Billionaire Late Bloomers, by Age of Breakthrough
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Billionaire Late Bloomers, by Age of Their Breakthrough

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Billionaire Late Bloomers, by Age of Breakthrough

More often than not, individuals and media alike focus on the success stories of early bloomers.

These early-age accomplishments of some of the richest people in the world are highlighted as marvels. The early achievements of hoodie-wearing CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg or Evan Spiegel—who became billionaires at ages 23 and 25, respectively—come to mind.

But there’s also the case to be made for the late bloomer. According to the Census Bureau, a 35-year-old is three times more likely to found a successful start-up than someone aged 22.

The infographic above, from Virtual College, highlights 45 billionaires who had their breakthrough later in life, by the age of their respective breakthrough.

Billionaires With Career Breakthroughs at or After Age 35

Though these late successes span many different industries and countries, there are many consistent through lines.

The 45 billionaires highlighted had an average age of 41 and an average net worth of $10 billion.

BillionaireCompanyAge of BreakthroughNet Worth ($B)Nationality
Eduardo EurnekianCorporacion America56$1.3🇦🇷 Argentina
Issad RebrabCevital54$4.8🇩🇿 Algeria
Torstein HagenViking Cruises54$1.5🇳🇴 Norway
Ion TiriacBanca Tiriac51$1.7🇷🇴 Romania
Mike AdenugaGlobacom50$6.1🇳🇬 Nigeria
Hussain SajwaniDamac Properties49$2.4🇦🇪 UAE
Radhakishan DamaniDmart48$16.5🇮🇳 India
Robert KuokShangra-La Hotels and Resorts48$12.6🇲🇾 Malaysia
Ricardo PoCentury Pacific47$1.1🇵🇭 Philippines
Alain TarvellaAltarea Cogedim Group46$2.0🇫🇷 France
Seo Jung-JinCelltrion44$14.2🇰🇷 South Korea
James DysonDyson Ltd44$9.7🇬🇧 UK
Walter FariaGrupo Petropolis43$2.9🇧🇷 Brazil
Horst PaulmannCencosud43$3.3🇨🇱 Chile
Wolfgang MarguerreOctapharma Group42$9.1🇩🇪 Germany
Hansjorg WyssSynthes42$6.0🇨🇭Switzerland
Giorgio ArmaniGiorgio Armani S.p.A.41$7.7🇮🇹 Italy
Dietrich MateschitzRed Bull40$29.6🇦🇹 Austria
Sergei KatsievMegapolis40$1.7🇷🇺 Russia
Li XitingShenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics40$21.5🇸🇬 Singapore
Jim SimmonsRenaissance Technologies40$24.6🇺🇸 U.S.
Richard WhiteWiseTech Global39$3.5🇦🇺 Australia
Amancio OrtegaZara39$77🇪🇸 Spain
Barry LamQuanta Computer39$5.3🇹🇼 Taiwan
Arnon MilchanNew Regency Enterprises38$3.4🇮🇱 Israel
Taha MikatiInvestcom38$2.5🇱🇧 Lebanon
Arnout SchuijffAdyen38$3.5🇳🇱 Netherlands
Chuchat & Daonapa PetampaiMuangthai Capital38$3.5🇹🇭 Thailand
Jaime Gilinski BacalBanco De Colombia37$3.8🇨🇴 Colombia
Mohamed Al FayedGenevaco (Ritz Paris, Harrods)37$1.8🇪🇬 Egypt
Vardis VardinyannisMotor Oil Hellas37$1.4🇬🇷 Greece
German Larrea Mota-VelascoGrupo Mexico37$25.9🇲🇽 Mexico
Martin LorentzonSpotify37$6.0🇸🇪 Sweden
Tran Ba DuongTraco37$1.6🇻🇳 Vietnam
Strive MasiyiwaEconet Global37$1.5🇿🇼 Zimbabwe
Zygmunt Solorz-ZakPolsat36$3.2🇵🇱 Poland
Mehmet AydinlarAcibadem Healthcare Group36$1.3🇹🇷 Turkey
Joseph TsaiAlibaba Group35$11.6🇨🇦 Canada
Jack MaAlibaba Group35$48.4🇨🇳 China
Eduard KuceraAvast35$1.1🇨🇿 Czech Republic
Bidzina IvanishviliRossiysky Kredit35$4.8🇬🇪 Georgia
TahirThe Mayapada Group35$3.3🇮🇩 Indonesia
John ArmitageEgerton Capital35$2.6🇮🇪 Ireland
Tadashi YanaiUniqlo35$44.1🇯🇵 Japan
Richard HartRaynolds Packaging Group35$8.7🇳🇿 New Zealand

Here are just a few highlights of late career breakthroughs:

Jack Ma

Ma is best known for co-founding Alibaba and becoming one of China’s wealthiest people, but his start came rather unexpectedly. After failing to secure jobs as a fresh graduate and starting his own translation company, Ma went on a business trip to the U.S. and discovered the internet (and a lack of Chinese websites). Over time, he connected Chinese companies with American coders to create websites, and soon saw room in the market for a business-to-business marketplace, which became Alibaba. The company secured millions in investment and would go on to become one of China’s leading forces in tech, all without Ma writing a single line of code.

