Politicians are known for their charm and their ability to work the system. We typically have a very love-hate relationship with our leaders, but one thing’s for sure: some of them are really, really rich. Richer than they might want you to know.
Many politicians gain their wealth in business before getting into politics. Others use their political connections to make them money. Some are heirs or heiresses before they ever enter office. What follows are some of the wealthiest politicians in the world and the stories of how they made so, so much money.
Net worth: $6.7B
Position: Former Prime Minister
Silvio Berlusconi is a Italian political figure who served as prime minister in four different governments. In fact, Berlusconi holds the title as the longest-serving PM in Italy since World War II. His party is the center-right side of Italy’s political spectrum. Clearly he knows how to stay in the people’s favor.
On the business side, Berlusconi is well-known for owning the Milan football club A.C. Milan from the 1980’s until 2017. He also holds a majority stake in the media company Mediaset. Some of Berlusconi’s wealth may have been suspect, however. The former leader was recently sentenced to two years in prison for tax fraud. He ended up eluding prison, doing community service instead.
Net worth: $13M
Position: Prime Minister
Canada’s second-youngest leader was perhaps always destined for politics. After all, his father was Canada’s 15th prime minister. Following studies in environmental geography and literature, Trudeau’s first true step into politics probably began with the delivery of his father’s eulogy. The speech is often cited as a significant historical moment in Canadian politics.
Trudeau spent several years leading Canada’s Liberal Party, culminating in his electoral victory in 2015 as Canada’s newest prime minister. In this role, he’s advocated a consistently progressive platform. Much of his personal wealth was inherited from a prestigious political family lineage. His many fans also consider Trudeau to be one of the most “charming” politicians on the global stage. Little do they know: he’s also one of the richest!
Net worth: $16.3B
Position: National Assembly Deputy
Olivier Dassault is the son of renowned businessman Serge Dassault, making him a key part of a massive family business. After inheriting his father’s mantle, he became president of Dassault Communications. But his many financial projects also include the Journal des Finances and Socpresse. As a politician, he’s a prominent member of France’s Republican party.
Dassault served as a combat engineer in the French Air Force in 1974. He also has a doctorate degree in mathematics, which he got from the air force academy. He became a deputy in 2002 on a UMP ticket. He was then reelected to the position in 2007. Quite the Renaissance man, Dassault also pursues photography and music. His compositions were even been used in iconic French films during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Not many others on this list can boast something like that!
Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun
Net worth: $30B
Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun is the king of Thailand. He inherited the throne and fortune from his father, Bhumibol Adulyadej (his mother is an actual queen: Queen Sikrit). His father passed away in October of 2016, and a distraught Maha needed more time to mourn before taking up his crown.
He ascended to the throne on December 1, 2016. As customary, his father was cremated ten months later. When Maha’s coronation takes place in 2019 he will become the Chakri dynasty’s tenth monarch. He is also one of the oldest princes to assume the throne, becoming king at age 64. In addition to being a king, he is also an ordained monk. Maha’s ordaining took place at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Net worth: $1.7B
Position: Former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party
Michael Ashcroft made millions before politics when he founded Michael A. Ashcroft Associates. The firm opened in 1972, and Ashcroft is still among the top 100 richest people in the UK. He’d been on the Conservative bench since 2000, though he recently retired from politics in 2015.
Ashcroft is still active in promoting Conservative Party policies. He served as a treasurer to the party before he sat on the bench in the House of Lords. Ashcroft is also a prominent philanthropist. He is a major supporter of anti-crime efforts, and he founded Crimestoppers. Crimestoppers is an anonymous hotline that allows people to report crimes. The institution nets an income of nearly five million pounds per year.
Net worth: $2.2B
Position: Former California Republican Gubernatorial Candidate
Meg Whitman was born in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. While her shot at California’s gubernatorial race didn’t work out (running as a Republican there rarely does), Whitman remains involved in politics. She received her education from Harvard and Princeton. But she made her fortune as an executive in the Walt Disney Company – and as one of the heads of Hewlett-Packard.
In 2008, she was considered a front-runner as the first female candidate for U.S. president. In the end, she decided not to run. Whitman is a well-known conservative, though her views have changed over time. She is now more liberal socially. Whitman was recently awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Carnegie Mellon University. She currently ranks in as California’s fifth-wealthiest woman. If she ever decides to run for office again, this will undoubtedly give her quite an edge.
