Money and power tend to go hand in hand, so it is no surprise that many of the world's richest people are also into politics. Some have tried multiple times to gain office without success, while others have long standing positions in their country's most influential roles. But either way, their self-made or inherited billions have helped them make their mark on the political landscape. (More than 70 years after his death, this man remains one of the great figures of Wall Street. See J.D. Rockefeller: From Oil Baron To Billionaire.)
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- Michael Bloomberg
The mayor of New York City is a self-made man who gained his riches as an entrepreneur. He started a financial news and information service in 1981 called Bloomberg LP. The company has employees in 100 cities and delivers the news through TV, radio and online mediums. In 2010, The Chronicle of Philanthropy put him at number two on their list of Americans who gave the most to charity. He earned the position by donating $279.2 million to a slew of organizations in New York City and across the country. Yet, even that sizable gift barely put a dent in Bloomberg's $18 billion fortune. He was ranked number 10 on Forbes' 2010 list of the 400 richest people in America.
- Henry Ross Perot
The two-time U.S. presidential candidate (he ran in 1992 and 1996 as an independent) is a Texas business man with a net worth of $3.4 billion. He made his money in the computer and real estate industries. Perot used $65 million of his personal wealth to secure 19% of the popular vote in the 1992 election. He created the Reform Party in 1995 and was aligned with that political party in the 1996 presidential race in which he got 8% of the popular vote. Dell Inc. purchased Perot's technology services company for $3.9 billion in 2009.
- Ronald Lauder
An heir to the Estee Lauder cosmetic company fortune, Lauder is worth $2.8 billion. He worked for his parents for 20 years before going into politics in the '80s. He was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European & NATO Affairs from 1983 to 1986 and the U.S. Ambassador to Austria from 1986 to 1987. He ran for the office of mayor in New York City in 1989, but lost. Today, he is the president of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, the World Jewish Congress and the Jewish National Fund.
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- Tom Golisano
Politics has not been friendly to this billionaire. He ran for New York Governor three times under the Independence Party and was never able to obtain the seat. He has fared better in the world of business, making $1.2 billion as the owner of an HR and payroll company that he started in 1971. He is the owner of the Buffalo Sabers hockey team and though he hasn't found success in being elected to office, he is still determined to be in politics. He recently put his name behind a grassroots campaign to change the way the president is elected from Electoral College to popular vote.
- Najib Mikati
One of Lebanon's richest men, Mikati serves as the prime minister-designate of Lebanon. He became the minister of public works and transport in 1998. He was elected to a post in Lebanon's parliament in 2000. Before his foray into politics, Mikati was in the private sector building his wealth. He stared a construction company with his brother, but in 1982 they turned their attention to the telecommunications industry. In 2010, Forbes listed his net worth at $2.5 billion. (Check out more about successful women in finance in Muriel Siebert: Female Finance Pioneer.)
- Silvio Berlusconi
Italy's prime minister has been unbelievably successful as a politician. He has managed to be the longest running post-war prime minister in Italy despite a variety of scandals that could have toppled his career. He has been accused of embezzlement, fraud and bribing a judge and in April 2010 he stood trial for paying for sex with a 17-year old nightclub dancer.
His life in the private sector is equally as charmed. He owns three of the top TV channels in Italy and an established publishing house. He also has businesses holdings in the food, construction and insurance industries and he is the owner of Italian soccer team, AC Milan. His net worth is estimated at $9 billion.
The Bottom Line
Abundant wealth seems to be a plus in the political realm as some of the world's top political figures also double as the world's richest people. It's arguable that the bigger the banking account, the better your chances at success in this field, but it's just as likely that the drive that allows someone to achieve great wealth can also help them enter the world of politics.
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