Eccentric billionaire Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, has captured comic book fans' attention since 1963. The character of Stark is an industrialist who took over Stark Enterprises, a firm that specializes in high-tech military defense gear, after the tragic death of his parents. Stark has a reputation as a playboy, but he uses his incredible intelligence (he already had two master's degrees by the age of 19) to fight evil as Iron Man. Stark is a work of fiction, but here are some real men that embody the traits of the Golden Avenger.
Finding solutions to social, economic and environmental challenges is Elon Musk's passion. He is the co-founder of global online payment company PayPal and SolarCity, which is a company that aims to fight global warming and decrease air pollution through clean air services. He also developed Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (Space X) and Tesla Motors. As CEO of Space X, he leads his team in building advanced rockets and spacecraft with the goal of putting human life on other planets. Its most noted accomplishment was creating Falcon 1, which is the first privately developed rocket to reach orbit. Tesla Motors is an all-electric car manufacturer. Musk has been profiled in national publications such as TIME, Forbes and Esquire. A native of South Africa, he earned degrees in economics and physics from the University of Pennsylvania and a business degree from Wharton. Jon Favreau, director of "Iron Man" and "Iron Man 2," says Musk is the inspiration for the film version of Tony Stark. His net worth is $2 billion.
Google is a part of nearly everyone's life today, and Larry Page is one half of the duo that created the ultra-popular search engine. Page, along with Stanford University classmate Sergey Brin, began developing Google, then called BackRub, in 1996. Just two years later, PC Magazine dubbed the new website as the search engine of choice in the Top 100 websites for 1998. Today, the company has expanded its portfolio beyond the search engine to include email, social networking, 3D maps, music, cloud document creation, high-speed broadband networks, smart phones, tablets and more. The company also owns YouTube. As CEO of Google, Page's net worth is $20.3 billion. Page has connections to some of his competitors for the "real life Iron Man" title. He is an investor in Musk's Tesla Motors and Richard Branson, founder and chairman of Virgin Group, was the best man at his 2007 wedding.
Howard Hughes, the legendary film director and aviator, was known just as much for his bizarre personal life as he was for his career accomplishments by the time of his death from kidney failure in 1976. Hughes was born into wealth in 1905 and inherited his father's Hughes Tool business at the age of 17. He produced several films including "Hell's Angels," "Scarface" and "The Outlaw" between 1930 and 1941. He also founded the Hughes Aircraft Company and subsidiary, Hughes Electronics. The companies supplied airplanes and weapons to the U.S. military. Outside of work, Hughes was a noted playboy. He dated well-known actresses such as Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner and Bette Davis. There were rumors that he suffered from a germ phobia. Hughes spent the last 20 years of his life hiding from the public in various locations around the world. Hughes had a net worth of $2 billion and was labeled as one of the world's richest men during his life.
Britain's most well-known billionaire is the founder of Virgin Group, a brand that houses more than 250 companies. Virgin Group has entities all over the globe in a variety of industries including air and train travel, book publishing, mobile phone service, entertainment, wine production, health clubs and more. His latest venture is space tourism. In 2009, he unveiled the world's first commercial spacecraft, developed by Virgin Galactic, called The Enterprise. Ordinary people can purchase a flight into space for $200,000 per ticket. With a net worth of $4.2 billion, it is no surprise that Branson has managed to purchase his own island. Necker Island, located in the British Virgin Islands, is Branson's home and it is also a luxury retreat that can be rented out by the public for vacations and special events. He launched the Virgin Earth Challenge in 2007 with a $25 million prize to encourage people to come up with designs to remove anthropogenic atmospheric greenhouse gases from Earth's climate. In 2011, he announced plans to travel to the deepest points of the world's five oceans in Virgin Oceanic, a single-seated submarine.