Net worth: $50B
Position: Former President
Nigeria’s former President Ibrahim Babangida was a military man credited with leading the coup against his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari. He then streamlined Nigeria’s wealth (and his own) through oil, economic reform and international partnerships. Babangida himself owns some of the continent’s most expensive real estate. His rise through Nigeria’s army, culminating in his reign as the Chief of Army, is a highlight of his military career.
Babangida’s wealth is second to none in his home country of Nigeria. Though considered by some to be a controversial leader, it’s tough to argue with his business tactics given his massive wealth. Babangida personally owns over half of the London-based Fruitex International Limited corporation. He also owns nearly a quarter of Nigeria’s second-largest telecom company, Globacam.
Net worth: $104.4M
Country: South Korea
Position: Former Presidential Candidate
Many South Koreans will remember Ahn Cheol-soo’s two runs for South Korea’s presidency in 2017 and 2012. Cheol-soo jumped between parties before landing at the Bareunmirae Party. As a politician he has opposed key issues including same-sex marriage and the American anti-ballistic defense system known and THAAD. But long before any of his politics, Cheol-soo was first and foremost a keen businessman.
He hit it big with his security software company AhnLab, Inc. He famously turned down a huge offer from John McAfee to buy his company. This decision proved to be the correct one. AhnLab would eventually remain in his own hands and become the country’s second-biggest company of its kind. This massive empire gave Cheol-soo the capital he needed to enter politics, where he remains actively engaged to this day.
Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan
Net worth: $23B
Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan is the president of the UAE and Supreme Commander of the Union Defence Force. After he succeeded his father as the Emir of Abu Dhabi, he automatically became president the very next day.
Khalifa made his money from an investment group, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, which has a lot of holdings throughout the world. Overall, the al Nahyan family as a collective has about $150 billion. Recently, the Burj Dubai (aka: the world’s tallest structure) was renamed after Khalifa. It is now called Burj Khalifa. As if this weren’t enough, Khalifa also commissioned a huge luxury yacht. Most estimate it will cost between $400 and $600 million, making it the largest in the world.
Net worth: $550M
Country: South Africa
Cyril Ramaphosa is not only the most powerful man in South Africa (he’s currently the region’s fifth President), but he’s also the richest. Renowned for building up South African’s trade union, he honed his skills as a politician through both activism and business practices. He was, quite famously, the man that Nelson Mandela supported to be South Africa’s President.
Ramaphosa has several highly lucrative business ventures, but chief among them is Shanduka Group. The mighty conglomerate has vast dividends in telecom, energy, and banking throughout South Africa. Oh, and if you’ve ever eaten at a McDonald’s in South Africa, then Ramaphosa is probably the person to thank. He bought a massive, 20-year franchise to ‘Mickey D’s’ back in 2011, a move which popularized the chain in the region for good.
Net worth: $23M
Position: Former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister
Often cited as one of the most influential behind-the-scenes power players in Canada, Gerald Butts served as Prime Minister Trudeau’s chief advisor for many years until February of 2019. Prior to this he was a major policy-setter and figurehead of the Ontario Liberal Party, leading them to victory in the 2003 and 2007 elections. He spent nearly a decade in the 2000’s as the Principal Secretary to the Premier of Ontario.
In parallel to his political career is his passion for protecting the environment. Famously, Butts spent four years serving as the CEO of Canada’s World Wildlife Fund. During this period (and in the years since) he’s been very vocal about preserving the natural world and offering cleaner alternatives to current fuel systems.
Net worth: $47.5B
Position: Former U.S. Presidential Candidate
Michael Bloomberg was born in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood. Known mostly as a former mayor of New York City, you might be surprised to learn that he wasn’t raised in NYC (though today his businesses are mostly based there). Bloomberg made a run for U.S. president on the Independent Party’s ticket. A run he may yet again make in the upcoming 2020 election. Bloomberg is the eighth richest person in America. He made most of his money from his company, Innovative Market Systems, which provides information to stockbrokers.
Bloomberg’s political affiliations have switched several times. He was a registered Democrat before becoming a Republican, but then he left the Republican Party to joining the Independents. But the rumor is that he’ll rejoin the Democratic Party if and when he runs in 2020.
