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World’s Top Nabobs

Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, but January 29th marks the date in 1936 when the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) released the results of its first vote, enshrining Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner. The building that holds the plaques and memorabilia of the greats of our national pastime opened its doors three years later. By then 21 other names had been added to the honor roll, including Lou Gehrig, who had just been diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, a fatal illness that many now call Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Just as there are quibbles about who was left out of the most recent balloting there were slights back at the beginning. Rogers (his first name was his mother’s maiden name) Hornsby, who still possesses the second highest lifetime batting average behind Cobb, was overlooked for six years before gaining entrance to Cooperstown.


Hornsby provides quite a contrast to many overpaid professional athletes of the 21st Century. His mother was widowed when Rogers was only two. The single parent family moved from Winters, Texas to Fort Worth so Hornsby’s older brothers could get meat packing jobs with Swift and Company. At ten, Rogers went to work part time at Swift as a messenger and utility infielder on the company baseball team. He dropped out of school in the tenth grade to labor at Swift and continued to play semi-pro baseball in the evenings and weekends. Hornsby signed a minor league contract at 18. He made it to the majors at 19 and by the time he reached the age of 25 he was an established star with the St. Louis Cardinals. After the 1921 season, in which he batted .397, placed second in the league in home runs, and led the National League in doubles, triples, runs scored, runs batted in, slugging percentage and on-base percentage, Hornsby earned the highest salary in all of major league baseball: $18,500. Adjusted for modern inflation that would be slightly more than a quarter million dollars per year. Throughout his life Hornsby neither drank nor smoked. He did not go to what he termed “movin’ picture shows” and he refused to play cards. However, he was an inveterate gambler on horse races, losing much of his salary as a player and later, manager. He remained so constantly indebted that he was still playing for and managing a Mexican League team during World War II.

There are no equals of Hornsby at the plate in today’s major league baseball, but salaries have skyrocketed in the three and a half decades since players were allowed to become free agents. Earlier this month Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Clayton Kershaw signed a deal that will pay him approximately $30 million per year for seven seasons.

Before anyone starts to complain about Kershaw’s salary, consider that even if he made the entirety of his contract, $215 million, in a single year, Kershaw would not even be a blip on the radar of the world’s richest people. And, by the way, Oxfam recently noted that a mere 85 individuals possess as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population!

Why do we, the masses, tolerate this? Probably for the same sort of reason that more people can name the members of the Baseball Hall of Fame or the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame than any living rich person beyond Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and a Koch brother. We spend too much of our lives diverted: either working too hard to have time for even the most worthy of diversions like a game of catch or a fine piece of music or we are stupefied by what passes for mind numbing entertainment that big business tries to drown us in. Need I mention the Kardashians, Honey Boo-Boo or pay per view “Ultimate Fighting Championships”?


While you’re searching for the nearest guillotine, the list of those 85 nabobs will be forthcoming. Before sharpening the blade, perhaps we should take a closer look at those who are sitting on enough wealth to feed, clothe and properly house most, if not all, of China, India, and Africa. There are some incredibly wealthy souls like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg who have signed a pledge to donate at least half their fortunes to charities. Readers will have to do their own research and form their own judgments on the other wealthy folk listed below. Without further ado here’s your Hall of Shame, with their current net worth (estimated as of December, 2013 by Forbes magazine):

