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Famous Rags to Riches Stories

Wondering how your super rich icons reached their 'billionth' monetary mark? Here are some interesting 'Rags to Riches' stories that might make you speechless.
BusinessZeal Staff
People are always fascinated by the lives led by some of the richest people around the world. Some of us spend hours reading about their luxurious cars, lavish mansions, classy parties and business deals worth billions of dollars. What most of us don't realize is that many of these billionaires were born into bleak childhoods and poor families. Their heroic struggle to bring a 180 degrees change in their lives is truly inspiring to all their fans and admirers. The list of such great names is long and their patience and efforts to succeed in life is longer. However, I have compiled a list of ten well-known personalities whose early lives emerged from rags, but their destiny was the riches.
John D Rockefeller, Founder of Standard Oil Company
John Davison Rockefeller, born on 8th July 1839, has always been quoted as the world's first ever billionaire. However, this industrial genius had a very humble beginning. He was born in Richford, New York in a large family. His father was a traveling salesman and his ancestors were known to have fled Germany in 17th century and settled in the US. While his mother struggled to make the ends meet, his father was often known to shrug his responsibilities towards caring for the family. Gradually, his family moved to Owego. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil Company in the year 1870 and revolutionized the petroleum industry in USA. As the necessity of petroleum and its by-products soared, so did Rockefeller's wealth. At the time of his death (in year 1937), his wealth stood at an astounding $1.4 billion. Even today, going by the hike in inflation rate, Rockefeller is quoted as the richest man in the world.
Andrew Carnegie, Steel Tycoon
Born on 25th November 1835 in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, Andrew Carnegie emigrated to United States in his childhood along with his parents. His parents did weaving jobs to earn their livelihood. Later, Carnegie started working as a worker in a bobbin cotton factory at a very young age. His subsequent jobs include working as bill logger and then as a messenger boy in a telegraphic company. At the tender age of 18, he got employed as a superintendent with the Pennsylvania Railroad company. After this, there was no looking back for Carnegie. He invested his income securely and regained profits manifolds. He reinvested his money in businesses connected to iron and steel and infrastructure industries. Carnegie slowly accumulated his wealth. He established the Keystone Bridge Works in 1864 with a capital of $40000. From then on, Carnegie went on to establish an iron and steel business empire. His company was later merged with the US Steel Corporation. The wealth amassed by Carnegie makes him the second wealthiest man in world history. Carnegie once wrote, "The amassing of wealth is one of the worse species of idolatry. No idol more debasing than the worship of money. The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced". During his highly successful life, he did a lot a philanthropy while funding the Carnegie Hall, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Carnegie Mellon University, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Institution of Washington and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Carnegie also donated vast amounts to Dunfermline, his birthplace. The Carnegie Hall is well-known theater built with the help of donations made by him. This theater hosts different kinds of shows. There is a statue of Andrew Carnegie installed in a public park called Pittencrieff Park in Dunfermline. There is also a museum in Dunfermline dedicated to Andrew Carnegie; the museum is housed in a small cottage. Going by the hike in inflation rate, Carnegie's wealth is estimated to be more than $298 billion.
Kirk Kerkorian, Owner of MGM Studios and MGM Mirage in Las Vegas
Born on 6th June 1917 in Fresno, California, Kirk Kerkorian's parents were Armenian immigrants. He dropped out of 8th grade and had a short career stint as an amateur boxer. As the world got gripped with fear of World War II, Kerkorian took up flying lessons so as to avoid being placed in infantry. He hardly had sufficient money to pay for his flying lessons. After the world war ended, Kerkorian spent about $5000 on purchasing a Cessna plane and decided to work as an aviation pilot. During this time, he made quite a few trips between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. He even gambled in Las Vegas. By the end of 1940s, Kerkorian spent about $60000 and purchased Trans International Airlines. Later, he bought some war bomber planes by taking a loan. He sold the airplane fuel in their fuel tanks and paid off all his loan. He ran his private airline with these planes and later sold off his airline company to Transamerica corporation for a whopping $104 million dollars. By 1962, Kerkorian purchased 80 acres of land on Las Vegas strip. This is where Hotel Caesars Palace stands today. Kerkorian made several deals in purchasing lands in Las Vegas, making some of the most fabulous hotels in Las Vegas history. He purchased the MGM studios in 1969 and opened the MGM Grand Hotel and casino. The hotel was later sold off for millions of dollars. Kerkorian also held a handsome share in Ford automobiles and Chrysler Group. Kerkorian is at present listed on 310th position on world's rich list.
Walt Disney, Founder of Disney Land
Walter Elias Disney was born on 5th December 1901 in Chicago. He was an American film producer, director, entertainer, animator, voice artist, philanthropist and one of the most influential Hollywood personalities. As a child, Walt Disney attended drawing classes at Kansas City Art Institute. After the first world war, Disney quit high school and started searching for a job as a cartoon artist. He applied for the post of internship in the cartoons and caricature section of Kansas City Star newspaper but was downright rejected stating reasons such as lack of imagination and originality in cartoon ideas! With help from his brother Roy Disney, Walt established The Laugh O Gram studio. The duo later pooled in more money to start a new cartoon studio which went on to gain international recognition. Some of the famed cartoon characters created by Walt Disney include Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto, Goofy, etc. He went on to create full length and short length animated films on some all time favorite fairy tale characters. The company did face several ups and downs but it finally struck the right note when Walt Disney started Disney Land in 1955. The Disney land amusement parks located world over, now generate an annual revenue of estimated $35 billion. At the time of his death in 1966, Walt Disney's net worth was estimated to be $5 billion.