Net worth: $20M
Position: Former Prime Minister
One of Malaysia’s richest men is also one of its most powerful. Abdullah Badawi served as the country’s Prime Minister from 2003 until 2009, and continued to serve in Parliament until 2013. His family lineage is steeped in power and religious leadership. He entered politics quickly after receiving his BA in Islamic Studies from the University of Malaysia.
Though his tenure was not without its share of controversies, the country flourished economically under Badawi’s leadership. He won by large margins in his early elections. His popularity eroded in subsequent years, and he was nearly faced with a no-confidence vote by 2008. In addition to politics, Badawi is a celebrated poet. His work has been published in more than 80 languages.
Net worth: $20B
Russian president Vladimir Putin was the ruler of Russia from 2000 to 2008, and he reassumed office in 2012. Born in Leningrad during the Soviet years, Putin studied law before taking up a political office. Though he has helped the Russian economy grow, Putin faces fierce criticism and accusations of being a ruthless dictator.
Russia rates low on the transparency index, and its democracy has taken a similar nosedive. Putin tends to assassinate his outspoken critics, making his inner circle (and workings) a very mysterious and dark affair. Even when he wasn’t the acting president, Putin reportedly pulled many strings in former president Dimitry Medvedev’s administration. Putin is among the world’s most controversial leaders.
Net worth: $500M
Though it’s far short of the “many billions” he’s often claimed, Donald Trump’s net worth of roughly $500 million is still nothing to sneeze at. Prior to winning the electoral college in America, he was a reality TV show host. But for the most part he owes his fortune to an inheritance of his father’s real estate company. Trump’s many business efforts (his own brand of steaks, casinos and a university, for example) often landed him close to bankruptcy.
All the money in the world can’t seem to buy Donald Trump out of his legal woes. After being elected president, six of Trump’s associates were charged with a myriad of white-collar crimes by special prosecutor, Robert Mueller. Rumors of a financial deal with Russian president Vladimir Putin for a Trump Tower in Moscow may eventually put “the Don” in federal prison.
Net worth: $425.8M
Position: Leader of the United Australia Party
The highly vocal and controversial head of Australia’s United Australia Party is Clive Palmer, one of the country’s richest individuals. He made his early millions in mining ventures. Among his more… Uh, bizarre investments… Is a plan to reconstruct the Titanic (little progress has actually been made so far). He also opened a theme park featuring about 160 robotic dinosaurs called “Palmersaurus,” apparently named after himself.
After transitioning into politics, Palmer briefly served in Australia’s 44th Parliament. During that time, he attended actual government sessions less than any other leader (he reportedly only showed up 64% of the time). The outspoken leader has rallied about everything from abortion rights to Tim-Tam cookies. He currently plans to re-enter politics full-time.
Enrique Peña Nieto
Net worth: $20M
Position: Former President
Mexico’s former (and historically unpopular) President, Enrique Peña Nieto, was elected to office based on a campaign promise to end Mexico’s drug crime. Under his watch, however, crime and mass kidnappings linked to the cartels spiraled out of control. His administration was embroiled in a seemingly endless deluge of corruption scandals.
Nieto was a career politician, culminating with his term as president until 2018. He had previously served as the Province of Mexico’s governor. On top of his enormous wealth is his marriage to local telenovela star Angelica Rivera. The two met after Rivera had worked for his political campaign. Nieto will likely go down in history as Mexico’s most infamous and controversial leader.
Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud
Net worth: $17B
Country: Saudi Arabia
Position: Crown Prince
Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud is one of Saudi Arabia’s most recognized people. That is partially to do with his incredible and vast wealth, and his plan to reform many Saudi positions and laws. But he’s also faced extreme backlack for his alleged role in the murder of Turkish journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi was deeply critical of the crowned prince; he was eventually found chopped into literal pieces.
Salman is known for being the driving force behind his father, King Salman. Together, both he and his father have also faced criticism for their bombing campaign of Yemen. The campaign induced a famine in 2018 that has led to the starvation of thirteen million civilians. Relations with the rest of the world – even with so much money at stake – have since been put to the test.
