Special Report

America's 50 Richest Billionaires and When They Got That Way

Alex Wong / Getty Images News via Getty Images

“A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.”

Well, at least that is what Napster founder Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake) says to a young Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in “The Social Network,” David Fincher’s 2010 movie about the birth of Facebook.

Of course, a million dollars sounds plenty cool to most of us. Just think what we could do with all that money…

But there are people who have no intention of stopping with a million or even a lot of millions. They want a billion, or maybe even a lot of billions, and through various means — hard work, off-the-charts imagination, sheer luck — a surprising number actually achieve that goal. 

As of this year, there are an estimated 756 billionaires in the United States, spread through 42 of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, according to World Population Review. California, home of Silicon Valley and much of the entertainment industry, has the most, with 186. The financial capital of New York comes next, with 135. (Apart from the eight states that are lacking them, here is a list of the city in every state with the most billionaires.)

To compile a list of America’s 50 richest (mostly) self-made billionaires, and how fast they earned their first  billion, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a report on the subject published by SuperCasinoSites, an information and review site devoted to casino gaming around the world. Billionaires are ordered by how fast they made their first billion. All data is from the SuperCasinoSites report.

Click here to see America’s 50 richest self-made billionaires and how fast they got there.

Click here to see our detailed methodology.

Some of the fabulously wealthy folk on this list are household names, such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, and, yes, the aforementioned Zuckerberg. Others you may not have heard of, unless you are a regular reader of Forbes or Fortune (Autry Stephens? David Duffield?). Likewise, some of their companies are world famous, including Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Nike, the Dallas Cowboys. But would you be surprised to learn that the folks who run Harbor Freight Tools, Flex-N-Gate, and Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores are also on the list?

Inheritors aside, nobody becomes a billionaire overnight. But you might be surprised to learn how long it took some of the people named here to reach that status. For three of them, it took 40 years or more. The average is just over 21 years. Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, on the other hand, sailed right up to billionaire status in quick four years. (See who else, besides those two, counts as one of the 25 richest Americans of all time.)

50. Judy Love
> Company: Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 49
> Became a billionaire: 2013
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $10.20 billion

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49. Harold Hamm
> Company: Continental Resources
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 41
> Became a billionaire: 2008
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $18.50 billion

48. Eric Smidt
> Company: Harbor Freight Tools
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 40
> Became a billionaire: 2017
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $10.30 billion

47. Autry Stephens
> Company: Endeavor Energy Resources
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 39
> Became a billionaire: 2018
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $10.00 billion

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46. John Menard, Jr.
> Company: Menards
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 39
> Became a billionaire: 2001
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $19.50 billion

45. Robert Kraft
> Company: Rand-Whitney Group
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 38
> Became a billionaire: 2006
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $10.60 billion

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44. Donald Bren
> Company: The Bren Company
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 38
> Became a billionaire: 1996
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $17.40 billion

43. David Green
> Company: Greco Products
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 34
> Became a billionaire: 2004
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $15.40 billion

42. Jeff Yass
> Company: Susquehanna
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 34
> Became a billionaire: 2021
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $28.90 billion

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41. Ray Dalio
> Company: Bridgewater Associates
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 33
> Became a billionaire: 2008
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $19.10 billion

40. Shahid Khan
> Company: Flex-N-Gate
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 32
> Became a billionaire: 2012
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $12.20 billion

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39. Thomas Peterffy
> Company: T.P. & Co.
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 32
> Became a billionaire: 2010
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $27.70 billion

38. Israel Englander
> Company: I.A. Englander & Co.
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 30
> Became a billionaire: 2007
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $11.30 billion

37. Warren Buffett
> Company: Buffett Partnership
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 30
> Became a billionaire: 1986
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $117.50 billion

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36. David Duffield
> Company: Information Associates
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 28
> Became a billionaire: 1996
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $12.50 billion

35. Thomas Frist, Jr.
> Company: HCA Healthcare
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 28
> Became a billionaire: 1996
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $21.80 billion

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34. Jim Simons
> Company: Renaissance Technologies
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 27
> Became a billionaire: 2005
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $28.10 billion

33. Diane Hendricks
> Company: ABC Supply
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 26
> Became a billionaire: 2008
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $15.70 billion

32. Phil Knight
> Company: Nike
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 26
> Became a billionaire: 1990
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $42.40 billion

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31. Jensen Huang
> Company: Nvidia
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 24
> Became a billionaire: 2017
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $39.90 billion

