AMERICA'S TOP BILLIONAIRES by Kaya Morgan
For role models to guide us toward our dreams, we need look no further than Michael Dell. A college dropout, with nothing more than $1,000 in his pocket and a good idea, in just 18 short years, Dell has built a computer empire recognized as one of the top vendors of personal computers worldwide. Dell's sales have skyrocketed to a whopping $31 billion since its inception with over 33 thousand employees in over 170 countries.
Is this man golden, or what? To begin with, at age eight, Dell earned his GED equivalent high school diploma. At age 12, he formed a direct mark company offering a national stamp auction through the mail, earning $2,000 on the venture. Four years later, he developed an idea to sell newspaper subscriptions through target marketing and earned enough to purchase a BMW with the profits.
In 1984, this 19-year-old freshman at the University of Texas in Austin took a simple idea to sell custom-made computers directly to customers and began a part-time business. Dell assembled computers from cheap surplus parts, then created souped-up machines made to the specifications of his customers. By the end of the second year, the company was making between $50,000-$80,000 a month and clearly, Dell had another winner.
Dell's innovative ideas offered customers the first toll-free technical support and on-site service ever provided in the PC business, a practice that soon became standard practice throughout the industry. And, Dell was one of the very first companies to sell computers via the Internet. In July 1996, Dell offered online purchasing power to consumers. In 1999, Dell launched Gigabuys.com, an online store featuring computer-related products. With no promotion or advertising whatsoever the company began selling an average of $18 million a day online proving that e-commerce could produce tremendous revenues. Eighteen years later, Dell is essentially still doing the same thing, only on a global scale.
As for Michael Dell, he holds the notable distinction of being the computer industry's longest-tenured chief executive officer. Due to the phenomenal success of the company, Dell has been honored for his visionary leadership on Time/CNN's list of the "25 Most Influential People," "Chief Executive of the Year" by Inc. magazine and "Man of the Year" by PC magazine.
Rarely has a bad word been uttered about Dell personally. A devoted husband, this charming man is a visionary leader offering inspiration to millions of entrepreneurs and proving that even a college dropout can fulfill his dreams and succeed in a big way.
No one better typifies a success story than Ralph Lauren. As the founder, designer and chairman of a $900 million company, it is a long way from his early days growing up in the Bronx, New York, from a middle-class Jewish family, where he shared a bedroom with his two older brothers.
As for fashion design school, Lauren actually studied business at City College in Manhattan. A student by night, Lauren would work during the day as a glove salesman. In 1968, with a $50,000 loan, he founded Polo Fashions, a name he chose because of the power and style associated with the sport.
From the early days of selling custom designed ties to Bloomingdale's, Lauren has turned his creative talents into the biggest brand name in the world representing a lifestyle of sophistication, class and taste. The epitome of timeless fashion, Lauren has expanded the product lines to include Polo/Ralph Lauren for Men, Ralph Lauren for Women, Double RL, Ralph Lauren Home and even Ralph Lauren paint.
Happily married for over 35 years with three wonderful children, his classic good looks, impeccable style and gentlemanly manner, seems to truly live the life of his brand name image. His private car collection ranges from a 1929 Bentley and 1937 Alfa Romeo, to a 1938 Bugatti and 1962 Ferrari. Then there's the Lauren ranch in Colorado, homes in Jamaica and Long Island, an estate in Bedford, New York and, of course, the prestigious Fifth Avenue Manhattan residence to come home to. Highly regarded among fashion connoisseurs as almost royalty, he has won eight Coty awards in a record amount of time. People around him describe his magnetic allure and style as the true American Dream, in the flesh.
Truly a man of many faces, Kirk Kerkorian is a self made man. The son of an immigrant family from Armenia, Kerkorian moved often and was always the new kid on the block. He dropped out of high school to help the family make ends meet financially and followed in his big brother's footsteps when he became the Pacific amateur welterweight boxing champion.
In 1939, Kerkorian took a job installing wall furnaces for 45 cents an hour. One day, his boss took him along during his flight practice maneuvers and once airborne, Kerkorian knew his next line of work. Without money for flight lessons, he showed up at the Happy Bottom Ranch in the Mojave Desert at what is now Edwards Air Force Base. A combination dairy ranch and flight school, Kerkorian milked cows and cleaned barns in exchange for his lessons. Six months later, with a commercial pilot's license in hand, he heard the Royal Air Force out of Montreal, Canada was hiring, and he couldn't get there fast enough.
The job was more like a suicide mission, delivering Canadian-built bombers to Scotland. Only one in four arrived, but that did not deter daredevil Kerkorian. In 2 1/2 years, he delivered 33 planes, traveled to four continents and earned a generous salary for his valiant efforts. In 1947, Kerkorian purchased a tiny charter line, offering the first non-scheduled jet shuttle service between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
In what has been called the most successful land speculation in Las Vegas history, Kerkorian's vision of the big picture prompted him to purchased the initial site for what is now the largest hotel property in the world, the MGM Grand. The next acquisition was quite naturally to add an entertainment venue which he did through his purchase of the MGM/UA studios. In 1999, Kerkorian brought together the three most profitable gambling resorts on the Las Vegas strip by adding the Mirage and Bellagio properties creating the largest gaming and resort conglomerate in the world.
Kerkorian still remains diversified as the largest shareholder of Chrysler. His Los Angeles based investment company, shows no signs of slowing down. What's next on the horizon? We can only speculate that it will entertain and amaze us.
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