Net worth: $2.5B
Sebastian Pinera (full name Miguel Juan Sebastián Piñera Echenique) is the current Chilean President. He has served two terms thus far, making him the second president to ever do so in Chile. Pinera actually lived in New York as a child because his father was the Ambassador to Chile. He may have had connections from birth, but his wealth comes from a smart investment in credit cards he made in the 1970’s.
Before becoming president, Pinera was a humble teacher. He taught from 1971 to 1988 as an economics professor. He also started a foundation for women called The Enterprising Women Foundation. He also started the Future Foundation, which purports to work on justice and anti-corruption efforts in government.
Net worth: $20B
Position: 29th Sultan of Brunei
Hassanal Bolkiah is the 29th Sultan of Brunei. He is well-known for reinstituting sharia law into Brunei, particularly when it comes to criminal law. He also holds the title as the first-ever Prime Minister of the country. Next to Queen Elizabeth II, the Brunei Sultan is the world’s longest-running monarchy. He will be entering the fiftieth year of his reign.
Brunei has done well under Bolkiah. The leader has helped establish and educational system and low-cost healthcare. He is also very involved in international financial summits. Bolkiah has focused heavily on maintaining Brunei’s economy through the oil and gas industry. He wants to establish a petrochemical industrial sector as well. The banking industry is increasing, and the Bank of Brunei has assets worth $5 billion.
Net worth: $1.8B
Position: Former Governor of Tennessee
Bill Haslam was the Republican governor of Tennessee until 2019. His first venture into politics was when he became the mayor of Knoxville in 2003. But many years before that, Haslam made his millions in business. His father founded Pilot Corporation, a huge petroleum company with headquarters in Knoxville. The company also own the popular Flying J chain, the largest chain of truck stops in the US.
Haslam’s conservative views eventually gave way to a Democratic replacement in January of 2019. He has controversially opposed same-sex marriages, abortion rights of almost every kind, and is a member of the NRA.
Net worth: $4.5B
Position: Former Prime Minister
Bidzina Ivanishvili was the prime minister of Georgia from 2012 until 2013, and the single-richest person in Georgia. This is quite the accomplishment considering he rcame from such poor roots. He was born in Chorvila in near-poverty. He was one of five children, and his father was a factory worker. Despite great odds, Bidzina graduated high school and then went on to college.
He achieved a Ph.D. in engineering at a university in Moscow. He made his wealth first through importing telephones, and then through buyouts of underwater businesses that he turned around and sold for millions. His business partner was Vitaly Malkin, a businessman in Russia who is now known for his political involvement and attempts to unseat Putin as the president. Despite being out of office for quite awhile now, Ivanishvili remains active in the Georgian Dream party.
Net worth: $10.8B
Position: National People’s Congress Delegate
Zong Qinghou made his fortune in the beverage business when he founded Hangzhou Wahaha Group. Hangzhou distributes teas, milks and soft drinks. Qinghou himself has very little formal education; he worked on a salt farm after graduating from secondary school. He managed to find work at a mini-grocery selling milk, and grew his business from there.
Zong’s business became popular in China because people appreciated a Chinese business pushing back against larger, foreign businesses that tended to monopolize the country. This soon gave way to Qinghou’s political career. He’s been a delegate for the NPC since 2002, and he won reelection to that position in 2007. He has a daughter who went to the states for college, but she returned after graduating and renounced her US naturalization.
Net worth: $74M
Position: Florida Congressional Representative
Vern Buchanan is a congressional representative who is a member of the Republican Party. But long before his foray into politics, he was first and foremost a businessman. He founded a printing company, which enjoyed some success but eventually went bankrupt. Buchanan was able to get back on his feet by buying up car dealerships and reinsurance companies.
Buchanan sits on the House Ways and Means Committee. As a member, he recently sponsored a bill that would increase penalties for animal abuse, a rare bipartisan issue. He also sponsored a bill banning consumption of dog or cat meat in the United States. Buchanan’s political views tend to lean far to the right, though he has shown a tendency to be comparatively moderate when it comes to some social issues.
Net worth: $257M
Position: Virginia Senator
Mark Warner is a Democratic Senator representing Virginia. He won the seat in 2008, and he has held it ever since. But in addition to politics, Warner is the founder of a venture capital firm called Columbia Capital. The firm has been enormously successful, and it made Warner a millionaire. He received a degree from Harvard Law School but he has never practiced law, choosing to go a different way with his degree.
