A Black billionaire in the United States is a rare thing. In fact, according to the 2019 Forbes’ Billionaires List out of 607 billionaires in America, only 5 are Black Americans.
Worldwide, there were 2,153 billionaires on the 2019 list, down from 2,208 in 2018. “The total combined net worth of this year’s billionaires is $8.7 trillion, down from $9.1 trillion in 2018. This represents the first decrease in billionaires and their combined wealth since 2016 and only the second decrease in the past decade. A record 994 individuals are worth less than a year ago; last year only 360 members got poorer. The average net worth of this year’s billionaires is $4 billion, down from $4.1 billion in 2018. Of the total, 1,450 members are self-made,” Forbes reported.
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The list had only one Black-American female, Oprah Winfrey.
“In 2003, Oprah Winfrey, arguably the most notable Black female entrepreneur, became the first Black American billionaire. And in just the last five years, four other African-Americans have reached the billionaire echelon,” Forbes reported.
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All five of the Black billionaires on this list are self-made and their sources of wealth come from a range covering finance to technology to entertainment.
Still, five is a very low number considering the number of Black businesses and high-paid celebrities in the United States. The major reason is the growing wealth gap between Black and white Americans.
“In 1992, the median net worth of white families was $100,000 above that of Black families, according to McKinsey. By 2016, the median white family was $152,000 wealthier than its Black counterpart. During that period, the median wealth of white families grew over $50,000, McKinsey reports, but the median wealth of Black families did not grow at all in real terms,” Business Insider reported.
Jay-Z came in at number 5 on the list with a net worth of $1 billion, making his wealth mainly through entertainment deals and smart investments.
“Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z, may be hip hop’s first billionaire, but he didn’t make his fortune off his music career alone. Carter pocketed approximately $500 million from his 14 No. 1 albums before taxes, but a large portion of his wealth comes from his business ventures, according to Forbes. He founded a clothing line that he sold to Iconix for $204 million in 2007 and co-owns cognac brand D’Ussé, in addition to owning music streaming service Tidal,” Business Insider reported.
In 2015, Jay-Z purchased Tidal for $56 million. And in 2017, Sprint bought a 33 percent stake in the company for $200 million. This pushed the company’s valuation up to $600 million, making Jay-Z’s stake in the company is worth $100 million, according to Forbes.
Additionally, Jay-Z also has a private art collection worth $70 million, a stake in Uber worth $70 million, and he owns $50 million in real estate, Forbes reported.
Coming in at number 4 is Michael Jordan, with a net worth of $1.9 billion coming from sports and endorsements.
The 56-year-old basketball icon remains the highest-paid athlete of all time and it isn’t merely from his salary when he played for the Chicago Bulls. “Jordan earned $1.4 billion before taxes from corporate sponsorships during his professional basketball career,” Business Insider reported.
Also, Jordan’s film debut, “Space Jam,” racked in more than $250 million at the worldwide box office, according to IMDB.
After retiring from pro ball, Jordan bought NBA team The Charlotte Hornets in 2010.
Although the Hornets is the third least-valuable NBA franchise, the team’s valuation is at $1.05 billion. Jordan, of course, earns a high income from Nike’s Air Jordan line, which made him a billionaire in 2015, according to CNN Business.
Winfrey ranked number 3 in the listing of Black-American billionaires. With a net worth of $2.7 billion, Winfrey made most of her money from her media empire.
“Born to a single mother in rural Mississippi, Winfrey started out as a news anchor before spending 25 years hosting ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show.’ The investments Winfrey made with her share of the show’s profits are now worth about $2 billion, Forbes estimates. She became a billionaire in 2003, according to the Los Angeles Times,” Business Insider reported.
Winfrey’s media empire raked in $2.6 billion, according to Forbes. The 66-year-old self-made billionaire also owns 25.5 percent of her television network OWN, an 8 percent stake in WW International, and has a content creation deal with Apple TV+.
And, she’s been growing a Hollywood portfolio as an actress and producer — she voiced characters in “Charlotte’s Web,” “The Bee Movie,” and “The Princess and the Frog” and starred in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and “Selma,” among others. She also produced: “Beloved,” “Great Debaters,” “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” and “Selma.”
In second place is IT service provider David Steward, whose company, World Wide Technology, counts Citi, Verizon, and the federal government as clients. He is worth a whopping $3.5 billion.
World Wide Technology generated more $11 billion in sales in 2019, according to Forbes. Missouri-based Steward, 68, serves as the company’s chairman and still has a majority stake in the company.
Topping the list of Black billionaires is Robert F. Smith, the richest black man in the country. He has a net worth of $5 billion. Smith made his wealth in private equity.
Smith built his multibillion-dollar fortune as head of private equity firm Vista Equity Partners.
“Vista is one of the most successful private equity firms in the nation, with more than $46 billion in assets and posting annualized returns of 22 percent,” Business Insider reported.
Smith, a Cornell graduate and former Goldman Sachs executive, became the first African-American billionaire to sign The Giving Pledge in 2017, an invitation-only alliance of billionaires who have pledged to give away the majority of their fortunes. Last May, Smith announced a $34-million gift to pay off the student loans of Morehouse College’s class of 2019. He later expanded the gift to pay for the graduates’ parents’ educational debt as well.