At Harvard Business School, he failed to achieve above-average grades. With a bit of embarrassment, he recalls being more impressed with who made the cut and entered BS than their actual abilities. Just 12 weeks before getting his MBA, he had no plans or ideas on how to turn his expensive education into a living. He didn’t even sign up for a single job interview on campus.
Yet today he is the richest MBA on the planet. Michael Bloomberg, who received his MBA from Harvard in 1966, has a net worth of $ 59 billion, a fortune that makes the former HBS man the 20th richest person in the world, according to Forbes. And even more surprisingly, the moment that led to his wealth was a moment few would want to experience: he was unexpectedly fired by the company that hired him straight out of Harvard Business School. At 39, Bloomberg found himself fired from the only full-time job he had ever had.
However, he won a high-value franchise award: $ 10 million in severance pay after 15 12-day, six-week years at what was then Wall Street’s most prominent company, Salomon Brothers. The payment, in cash and convertible bonds, gave Bloomberg the freedom in 1981 to create the company that is the source of his great wealth. Taking advantage of the financial reporting revolution, Innovative Market Systems would later become Bloomberg LP and pretty much own the market with the Bloomberg Terminal which sits on the desks of 325,000 analysts, traders and portfolio managers around the world.
THE MBA BILLIONAIRES GROUP
Bloomberg is one of a host of billionaires with MBAs. Right now, nine of the world’s 100 richest people have MBAs, with a majority – five in all – from Harvard Business School. Unsurprisingly, Harvard’s West Coast rival Stanford Graduate School of Business is next with two Top 100 MBAs. But MBA billionaires abound at many business schools, including the University of Iowa, Wake Forest University, University of London, and University of Cincinnati, among others. In total, there are at least 18 MBA graduates among the top 250, and billionaire MBAs are scattered among the 2,755 billionaires on the rich Forbes 2021 list, which grew 660 more than a year earlier.
Just behind Bloomberg on the Forbes list is Stanford MBA Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike, with a fortune valued at $ 50.0 billion, placing him 25th on the list, five places behind Bloomberg. Len Blavatnik, of Russian descent, who received his MBA from Harvard in 1989, has an estimated net worth of $ 32 billion, which places him 46th on the Forbes list of the rich and the richest person in the UK thanks to a conglomerate he founded. With an MBA from Harvard in 1972, Stephen Schwarzman, co-founder and CEO of The Blackstone Group, one of the world’s largest private equity players, is worth $ 21.9 billion. This fortune makes him the 79th richest person in the world, according to Forbes.
Another Harvard MBA, Abigail Johnson, a 1988 graduate and CEO of Fidelity Investments, the investment firm her grandfather founded, amassed a fortune of $ 20.9 billion (85th on Forbes’ list of the rich) . She joined Ray Dalio, a $ 20.3 billion HBS alumnus who graduated from Harvard Business School with his MBA in 1973. After his freshman year at Harvard, Dalio and his friends founded the company that would later become Bridgewater. Associates, a commodities trading company that has grown to become the world’s largest hedge fund. Among that super-rich crowd, Apple CEO Tim Cook, who holds an MBA from Duke Fuqua, is just a simple piker, coming in at 2,263rd place on Forbes rich list with a net worth of $ 1.3 billion.
TWO STANFORD MBA DROPPERS ARE AMONG THE 15 RICHEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD
But you obviously don’t need to have an MBA from Harvard and Stanford to be in the billionaire class. Alexey Mordashov, with a net worth of $ 29.1 billion (51st on the Forbes list) received his MBA from Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Susanne Klatten, of German descent and holder of an MBA from IMD in Switzerland, amassed her fortune of $ 27.7 billion after her father’s death led to an inheritance and majority control of the manufacturer pharmaceuticals and chemicals Altana and a large stake in BMW.
Interestingly enough, at least two of the richest people in the world have dropped out of their MBA programs at Stanford: petrochemical billionaire Mukesh Ambani and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer who answered Bill Gates’ call to join him in as a commercial director of Microsoft. With a wealth of $ 68.7 billion, Ballmer is considered the 14th richest individual on the planet. Ambani, with an estimated net worth of $ 84.5 billion, is tenth on the Forbes list, making him the richest person in India.
It’s fair to say that few MBAs have made their way onto the rich Forbes list because of their degree, although for some it was a crucial step towards their eventual fortune. In his memoir, Bloomberg on Bloomberg, the former HBS says his two years in Boston were well spent, teaching I’m the basics of accounting, marketing, production, management, controlling, finance and behavioral sciences. And he found the case study approach very useful. “There is nothing more educational than instant feedback from hundreds of classmates yelling at you when you’re caught off guard or can’t justify a position,” he wrote.
BLOOMBERG: “SOME OF MY HBS CLASS CAMS WERE TOTAL FRAUDS THAT CANNOT SPEAK OF A GOOD GAME”
But in his classes at Harvard, he also collided with people he considered posers and “bullshit.”
“The academic standards were higher there, but not what I would call exceptional,” he recalls in his book. “There were some very bright students in my class, some classmates that I thought were ‘not exactly intellectually gifted’, and a few that I considered outright frauds who could only speak of a good game. From today’s perspective, thirty years later, those I thought were intelligent have generally done well later in life; those I considered dummies were less successful. The bullshit has faded. Street intelligence and common sense have been shown to be better predictors of professional achievement after graduation than of academic success. Since I received average grades at “B school”, I don’t really mind that.
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