30. Michael Rubin
> Company: KPR sports
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 23
> Became a billionaire: 2013
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $11.40 billion

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29. Daniel Gilbert
> Company: Rocket Mortgage
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 22
> Became a billionaire: 2007
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $22.70 billion

28. David Sun
> Company: Kingston Technology Corporation
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 21
> Became a billionaire: 2008
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $10.30 billion

27. John Tu
> Company: Kingston Technology Corporation
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 21
> Became a billionaire: 2008
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $10.30 billion

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26. John Doerr
> Company: Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 21
> Became a billionaire: 2001
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $12.00 billion

25. Stephen Schwarzman
> Company: Blackstone Inc.
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 21
> Became a billionaire: 2006
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $32.00 billion

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24. Stanley Kroenke
> Company: The Kroenke Group
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 20
> Became a billionaire: 2003
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $12.90 billion

23. Jeffery Hildebrand
> Company: Hilcorp
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 19
> Became a billionaire: 2007
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $11.20 billion

22. Len Blavatnik
> Company: Access Industries
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 18
> Became a billionaire: 2004
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $33.30 billion

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21. Leon Black
> Company: Apollo Global Management
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 17
> Became a billionaire: 2007
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $10.50 billion

20. Larry Ellison
> Company: Oracle
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 17
> Became a billionaire: 1994
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $143.90 billion

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19. Elon Musk
> Company: Zip2, PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 17
> Became a billionaire: 2012
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $232.50 billion

18. Ken Griffin
> Company: Citadel
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 16
> Became a billionaire: 2006
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $34.20 billion

17. Steve Ballmer
> Company: Microsoft
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 16
> Became a billionaire: 1996
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $101.30 billion

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16. Jerry Jones
> Company: Dallas Cowboys
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 15
> Became a billionaire: 2004
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $13.60 billion

15. Michael Bloomberg
> Company: Bloomberg LP
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 15
> Became a billionaire: 1996
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $94.50 billion

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14. David Tepper
> Company: Appaloosa Management
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 13
> Became a billionaire: 2006
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $18.50 billion

13. Steve Cohen
> Company: S.A.C. Capital Advisors
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 12
> Became a billionaire: 2004
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $17.50 billion

12. Michael Dell
> Company: Dell
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 12
> Became a billionaire: 1996
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $63.30 billion

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11. Bill Gates
> Company: Microsoft
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 12
> Became a billionaire: 1987
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $117.60 billion

10. Henry Samueli
> Company: Broadcom
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 9
> Became a billionaire: 2000
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $10.10 billion

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9. Eric Schmidt
> Company: Novell
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 8
> Became a billionaire: 2005
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $20.90 billion

8. Robert Pera
> Company: Ubiquiti Networks
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 7
> Became a billionaire: 2012
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $10.30 billion

7. Dustin Moskovitz
> Company: Facebook
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 7
> Became a billionaire: 2011
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $13.30 billion

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6. Brian Chesky
> Company: AirBnB
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 6
> Became a billionaire: 2014
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $11.20 billion

5. Sergey Brin
> Company: Google
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 6
> Became a billionaire: 2004
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $103.00 billion

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4. Larry Page
> Company: Google
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 6
> Became a billionaire: 2004
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $108.40 billion

3. Jan Koum
> Company: WhatsApp
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 5
> Became a billionaire: 2014
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $14.30 billion

2. Mark Zuckerberg
> Company: Facebook
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 4
> Became a billionaire: 2008
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $110.10 billion

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1. Jeff Bezos
> Company: Amazon
> Years it took to become a billionaire: 4
> Became a billionaire: 1998
> Net worth as of Aug. 8, 2023: $162.10 billion

Methodology

To compile a list of America’s 50 richest (mostly) self-made billionaires and how fast they earned their first  billion, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a report on the subject published by SuperCasinoSites, an information and review site devoted to casino gaming around the world. The site drew its list of billionaires and their net worth from the Forbes Real-Time Billionaires list as of Aug. 8, 2023. Only those with a “self-made” score of 6 or above as per Forbes were included. Net worth was divided by the number of individuals appearing under the same profile. 

SuperCasinoSites then determined the year during which a given individual reached billionaire status based on their net worth or their company’s total assets at the time. Data came from Forbes and Bloomberg (both past and present), as well as Finmasters, the Wayback Machine, YCharts, and annual reports of Nike and Oracle.

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