Warner is heavily involved in improving in infrastructure and education in his state. Intriguing, Warner is also a farmer and winemaker. His farm has fifteen acres of vines. His private vintage produced bottles that are used to raise money at charitable events.
Net worth: $3B
Position: Leader of the Free Egyptians Party
Naguib Sawiris is one of Egypt’s richest, but also its most controversial. He made his wealth through his family business, a massive holdings conglomerate. The firm, Orascom Group, has dividends across almost every Egyptian industry including transportation, telecom, technology and more. Sawiris is also the chairman of the parent company of Weather Investments. So yeah, he has a lot of money.
Following the Arab Revolution in 2011, Sawiris started the Free Egyptians Party. He also offered to buy a small island to house refugees in need of shelter, but stumbled into too much red tape before he could put that idea into action. He’s received international awards from Italy and France for his diplomatic ventures to those countries.
Net worth: $2B
Position: Former Chief of the Indian Congress Party
Sonia Gandhi was born in a small Italian village. From those humble beginnings she’s since become one of the richest politicians in the world – and one of the richest women on planet Earth. She found her way into Indian politics when she married Rajiv Gandhi, president of the Indian Congress Party.
Gandhi was assassinated in 1998. In the aftermath of his death, Sonia took over his role. She was quite reluctant at first. But the party practically begged her to do it. Eventually, she decided to take over as the leader of the ICP, serving as president for nineteen years. She adhered strongly to a centrist position during her time as the leader of the party.
Net worth: $13.7M
Position: Finance Minister
Taro Aso is both the Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Japan. He has been involved in Japanese politics since 1979, when he initially served in Japan’s House of Representatives. He worked his way up, holding a number of positions during his long career. He’s served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Secretary General and President of the Liberal Democratic Party. He’s also notable for being a member of the Montreal Olympics while he was on the shooting team for Japan.
In some countries, however, Taro Aso has been accused of revising or censoring history. For example, Aso maintains publicly that the Japanese army never committed any war crimes in the Pacific during World War II. A position that American histories fiercely deny. These public statements may all be for the cameras, though. Aso’ frequently been spotted side-by-side with American leaders, so perhaps it’s all water under the bridge.
Net worth: $4.1B
Position: Reform Party President
Prior to becoming a politician, Ross Perot made the majority of his wealth in business. Born in Texarkana, Texas, Perot finished school and decided to join the Navy. He helped to establish the Honor System in the Naval Academy. His first post-Navy job was as a salesperson for IBM. He ended up doing extremely well at his job, meeting his sales quota for the year in just a couple weeks.
He left IBM and founded Electronic Data Systems. The company did processing for large companies. Famously, Perot was rejected seventy-seven times before a company decided to contract with him. But after that first “yes,” the company took off. Perot later founded the Reform Party, an independent American political party. He ran for president in the 1990’s on a libertarian platform. His loss actually represented one of the most successful independent campaigns in U.S. political history.
Net worth: $3.4B
Position: 2020 Presidential Candidate
Howard Schultz is a relatively new entry into the political landscape; he only recently announced that he would be running for U.S. President in 2020. Schultz was born in Brooklyn, New York. He is, of course, the CEO of the international coffee sensation known as Starbucks. But also made billions with another company Maveron, which does investments. For a time, Schultz was part-owner of the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics.
Schultz’ success in business is remarkable considering the poverty of his upbringing. Though he grew up poor, he was able to get involved in sports and used that as an avenue to higher education. Schultz’ first job was as a salesperson for Xerox. He was extremely successful early on. He traveled to Italy and became inspired by the coffee traditions there, which led to his later ventures with Starbucks. Schultz recently tweeted his presidential campaign announcement, surprising everyone. It remains to be seen what his independent platform will entail – or if he’ll be as popular as a Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Net worth: $3.5B
Position: Governor of Illinois
J.B. Pritzker is the newly-elected governor of Illinois. He is a member of the Democratic Party. Pritzker’s election made him the richest governor in American history, and the second-richest politician next to Michael Bloomberg. Before politics, he founded a digital startup in Chicago called 1871. The name, incidentally, is taken from the year of the Great Chicago Fire. 1871’s success led him to found a private investment organization called Pritzker Group Private Capital.