Sam Walton, Founder of Wal-Mart Retail Chain
Sam Walton was born as Samuel Moore Walton on 29th March 1918 in Oklahoma, USA. He and his brother James lived with their parents on a countryside farm until 1923, after which his father decided to move his family to Chesterfield. During the great American depression, Sam did odd jobs to work his way up to graduation. He had a short stint in the American military until 1942. In the year 1945, he invested approximately $25000 to set up a Ben Franklin variety store in Newport Arkansas. This store was a great success due to some specially designed trading skills of Walton. The very first Wal-mart store opened up in Bentonville, Arkansas in year 1962. It was originally known as the Wal-mart discount city store. Walton ran this business in collaboration with his brother James Walton. By the time of Walton's death in 1992, his Wal-mart chain had expanded to a gigantic size of 1,960 stores. Sam Walton was listed in the 1998 Times magazine category for 100 most influential people of 20th Century. He was quoted as the richest American citizen between 1982 and 1988.
Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group
Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson was born on 18th July 1950 in London. He was considered to be a dyslexic as a student and had a poor academic career. However, he searched his inner abilities and discovered his talent to connect with people. He gained his first success in a magazine business at a tender age of 16. He then started his new music venture by name of Virgin Records in the year 1972. Today, his Virgin Group comprises approximately 400 companies. One of these companies is the Virgin Atlantic Airlines. This British business tycoon is quoted as the 5th richest man in the United Kingdom. The Forbes list of billionaires for 2011 placed him as the 254th richest man in the world. His net worth is approximately £2.58 billion.
Steve Jobs, Promoter of Apple Inc.
Steven Paul Jobs was born on 24th February 1955 in San Francisco, California. He was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs. Jobs attended the Homestead High School in California and later joined the Reed College in Portland. However, due to lack of sufficient funds to complete his college, he had to drop out. He still attended audit classes at Reed College while making a living by selling used coke bottles. During these tough years, he slept at friends' apartments and ate free meals provided at charitable temples. Jobs later started working as a technician with Atari, a video game manufacturing company. In the year 1976, Jobs collaborated with Steve Wozniak to find Apple Inc. The first small computer called Macintosh was introduced in 1984 and after that, there was no looking back for Apple Inc. He followed this up with the invention of iPod and starting of Pixar animation which was later sold off to Disney. Steve Jobs held approximately 138 million shares in Disney and 5.42 million shares in Apple, making him one of the richest Americans. In year 2009, the Forbes magazine estimated his net worth to be approximately $5.1 billion.
Oprah Winfrey, Popular Talk Show Host
Born on 29th January 1954, Oprah's birth name is Orpah Gail Winfrey. She was born in rural Mississippi to an unwed teenage mother. Her mother and father abandoned her soon after and she was raised by her maternal grandmother. Life was tough on the pig farm where she lived with her grandmother. By age of 3 years, her recital skills were perfected by her grandmother. She spent years in transition, shifting between her birth parents. As a young child, she was subjected to a lot of physical abuse by her cousins and family members. However, life changed for Oprah as her father took charge of the situation and sent her for appropriate formal education. Winfrey got her honors and secured a fully paid scholarship at Tennessee State University. She started her career in Nashville as a news anchor and later as a talk show host. The First Oprah Winfrey Show ran on American television in the year 1986 and continued for the next 25 years. Oprah is rated as the richest Afro-American of the 20th century, with her net assets estimated to be worth $2.7 billion. She is the first ever black woman billionaire in world history.
J K Rowling, Author of Harry Potter Book Series
Joanne Rowling or J K Rowling was born on 31st July 1965 in Gloucestershire, England. She did her schooling in Wyedean School and College and thereafter did her BA in French and Classics from the University of Exeter. She worked in Portugal as an English teacher and married Jorge Arantes, a Portuguese journalist. This marriage lasted for little over a year during which Joanne gave birth to first child Jessica Isabel Rowling Arantes. Joanne returned to Scotland with her baby and started living on state welfare funds. She rented a small tenement flat and worked feverishly on her manual typewriter and wrote some of her first Harry Potter books. During this tough period of her life, she was under severe depression and had contemplated the idea of committing suicide. However, destiny was to smile on her. Her first book in the Harry Potter series was rejected by several publishers. Finally, it did get a publisher and it went on to become the most popular children's book of the year. The successive 6 sequels to this book sold millions of copies breaking all time records on popularity charts. Today, J K Rowling is said to be worth an estimated £560 million. She has been ranked as the 12th richest woman in the UK. She is also known as a notable philanthropist. She has been conferred with the Order of British Empire (OBE) title.
Jim Carrey, Hollywood Movie Star
James Eugene Carrey was born on 17th January 1962 in Ontario Canada. His father Percy worked as an accountant and his mother Kathleen was a homemaker. As Jim grew up, his family's financial status got worse and they had to move to a town by name Scarborough where the entire family got employed at a factory. Life was unstable and it was really difficult for Jim to pursue his education. Finally, the family had to leave their home and use a camper van instead. At one point of time, Jim was even thinking of taking up a job in the steel mills. However, days changed as Jim took up a job as a stand up comedian. He gave up his schooling and concentrated on his work. Gradually, lady luck smiled on him and he got a part in a new sitcoms by names The Duck factory and In Living Color. He got noticed in his roles and movie offers gradually started flooding in. He went on to do some memorable roles in movies like Bruce Almighty, Liar liar and The Truman Show. Today, Jim Carrey is one of the busiest and one of the most highly paid Hollywood stars. He is estimated to be worth approximately $150 million.
It is humanly impossible to compile details of each and every 'Rags to Riches' story. These lives and their immeasurable spirit can often inspire many. However, one cannot forget the hardships that these people went through to reach their monetary status. I salute to each one of them.