Amancio Ortega

As the former CEO of fashion chain Zara and its parent company Inditex, Ortega is Europe’s third wealthiest person. That success came after opening the first Zara store in 1975 with his then-wife Rosalía Mera, with their store focusing on cheaper versions of high-end fashion. Ortega fine-tuned the design and manufacturing process to produce new trends more quickly, helping to pioneer the concept of “fast fashion,” and soon becoming a fashion powerhouse.

Jim Simons

Simons was once lauded as the world’s greatest investor, largely due to his outlandish returns of over 60% before fees. But he actually started in the academic field, acquiring a PhD in mathematics—he worked in many faculties, and even as a codebreaker for the NSA. Eventually, Simons utilized his mathematical knowledge on Wall Street, where he had his breakthrough in 1982 by starting his model-based hedge fund—Renaissance Technologies, and built a net worth of $24.6 billion.

Dietrich Mateschitz

One of the 60 richest people in the world, Austrian businessman Mateschitz got his start in marketing for Unilever and then cosmetics company Blendax. His breakthrough came on a business trip to Thailand, where the 40-year-old discovered that the local energy drink Krating Daeng helped his jet lag. Mateschitz and the drink’s creator, Chaleo Yoovidhya, each put up $500,000 to turn the drink into an exported energy brand, and Red Bull was born.

James Dyson

Before Dyson was a household name of vacuums, fans, and dryers, The UK’s James Dyson was an industrial engineer with many ideas for inventions. After getting frustrated with the bags of Hoover vacuum cleaners, Dyson had the idea for a bagless cyclone vacuum, and developed one after more than 5,000 prototypes over five years (and supported by his wife’s salary). At first he couldn’t find a manufacturer or success in the UK, so Dyson instead sold his vacuums in Japan and ended up winning the 1991 International Design Fair Prize there. Thirty years later, Dyson’s success led to a royal knighting and becoming the fourth richest person in the UK.

Late Bloomers: The Rule Not The Exception

It’s helpful to remember that these stories might be incredible and successful on a grand scale, but they are not entirely unique.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the majority of successful businesses have been founded by middle-aged people and the average age of a company’s founder at the time of founding is 41.9 years. Experience definitely pays dividends, and the saying that “life is a marathon, not a sprint” seems especially true for this list of late breakthrough billionaires.

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Economy

The $16 Trillion European Union Economy

This chart shows the contributors to the EU economy through a percentage-wise distribution of country-level GDP.

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The $16 Trillion European Union Economy

The European Union has the third-largest economy in the world, accounting for one-sixth of global trade. All together, 27 member countries make up one internal market allowing free movement of goods, services, capital and people.

But how did this sui generis (a class by itself) political entity come into being?

A Brief History of the EU

After the devastating aftermath of the World War II, Western Europe saw a concerted move towards regional peace and security by promoting democracy and protecting human rights.

Crucially, the Schuman Declaration was presented in 1950. The coal and steel industries of Western Europe were integrated under common management, preventing countries from turning on each other and creating weapons of war. Six countries signed on — the eventual founders of the EU.

Here’s a list of all 27 members of the EU and the year they joined.

CountryYear of entry
🇧🇪 Belgium1958
🇫🇷 France1958
🇩🇪 Germany1958
🇮🇹 Italy1958
🇱🇺 Luxembourg1958
🇳🇱 Netherlands1958
🇩🇰 Denmark1973
🇮🇪 Ireland1973
🇬🇷 Greece1981
🇵🇹 Portugal1986
🇪🇸 Spain1986
🇦🇹 Austria1995
🇫🇮 Finland1995
🇸🇪 Sweden1995
🇨🇾 Cyprus2004
🇨🇿 Czechia2004
🇪🇪 Estonia2004
🇭🇺 Hungary2004
🇱🇻 Latvia2004
🇱🇹 Lithuania2004
🇲🇹 Malta2004
🇵🇱 Poland2004
🇸🇰 Slovakia2004
🇸🇮 Slovenia2004
🇧🇬 Bulgaria2007
🇷🇴 Romania2007
🇭🇷 Croatia2013

Greater economic and security cooperation followed over the next four decades, along with the addition of new members. These tighter relationships disincentivized conflict, and Western Europe—after centuries of constant war—has seen unprecedented peace for the last 80 years.

The modern version of the EU can trace its origin to 1993, with the adoption of the name, ‘the European Union,’ the birth of a single market, and the promise to use a single currency—the euro.

Since then the EU has become an economic and political force to reckon with. Its combined gross domestic product (GDP) stood at $16.6 trillion in 2022, after the U.S. ($26 trillion) and China ($19 trillion.)