The company has holdings across many diverse businesses including PECO Pallet and Clinical Innovations. Pritzker first got into politics as the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. He focused on getting young people under forty out to the polls. He spent $42 million on his own campaign run two years later, relying on little outside funding. Let’s hope he’s as good at politics as he is at making billions!
Net worth: $32B
Position: Former President
Olusegun Obasanjo is the former president of Nigeria. He was born in Abeokuta, and orphaned by age 22. After his mother’s death he enlisted in the Nigerian Army. He was a devoted soldier in the nation’s Army for years, achieving the rank of captain and then major. He served with the Nigerian sector of the U.N. Forces deployed in the Congo. He also traveled to India, where he was promoted to the rank of major as part of the military’s only engineering unit.
Obasanjo became Chief of Staff in 1975 under the Murtala Mohammed regime, which came into power after a military coup. A later coup would cost Murtala his life, but Obasanjo would survive. After regaining control he instituted a strict military regime. Much of his personal wealth is owed to Nigerian oil.
Net worth: $150M
Position: Former Energy Minister
Mukhtar Ablyazov has had a long and complex political journey, one which ended recently with massive legal consequences. Ablyazov was born in Galkino Village under the Soviet Regime. He received a degree in theoretical physics and became a researcher at National University. He then traveled to Moscow to get his masters, causing his termination from his job at Kazakh National. He first entered in politics when he was appointed to an oil and gas company owned by the state.
From there made received a huge promotion to become Kazakhstan’s Minister of Energy. His appointment seemed to mark a younger generation of Kazakh politics. But an investigation later revealed that Ablyazov had embezzled $6 billion from his time as the chair of BTA Bank. He was infamously arrested by INTERPOL amidst public scandal.
Net worth: $4.1B
Position: Former Minister of Transport
Mohamed Mansour’s family has a long history of business achievements. He was born in Alexandria, Egypt into extreme wealth. His family controlled the Mansour Group, which operated nine of Egypt’s top Fortune 500 companies. Mansour attended North Carolina State University and Auburn University. He taught at the latter for several years after receiving his MBA.
He and his brothers have had an active role in the family business, expanding the Mansour Group’s massive holdings even further. Together, they established ties with American industry leaders including Caterpillar, Chevrolet, Marlboro and GM. The Mansour Group also invested in an Egyptian McDonald’s chain and a supermarket chain, Metro (quite popular in Europe). Mansour ascended into politics as the Minister of Transport. But he famously resigned after a deadly crash took place under his watch.
Net worth: $300M
Position: Member of Parliament
Zac Goldsmith has been an MP for Richmond Park for two years. His father is famed billionaire investor Sir James Goldsmith. But when Goldsmith was born, it was not only into a rich family – but also a vast political empire. The Goldsmiths have remained one of the pillars of the Conservative party. Goldsmith himself is well-educated, having traveled around the world. He was appointed to an editorial review board for the Ecologist, which is owned by a relative.
Goldsmith was the Conservative Party candidate for London’s mayor. Many will recall his loss to Labour Party candidate (and current mayor) Sadiq Khan. Controversy swirled around Goldsmith after it was revealed that he changed his domicile in order to avoid paying over half a million pounds in taxes each year. Goldsmith was never formally charged with any wrongdoing, and he continues to deny financial malfeasance.
Net worth: $110M
Position: Member of Parliament
Richard Benyon is another super-wealthy British MP. He was born in Reading and his father, Sir William Benyon, was an MP for the Conservative Party for a dozen years. Richard attended Bradfield College and the Royal Agricultural College for his education. After that he served as a lieutenant in the British Army. His posting was in Northern Ireland, the Middle East and the U.K.
In 1984 he transferred to the reserves and, seven years later, was elected to the District Council of Newbury. He ran three times for an MP position, and he won on the third chance after defeating longtime Liberal Democrat rival David Rendel. During David Cameron’s reign, Benyon became a leader of the Department for the Environment. He was criticized for being too lax on environmental regulations, particularly receiving criticism from the Green Party.
