The fortunes of billionaires have been on the rise across the board. There are 2,825 billionaires in the world and 664 of them are United States citizens. Of those billionaires, only 15 of them are black globally and seven black billionaires live in the United States. This is just another example of the widening gap between the economic opportunities given to black and white Americans. Since 1992, the median wealth of black families has not grown by any real measurable amount, while the median net worth of white families has increased by more than $50,000.
Black American billionaires have seen their net worths surge over the past year of the COVID pandemic. All seven black American billionaires are self-made. Their fortunes range from finance to sports to media to music and fashion. Many of them are very famous with well-known names and careers. They are all trailblazers in their industries. The five wealthiest black billionaires in the U.S. have a combined net worth of $22.7 billion. The two wealthiest, Robert F. Smith and Kanye West, both have net worths north of $6 billion. In fact, Kanye West recently became the wealthiest black American billionaire of all time. Let's take a look at the five wealthiest black people in the U.S.
#5. Michael Jordan
Net Worth: $2.2 billion
Michael Jordan is the highest-paid athlete of all time, but not because of his salary from the Chicago Bulls. Jordan didn't make as much playing basketball during his 15 seasons in the NBA as he made off the court with endorsements. Over his NBA career, Jordan earned $93 million. Today he brings home more than $100 million a year from his endorsement deal with Nike, alone. Today the Nike-owned Jordan brand accounts for about 50% of the basketball sneaker market and makes an average of $3 billion in revenue for Nike annually (give or take). In any given year, Michael earns $80 – $100 million from Nike royalties. The Charlotte Hornets NBA team is far and away Jordan's biggest asset. He was a minority investor in the team starting in 2006 and took control of the team in 2010. Jordan's timing in buying majority control of the Hornets could not have been better. When he was approved for the deal in March 2010, the franchise was valued at $175 million. Since that time, NBA values have skyrocketed. He owns about 90% of the franchise, which was most recently valued at a minimum of $1.15 billion. Jordan's stake in the Hornets is worth more than $1 billion alone.
#4. Oprah Winfrey
Net Worth: $3.5 billion
Oprah Winfrey is the Queen of all Media. She is a talk show host, actress, producer, pitchwoman, and philanthropist. Pretty much everything she touches turns to gold. That's not to say that she doesn't work hard for her success – no one works harder than Oprah. She is best known for her award-winning talk show, which ran from 1986 to 2011. She is one of the wealthiest African Americans of the 20th and 21st centuries. At one time, she was the world's only African American billionaire. She has a cable network, her acting career, her magazine, the shows she produces, and let's not forget her lucrative endorsement deal with Weight Watchers, to name just a few of her income streams. Oprah makes anywhere from $75 million to $300 million each year, which has given her an amazing net worth of $3.5 billion.
#3. David Steward
Net Worth: $3.9 billion
David Steward founded World Wide Technology, a technology service provider on a shoestring budget with seven employees in 1990. WWT focuses on telecommunications networks and enterprise-wide conversion services. The company provides planning, procurement, and deployment of IT products and solution selling. By 2003, WWT had revenues topping $1 billion. By 2010, revenue was more than $3.2 billion. Today, WWT has revenues of $12 billion and is one of the largest private companies and one of the largest black-owned businesses in America. Based in Missouri, WWT is the top U.S. reseller of Cisco solutions and second in the world. The company has more than 70 Fortune 100 companies as customers as well as several major federal purchasing contracts. WWT has more than 6,500 employees across 20 offices across the globe.
#2. Robert F. Smith
Net Worth: $6.5 billion
Robert F. Smith is the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Vista Equity Partners LLC. Founded in 2000, today Vista Equity Partners controls more than $57 billion in assets and has delivered an average annual return north of 30% since its inception. Before launching Vista, Robert F. Smith worked for Goldman Sachs in the Mergers & Acquisitions division from 1994 to 2000. He worked for Kraft from 1986 to 1992. Smith graduated from Cornell University and Columbia Business School. Smith is the first African American to sign the Giving Pledge. He is a major philanthropist who made big news in 2019 when he announced during the commencement speech at Morehouse College to pay off the students' collective $34 million in student loans. A few months later, he expanded that gift to include the parents of those students.
#1. Kanye West
Net Worth: $6.6 billion
It was just last year that rapper and sneaker mogul Kanye West rocketed into the billionaire's club with a net worth of $3.2 billion. A year later, he's going through a divorce from Kim Kardashian and has more than doubled his net worth. According to new valuations prepared by investment bank UBS, Kanye's sneaker/apparel partnership with Adidas is worth between $3.2 billion and $4.7 billion. Kanye owns 100% of the Yeezy brand, so those valuations go straight to his bottom line. Furthermore, according to UBS, his brand new partnership with The Gap is worth $1 billion. All of this helped Kanye's net worth increase to $6.6 billion. Kanye West is now the richest Black person in American history. West is the third richest celebrity in the world, behind only Steven Spielberg ($7 billion) and George Lucas ($10 billion).