ℹ️ GDP is a broad indicator of the economic activity within a country. It measures the total value of economic output—goods and services—produced within a given time frame by both the private and public sectors.

Front Loading the EU Economy

For the impressive numbers it shows however, the European Union’s economic might is held up by three economic giants, per data from the International Monetary Fund. Put together, the GDPs of Germany ($4 trillion), France ($2.7 trillion) and Italy ($1.9 trillion) make up more than half of the EU’s entire economic output.

These three countries are also the most populous in the EU, and together with Spain and Poland, account for 66% of the total population of the EU.

Here’s a table of all 27 member states and the percentage they contribute to the EU’s gross domestic product.

RankCountry GDP (Billion USD)% of the EU Economy
1.🇩🇪 Germany4,031.124.26%
2.🇫🇷 France2,778.116.72%
3.🇮🇹 Italy1,997.012.02%
4.🇪🇸 Spain1,390.08.37%
5.🇳🇱 Netherlands990.65.96%
6.🇵🇱 Poland716.34.31%
7.🇸🇪 Sweden603.93.64%
8.🇧🇪 Belgium589.53.55%
9.🇮🇪 Ireland519.83.13%
10.🇦🇹 Austria468.02.82%
11.🇩🇰 Denmark386.72.33%
12.🇷🇴 Romania299.91.81%
13.🇨🇿 Czechia295.61.78%
14.🇫🇮 Finland281.41.69%
15.🇵🇹 Portugal255.91.54%
16.🇬🇷 Greece222.01.34%
17.🇭🇺 Hungary184.71.11%
18.🇸🇰 Slovakia112.40.68%
19.🇧🇬 Bulgaria85.00.51%
20.🇱🇺 Luxembourg82.20.49%
21.🇭🇷 Croatia69.40.42%
22.🇱🇹 Lithuania68.00.41%
23.🇸🇮 Slovenia62.20.37%
24.🇱🇻 Latvia40.60.24%
25.🇪🇪 Estonia39.10.24%
26.🇨🇾 Cyprus26.70.16%
27.🇲🇹 Malta17.20.10%
Total16,613.1100%

The top-heaviness continues. By adding Spain ($1.3 trillion) and the Netherlands ($990 billion), the top five make up nearly 70% of the EU’s GDP. That goes up to 85% when the top 10 countries are included.

That means less than half of the 27 member states make up $14 trillion of the $16 trillion EU economy.

Older Members, Larger Share

Aside from the most populous members having bigger economies, another pattern emerges, with the time the country has spent in the EU.

Five of the six founders of the EU—Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium—are in the top 10 biggest economies of the EU. Ireland and Denmark, the next entrants into the union (1973) are ranked 9th and 11th respectively. The bottom 10 countries all joined the EU post-2004.

The UK—which joined the bloc in 1973 and formally left in 2020—would have been the second-largest economy in the region at $3.4 trillion.

Sectoral Analysis of the EU

The EU has four primary sectors of economic output: services, industry, construction, and agriculture (including fishing and forestry.) Below is an analysis of some of these sectors and the countries which contribute the most to it. All figures are from Eurostat.

Services and Tourism

The EU economy relies heavily on the services sector, accounting for more than 70% of the value added to the economy in 2020. It also is the sector with the highest share of employment in the EU, at 73%.

In Luxembourg, which has a large financial services sector, 87% of the country’s gross domestic product came from the services sector.

Tourism economies like Malta and Cyprus also had an above 80% share of services in their GDP.

Industry

Meanwhile 20% of the EU’s gross domestic product came from industry, with Ireland’s economy having the most share (40%) in its GDP. Czechia, Slovenia and Poland also had a significant share of industry output.

Mining coal and lignite in the EU saw a brief rebound in output in 2021, though levels continued to be subdued.

RankSector% of the EU Economy
1.Services72.4%
2.Industry20.1%
3.Construction5.6%
4.Agriculture, forestry and fishing1.8%

Agriculture

Less than 2% of the EU’s economy relies on agriculture, forestry and fishing. Romania, Latvia, and Greece feature as contributors to this sector, however the share in total output in each country is less than 5%. Bulgaria has the highest employment (16%) in this sector compared to other EU members.

Energy

The EU imports nearly 60% of its energy requirements. Until the end of 2021, Russia was the biggest exporter of petroleum and natural gas to the region. After the war in Ukraine that share has steadily decreased from nearly 25% to 15% for petroleum liquids and from nearly 40% to 15% for natural gas, per Eurostat.

Headwinds, High Seas

The IMF has a gloomy outlook for Europe heading into 2023. War in Ukraine, spiraling energy costs, high inflation, and stagnant wage growth means that EU leaders are facing “severe trade-offs and tough policy decisions.”

Reforms—to relieve supply constraints in the labor and energy markets—are key to increasing growth and relieving price pressures, according to the international body. The IMF projects that the EU will grow 0.7% in 2023.

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