Net worth: $500M
Uhuru Kenyatta is the current president of Kenya. He was born in Nairobi to Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of Kenya. His political career began as an MP for Gatundu South. He was also involved with the National Alliance and the Kenya African National Union. But his primary political leadership comes from the Jubilee Party of Kenya. Prior to politics, he was a bank teller at Kenya’s national bank.
He first ran for Kenyan president in 2007, but withdrew after polls showed slim chances of success. Kenyatta would later face charges from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which claimed that he perpetrated violence during the aftermath of the 2007 Kenyan Crisis. Kenyatta took another shot at the presidency in 2013. After a contested election, he was declared the winner by the high court.
Net worth: $500M
Position: Leader of the Opposition
Raila Odinga Kenya’s former prime minister. He was succeeded by current president Kenyatta – making him today’s opposition leader. He was also recently appointed as Kenya’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development. His ceremony took place at the African Union Commission this past year. His father, Jaramogi Odinga, served as Kenya’s first vice president.
Odinga has a tumultuous history with the government of Kenya. He was accused (along with his father) of instigating a failed coup in 1988. The extent of his involvement remains unknown to this day. Regardless, Odinga was placed under house arrest for over half a year, and then re-imprisoned shortly thereafter. Upon his release he fled to Norway, claiming that the Kenyan government was attempting to assassinate him. When he deemed the coast to be clear, he returned to his homeland to pursue a political career.
Net worth: $5.7M
Position: Teachta Dála for the Tipperary Constituency
Irish politician Michael Lowry was born in Tipperary, and is a crucial figure in the the Irish Independent Party. He was also formerly the chairman of the Fine Gael party, where he served as Minister for Transport, Energy, and Communications during the 90’s. Politics aside, Lowry made his fortune from a successful refrigeration company called Streamline Enterprises. He also has business with Garuda, a domestic home good company, and Gdlc, a consulting firm.
Both Lowry’s political career and his business tactics have been riddled with scandal. He was accused and tried for insider trading. The prosecution testified that he gave information to a business partner, allowing him to obtain a license for his mobile phone company. In exchange, Lowry received payments in large quantities of sterling. He eventually settled for 1.7 million Euros. But even today, the investigation is still ongoing.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
Net worth: $15M
Position: Chairman of the Pakistani People’s Party
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is the well-known chairman of the Pakistani People’s Party. He was born in Pakistan, but he spent some of his childhood in Dubai. At age 30, Bilawal among the youngest names on our list. That’s likely to do with the fact that both his father and his grandfather served as Pakistan’s Prime Minister. But the Bhutto family was exiled from the country in 1988; Bilawal grew up in London as a result.
After attending college at Oxford and receiving a B.A. in modern history, he returned to Pakistan. At just nineteen years old, he was elected as the chair of the PPP, the largest political party in Sinh. The party didn’t fare as well as expected during elections, losing two of three contested seats. Widespread allegations of voter fraud and election-rigging still haunt that election.
Net worth: $5B
Country: North Korea
Everyone known the name Kim Jong-un. North Korea’s de facto dictator labels himself as the “Supreme Leader” of North Korea. He came into office in 2011 following the death of his father. Kim holds a degree in physics from Kim Il-Sung University, along with a degree from Kim Il-Sung Military University. His life, conduct and beliefs have always been something of a mystery. The closed-off North Korean country is said to “worship” him like a god, though whether that’s actually how the people feel is a matter of much debate.
Among other rumors if the belief that Kim Jong-un ordered the assassination of his own uncle and half-brother. The alleged executions were preceded by allegations of “treachery” by the North Korean leader. Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump famously warred on Twitter before finally holding a one-on-one summit to discuss nuclear disarmament. Nearly a year later, those talks seem to have amounted to little.
Net worth: $47B
Position: Member of Parliament
Pony Ma is a Chinese MP and the richest person in China. His real name is Ma Huateng. He made his billions by founding Tencent. The tech empire provides payment, media, instant messaging, internet- and value-added services, online advertising services, and pretty much anything tech-related in China. It also has global operations.
Pony Ma is compared frequently to American billionaire investor Warren Buffett because of his low media profile and reputation as an aggressive acquisition proponent. He is the ninth richest man in the world. Politically, he is a deputy for Shenzhen and a member of the Chinese People’s Congress. He is a proponent of information security, almost bordering on censorship. This has led to close scrutiny of his relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.
