Moguls: Definition, Influence, and Examples

What Is a Mogul?

A mogul is defined as a person who possesses a great deal of power, influence, or wealth. In business, a mogul is often associated with a person who dominates an enterprise or industry. Moguls tend to be founders or CEOs of important corporations. Mogul is sometimes used synonymously with "tycoon".

Key Takeaways

  • A business mogul is a wealthy and influential individual who is associated with a particular business or industry segment.
  • In the past, the term mogul was often ascribed to titans of industry such as railroad and steel barons.
  • Today, moguls tend to be successful entrepreneurs and tech CEOs.
  • Many moguls use their influence to sway politics and business, but also often contribute to philanthropy.

Understanding Moguls

Many business moguls are household names, but this kind of fame is not necessary to be considered a mogul. Such individuals possess innovative ideas, a willingness to take risks, and the keen business sense that it takes to make their ideas possible and their risks profitable. Moguls might also be called business magnates, barons, tycoons, or captains of industry, while the term media mogul is often applied to a person who dominates or controls a large media enterprise. Prominent examples of media moguls include Oprah Winfrey and Steve Forbes.

Mark Zuckerberg became a mogul when his social media creation, Facebook, became the dominant global online social network. Jack Welch is considered a mogul for his success as former chair and CEO of General Electric Company, one of the world's largest conglomerates. Mogul Henry Ford revolutionized the automobile industry with his assembly-line production method and the Model-T car.

Wealthy investors with large holdings are not generally considered moguls, since they are investing with entrepreneurs rather than operating a business themselves.

Historical Moguls

The term mogul is often used when referring to major historical figures who were business magnates during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the following:

  • Andrew Carnegie in the U.S. steel industry
  • John D. Rockefeller in the oil industry
  • J.P. Morgan in the banking industry
  • Cornelius Vanderbilt in the shipping and railroad industries

Other historical figures who are often called moguls include Henry Ford for automobiles, Aristotle Onassis for shipping, and William Randolph Hearst for publishing. In contemporary times, well-known moguls include Donald Trump for real estate; Sir Richard Branson for airlines and telecommunications; Jay Z for media and the music industry; and Warren Buffett for business and finance.

A Mogul's Influence

Moguls commonly exercise a great deal of influence in the political, economic, and social spheres, often providing large sums of money to political candidates, new business ventures, and charitable causes. Through Berkshire-Hathaway, Warren Buffett has invested enormous sums of capital in a wide swath of businesses in industries from insurance to restaurants, exerted a high degree of influence in U.S. political affairs, and donated billions of dollars to charitable causes.

Bill Gates, the founder and former CEO of Microsoft has been a powerful charitable force in Africa and other regions. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has spent billions of dollars to eradicate contagious diseases such as polio with extensive vaccination programs.

Elon Musk, a South-African-born Canadian-American billionaire, has effected a somewhat unique influence by focusing his efforts on major innovations that most others have found too risky or pie-in-the-sky, such as the proposed Hyperloop transportation system, the VTOL supersonic jet aircraft, and the Musk electric jet. In 2004, Musk became the chair of Tesla Motors, an innovative manufacturer of electric-powered automobiles. In 2014, Musk stated that anyone acting in good faith could use Tesla's technology to speed up the use and adoption of electric cars.