  1. Carlos Slim Helu & family, $73 B, telecom, Mexico
  2. Bill Gates, $67 B, Microsoft, United States
  3. Amancio Ortega, $57 B, Zara, Spain
  4. Warren Buffett, $53.5 B, Berkshire Hathaway, United States
  5. Larry Ellison, $43 B, Oracle, United States
  6. Charles Koch, $34 B, diversified, United States
  7. David Koch, $34 B, diversified, United States
  8. Li Ka-shing, $31 B, diversified, Hong Kong
  9. Liliane Bettencourt & family, $30 B, L'Oreal, France
  10. Bernard Arnault & family, $29 B, LVMH, France
  11. Christy Walton & family, $28.2 B, Wal-Mart, United States
  12. Stefan Persson, $28 B, H&M, Sweden
  13. Michael Bloomberg, $27 B, Bloomberg LP, United States
  14. Jim Walton, $26.7 B, Wal-Mart, United States
  15. Sheldon Adelson, $26.5 B, casinos, United States
  16. Alice Walton, $26.3 B, Wal-Mart, United States
  17. S. Robson Walton, $26.1 B, Wal-Mart, United States
  18. Karl Albrecht, $26 B, Aldi, Germany
  19. Jeff Bezos, $25.2 B,, United States
  20. Larry Page, $23 B, Google, United States
  21. Sergey Brin, $22.8 B, Google, United States
  22. Mukesh Ambani, $21.5 B, petrochemicals, oil & gas, India
  23. Michele Ferrero & family, $20.4 B, chocolates, Italy
  24. Lee Shau Kee, $20.3 B, diversified, Hong Kong
  25. David Thomson & family, $20.3 B, media, Canada
  26. Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud, $20 B, investments, Saudi Arabia
  27. Carl Icahn, $20 B, leveraged buyouts, United States
  28. Thomas & Raymond Kwok & family, $20 B, real estate, Hong Kong
  29. Dieter Schwarz, $19.5 B, retail, Germany
  30. George Soros, $19.2 B, hedge funds, United States
  31. Theo Albrecht, Jr. & family, $18.9 B, Aldi, Trader Joe's, Germany
  32. Alberto Bailleres Gonzalez & family, $18.2 B, mining, Mexico
  33. Jorge Paulo Lemann, $17.8 B, beer, Brazil
  34. Alisher Usmanov, $17.6 B, steel, telecom, investments, Russia
  35. Iris Fontbona & family, $17.4 B, mining, Chile
  36. Forrest Mars, Jr., $17 B, candy, United States
  37. Jacqueline Mars, $17 B, candy, United States
  38. John Mars, $17 B, candy, United States
  39. Georgina Rinehart, $17 B, mining, Australia
  40. German Larrea Mota Velasco & family, $16.7 B, mining, Mexico
  41. Mikhail Fridman, $16.5 B, oil, banking, telecom, Russia
  42. Lakshmi Mittal, $16.5 B, steel, India
  43. Aliko Dangote, $16.1 B, cement, sugar, flour, Nigeria
  44. Len Blavatnik, $16 B, diversified, United States
  45. Cheng Yu-tung, $16 B, diversified, Hong Kong
  46. Joseph Safra, $15.9 B, banking, Brazil
  47. Rinat Akhmetov, $15.4 B, steel, coal, Ukraine
  48. Leonid Mikhelson, $15.4 B, gas, chemicals, Russia
  49. Leonardo Del Vecchio, $15.3 B, eyeglasses, Italy
  50. Michael Dell, $15.3 B, Dell, United States
  51. Steve Ballmer, $15.2 B, Microsoft, United States
  52. Viktor Vekselberg, $15.1 B, oil, metals, Russia
  53. Paul Allen, $15 B, Microsoft, investments, United States
  54. Francois Pinault & family, $15 B, retail, France
  55. Vagit Alekperov, $14.8 B, Lukoil, Russia
  56. Phil Knight, $14.4 B, Nike, United States
  57. Andrey Melnichenko, $14.4 B, coal, fertilizers, Russia
  58. Dhanin Chearavanont & family, $14.3 B, food, Thailand
  59. Susanne Klatten, $14.3 B, BMW, pharmaceuticals, Germany
  60. Vladimir Potanin, $14.3 B, metals, Russia
  61. Michael Otto & family, $14.2 B, retail, real estate, Germany
  62. Vladimir Lisin, $14.1 B, steel, transport, Russia
  63. Gennady Timchenko, $14.1 B, oil & gas, Russia
  64. Luis Carlos Sarmiento, $13.9 B, banking, Colombia
  65. Mohammed Al Amoudi, $13.5 B, oil, diversified, Saudi Arabia
  66. Tadashi Yanai & family, $13.3 B, retail, Japan
  67. Mark Zuckerberg, $13.3 B, Facebook, United States
  68. Henry Sy & family, $13.2 B, diversified, Philippines
  69. Donald Bren, $13 B, real estate, United States
  70. Serge Dassault & family, $13 B, aviation, France
  71. Lee Kun-Hee, $13 B, Samsung, South Korea
  72. Mikhail Prokhorov, $13 B, investments, Russia
  73. Alexey Mordashov, $12.8 B, steel, investments, Russia
  74. Antonio Ermirio de Moraes & family, $12.7 B, diversified, Brazil
  75. Abigail Johnson, $12.7 B, money management, United States
  76. Ray Dalio, $12.5 B, hedge funds, United States
  77. Robert Kuok, $12.5 B, diversified, Malaysia
  78. Miuccia Prada, $12.4 B, Prada, Italy
  79. Ronald Perelman, $12.2 B, leveraged buyouts, United States
  80. Anne Cox Chambers, $12 B, media, United States
  81. Stefan Quandt, $11.9 B, BMW, Germany
  82. Ananda Krishnan, $11.7 B, telecoms, Malaysia
  83. Alejandro Santo Domingo Davila, $11.7 B, beer, Colombia
  84. James Simons, $11.7 B, hedge funds, United States
  85. Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, $11.7 B, drinks, Thailand

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