By Keren Blankfeld
Following is a ranking of the top American billionaires behind the most jobs:
1. Bernard Marcus & Arthur Blank, The Home Depot
Total employees: 385,000 (24,000 salaried, remainder compensated on an hourly or temp basis)
Forbes 400 2016 Net worth: Marcus, $3.6 billion; Blank, $3.1 billion
2. Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway
Total employees: 331,000 (25 at headquarters, remainder at consolidated subsidiaries)
Forbes 400 2016 Net worth: $65.5 billion
3. Frederick Smith, Fedex
Total employees: 323,035 (149,000 full-time employees in US)
Forbes 400 2016 Net worth: $3.7 billion
4. Howard Schultz, Starbucks
Total employees: 300,000
Forbes 400 2016 Net worth: $2.9 billion
5. Thomas Frist, HCA
Total employees: 233,000 (includes hospitals operated by HCA and subsidiaries)
Forbes 400 2016 Net worth: $7.9 billion
6. Jeff Bezos, Amazon
Total employees: 230,800
Forbes 400 2016 Net worth: $67 billion
7. Doris Fisher, Gap
Total employees: 141,000
Forbes 400 2016 Net worth: $2.6 billion
8. Larry Ellison, Oracle
Total employees: 136,000 (all full-time)
Forbes 400 2016 Net worth: $49.3 billion
9. Richard Schulze, Best Buy
Total employees: 125,000
Forbes 400 2016 Net Worth: $2.8 billion
10. Bill Gates & Paul Allen, Microsoft
Total employees: 114,000 (all full-time)
Forbes 400 Net worth: Gates, $81 billion; Paul Allen $18.9 billion
Arthur Blank and Bernard Marcus were fired from their jobs at hardware store Handy Dan in 1978 before deciding to open The Home Depot, their own competing hardware retailer, in two gigantic Atlanta, Ga warehouses. Among their first employees were their kids, who they sent to the streets to hand out $1 bills to anyone willing to walk inside. Today, The Home Depot, which they left in 2002 and 2001, respectively, boasts more than 385,000 workers in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
That’s enough to put Marcus and Blank at the top of FORBES’ first ever list of American billionaires who have helped create the most jobs. While these moguls have made themselves enormous fortunes, they’re also responsible for creating employment for hundreds of thousands. The top 12 billionaire job creators — all together worth more than $308 billion — have generated at least 2.3 million jobs globally. Those include both full-time and part-time employees directly linked to the company created or managed by the billionaire.
While Internet darlings like Facebook and Google-parent Alphabet have amassed huge stock value, they’ve created relatively few jobs (40,000 jobs at Google, which has a market cap of $546 billion, and 14,495 jobs at Facebook, which has a market cap of $366 billion. Home Depot created 385,000 jobs and has a market cap of $155 billion). Some economists have pointed to robots and automation for being partly to blame for taking human jobs at technology companies.
Still, three of the top job creators hail from the technology sector. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos famously started selling books online from his Seattle garage in 1994. These days Amazon, which has since expanded to grocery, furniture and restaurant delivery, employs 230,800 workers around the world. (Amazon doesn’t disclose how many of those are full-time employees.) Larry Ellison cofounded Oracle in 1977 with two coworkers from database company Ampex, where he’d been working as a programmer. Today Oracle is both a hardware and a software firm, having acquired quite a few companies over the years, including PeopleSoft and Sun Microsystems, and it employs 136,000 people — all of them full-time. Ellison may be worth billions less than his sometimes arch nemesis, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, but he has bragging rights when it comes to employing more people. Since Gates and his friend Paul Allen founded Microsoft in 1975, the software firm has acquired a slew of companies, including video and calling application Skype and Nokia’s device and services business. Altogether, Microsoft now has more than 114,000 full-time workers. These do not include employees of professional network company LinkedIn, which Microsoft announced in June that it has agreed to acquire; once that acquisition is complete, it will add another 9,900 full-time employees to Microsoft’s roster, bringing its total employment closer to Oracle’s.
Two of the top job creators almost failed out of the gate. FedEx founder Frederick Smith, a Vietnam vet, started his shipping company in 1971. After an initial loss of $29 million during FedEx’s first 26 months, he took to the blackjack tables in Las Vegas to earn money to keep the fledgling business afloat. Today FedEx employs 323,035 workers worldwide — 149,000 of whom work full-time in the United States, making Smith the third biggest job creator Meanwhile, Best Buy founder Richard Schulze took out a second mortgage in his home in 1966 to open a stereo equipment shop called the Sound of Music, the predecessor to Best Buy. Since then the business has been transformed into a chain with 125,000 employees in 1,600 technology superstores.
While neither Warren Buffett nor Howard Schultz founded the companies that made them into multi-billionaires, they both reinvented what were initially small businesses and were responsible for making them into powerhouse firms behind thousands of jobs. Buffett, America’s third richest man, transformed Berkshire Hathaway from a failed textile company into a sprawling conglomerate responsible for more than 331,000 jobs. While only 25 of those jobs are based at Berkshire Hathaway’s Omaha, Neb. headquarters, the remainder span various subsidiaries, including Geico Auto Insurance, Duracell batteries and See’s Candies, among many others that Berkshire Hathaway bought throughout the five decades Buffett’s led it. Schultz bought Starbucks in 1987, two years after working as a director of retail operations and marketing at what was initially a coffee-bean store. Over the years he rapidly added stores, expanded into new ventures through acquisitions such as tea company Tazo Tea, San Francisco-based music company Hear Music and Ethos Water. Today Starbucks has more than 300,000 employees in 74 countries (that number includes part-time workers).
The list of top job creators does not include investors who do not have an active hand in managing the companies that made them wealthy. That is why billionaire Peter Buck, who in 1965 gave 17-year old Fred DeLuca a $1,000 loan to start a sandwich shop called SUBWAY, isn’t included in the list, despite SUBWAY having created at least 450,000 jobs through its worldwide restaurant franchises.
At least one of the biggest billionaire job creators is not longer around. If Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton were alive today, he’d not only be America’s richest man, but he would top this list of biggest billionaire employers. The multinational retailer has 2.3 million employees worldwide — as many as the complete list of the top 10 billionaire job creators combined.
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