Net worth: $41B
Position: Government Consultant
Xu Jiayin is China’s third-richest person. Born in Henan, he is the chair of Evergrande Group, a major real estate development company in China. His company is an aggressive acquisition company, with a debt ratio far higher than most other Chinese companies. The firm made headlines recently for acquiring the Hong Kong-based company New World Development. Evergrande Group brings in revenues in excess of $30 billion per year.
Xu Jiayin resides in Guangzhou with his wife and their two children. Xu’s political connections are more in the council realm. He belongs to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. The group is a political advisory body working with the government. Xu’s business assets make him a valuable member in the political world of China.
Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal
Net worth: $15.9B
Country: Saudi Arabia
Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal is a member of the House of Saud, as well as a businessman and philanthropist. He founded Kingdom Holdings, a holding conglomerate with investments in sectors all across the globe. The prince personally controls 95% of its shares.
He’s also given an extraordinary amount of his wealth to charity. He donated $3.5 billion to charity in the recent years, with many organizations in place to continue those givings. But bin Talal ran into trouble recently when a corruption crackdown resulted in him being placed on house arrest. Having said that, the house arrest took place in an upscale luxury hotel – so maybe he hardly noticed. At the time, the prince faced allegations of bribery and money laundering. He has since been released from house arrest after paying a settlement.
Net worth: $6.3B
Position: Delegate of the Chinese National People’s Congress
Lu Guanqiu is China’s eighteenth-richest person. Born into a peasant family, his story is one of rags to riches. Guanqiu left school at age fifteen and decided to become an ironsmith. Eventually he hit it big with his manufacturing firm, the Wanxiang Group. Wanxiang built his empire from the ground up from very humble beginnings; at first, they started off with just six farmers.
Wanxiang has since entered politics, though he remains heavily involved in manufacturing auto parts and facility components. The company has its headquarters in Hangzhou. Lu Guanqiu recently passed away, leaving his estate as the heir to his fortune. For now, remains at the title of China’s eighteenth-richest until his fortune passes on to someone else to take the title.
Net worth: $8.6B
Position: Former Presidential Candidate
Mikhail Prokhorov is an interesting figure. Standing tall at a staggering 6 foot 9 inches tall, Prokhorov’s family came from humble beginnings. His grandparents were persecuted under the Bolshevik reign, which sent them fleeing to Siberia. His mother became a microbiologist who made vaccines during World War II. As a prominent politician and activist, Prokhorov himself is also famous for owning the Brooklyn Nets.
Prokhorov made a run for president of Russia some years ago, running against Putin. He paid a terrible cost the effort. After winning the election, Putin had agents raid his business and his home. Many members of the media that had supported him during the elections were also fired from their jobs. Politics aside, Prokhorov gained some notoriety when he sued Grigory Rodchenkov, Russia’s Olympic coach in a defamation suit involving steroids.
Net worth: $7.2B
Position: Federal Assembly Member
Suleiman Kerimov was born in Dagestan during the Soviet Union. He is a Lezgian philanthropist and businessman, in addition to being a career politician. But he made his vast wealth mostly in good ol’ gold. Kerimov owns huge shares in Polyus Gold, Russia’s largest gold producer. He decided to invest in gold after the 2008 financial crisis. At one point, his company owned 92% of Polyus’ shares.
Kerimov has been a member of Russia’s Assembly since 2008. He has connections with prominent wealthy US business-people as well. He even flew out JPMorgan, Citigroup, and Blackstone executives to Moscow to discuss starting an international financial center there. But Kerimov also sees the value in giving back. His foundation, the Suleiman Kerimov Foundation, donated millions to local charities.
Savitri Devi Jindal
Net worth: $4.8B
Position: Former Minister in the Government of Haryana
Like so many others on our list, Savitri Devi Jindal and her husband made their wealth in business far before politics entered the equation. Her husband, O.P. Jindal, founded Jindal Group. Jindal Group is a power and steel company that grew to amass billions in revenue. Savitri holds the distinction of being the richest women in India.
Savitri is involved in the Indian National Congress, even after she ended her position as the Minister of the Haryana Government. Even after her husband passed away in 2005, Jindal carried on his political mantle. Today her family’s business is divided into four sectors, which one son in command of each sector. Quite the family affair!