ]


Madam C.J. Walker

Although black people have never been more than half of a percent of the world’s billionaires, two black people have held the title of richest self-made woman in America, and those same two women simultaneously held the title of richest African American. The first was Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919), an African-American woman who became America’s first self-made woman millionaire [cite web | url = | title = C.J. Walker's story is told at Radcliffe | date = 2001-02-08 | publisher = Harvard Gazette | accessdate = 2007-05-30 ] and the richest African-American of her day. The second was Oprah Winfrey who in 2007 overtook Ebay CEO Margaret Whitman as the richest self-made woman in America [Forbes magazine March 21st 2007, pg 160 claims there are only 10 self-made women billionaires in the world and Winfrey is the richest of the 4 listed as U.S. billionaires] and was described by Forbes as the richest African American of the 20th century.cite web|last = Noon | first = Chris | title = Oprah The Educator | publisher = Forbes | date = 2007-01-02 | url = | accessdate = 2007-03-04] Like Walker, Winfrey is one of the greatest philanthropists of her time. Although Winfrey's show is known for raising money through her public charity and the cars and gifts she gives away on TV are often donated by corporations in exchange for publicity, behind the scenes Winfrey personally donates more of her own money to charity than any other show business celebrity in America. In 2005 she became the first black listed by "Business Week" as one of America's top 50 most generous philanthropists, having given an estimated $250 million. [cite web | url = | format = PDF | title = The 50 Most Generous Philanthropists | publisher = BusinessWeek | date = 2005-11-28 | accessdate = 2007-05-30 ] Despite being the 235th richest American in 2005, [cite web | url = | title = #235 Oprah Winfrey | work = Forbes 400 | publisher = Forbes | date = 2006-09-21 | accessdate = 2007-05-30 ] Winfrey was the 32nd most philanthropic. Much of Winfrey's charity goes towards educating girls in South Africa while Walker's philanthropy supported the NAACP, the Tuskegee Institute and Bethune-Cookman College.

John Harold Johnson

John Harold Johnson (January 19, 1918August 8, 2005) was the founder of the Johnson Publishing Company, an international media and cosmetics empire headquartered in Chicago, Illinois that includes "Ebony", and "Jet" magazines, Fashion Fair Cosmetics and EBONY Fashion Fair. Johnson in 1982 was the first black person to appear on the Forbes 400 Rich List, and had a fortune estimated at close to $500 million.

Johnson died at the age of 87 and was widely regarded as the most influential African American publisher in American history and a pioneer in media and business.

Reginald Lewis

After working at several law firms, Reginald F. Lewis [cite web |url=| title=Baltimore boasts historic African-American arts scene - Special - USA Today| author=Susan B. Weissman| date=2005-06-29| publisher=USA Today | accessdate=2006-08-15] opened TLC Group L.P., a venture capital firm, in 1983. In 1987 Lewis bought Beatrice International Foods from Beatrice Companies for $985 million, renaming it TLC Beatrice International, a snack food, beverage, and grocery store conglomerate that was the largest black-owned and black-managed business in the U.S. The deal was partly financed through Mike Milken. When TLC Beatrice reported revenue of $1.8 billion in 1987, it became the first black-owned company to have more than $1 billion in annual sales.

At its peak in 1996, TLC Beatrice International Holdings Inc. had sales of $2.2 billion and was number 512 on Fortune magazine's list of 1,000 largest companies.

His net-worth was estimated by Forbes magazine as being $400 million, equivalent to well over $580 million in 2007, making him the richest African-American ever at the time of his death. [ cite web| url=|title=REGINALD F. LEWIS 1942 - 1993 "The Wealthiest Black Man in History"| author=Toni Townsend Moody] Lewis was among the first African-Americans to make Forbes magazine's list of the 400 richest Americans and his wife Loida Nicolas-Lewis the first Asian woman on the list Fact|date=February 2007


ee also

* Lists of billionaires
* List of countries by the number of billionaires

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