15 billionaires with unglamorous first jobs


It’s hard to imagine a billionaire selling sandwiches, flipping burgers or stocking shelves, but many of the world’s wealthiest people actually came from very humble beginnings. They might be flying in private jets and running successful companies now, but billionaires like Warren Buffett, Richard Branson and Elon Musk each built their success from the ground up.David Geffen

1. David Geffen

  • Net worth: $7.3 billion
  • First job: Mailroom clerk, 1964
  • Salary then: $1.60 per hour
  • That salary today: $12.64 per hour

Billionaire entertainment mogul David Geffen got his start in the mailroom of talent agency William Morris. Geffen learned to steam open the mail and read memos on desks upside down — according to a New Yorker interview with agency president Dave Wirtschafter — which helped him figure out how he could be more valuable to the company. He later went on to found Asylum Records, Geffen Records and DreamWorks SKG.Giorgio Armani

2. Giorgio Armani

  • Net worth: $6.6 billion
  • First job: Photographer’s assistant, 1957
  • Salary then: $1.38 per hour
  • That salary today: $12 per hour

Well before his signature power suits changed the fashion world, Giorgio Armani served in the Italian military. It was during this time he got interested in fashion.

“I was doing my military service and I had 20 days off on vacation in Milan,” he told Time magazine in 2009. A friend asked if he wanted to earn some extra money helping a photographer at a department store and a future fashion icon was born. Once Armani’s required military service was completed, he went to work at La Rinascente, a well-known department store in Milan, where his design career started.Travis Kalanick

3. Travis Kalanick

  • Net worth: $6.3 billion
  • First job: Door-to-door sales, 1998
  • Salary then: $10.26 per hour
  • That salary today: $15.36 per hour

Uber founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick’s first job was in door-to-door sales, selling knives for Cutco as a teen. His entrepreneurial spirit blossomed and at age 18 he started his first business, an SAT-prep course called New Way Academy.

Kalanick studied computer engineering at UCLA but dropped out in 1998 to work in the startup world. The risk paid off — Uber is valued at $69 billion and operates in about 600 cities around the world.Evan Spiegel

4. Evan Spiegel

  • Net worth: $4 billion
  • First job: Red Bull promoter, 2008
  • Salary then: $385 per month
  • That salary today: $438 per month

When Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel was still in high school at Santa Monica’s exclusive Crossroads school, he interned for Red Bull promoting the energy drink in bars and clubs. After he graduated from high school, Spiegel went on to study product design at Stanford, where he met his future Snapchat cofounders Reggie Brown and Bobby Murphy. Alexander Spanos

5. Alexander Spanos

  • Net worth: $2.4 billion
  • First job: Sandwich maker
  • Salary then: N/A

Los Angeles Chargers owner Alex Spanos started his road to billions in 1951, when he borrowed $800 to buy a truck to sell sandwiches to migrant workers in the San Joaquin Valley. Spanos and his wife made sandwiches at night so he could drive around selling them the next day.

Just five years later, Spanos was a millionaire and actively investing in real estate. In 1982 he bought part of the then-San Diego Chargers and spent the next 10 years slowly buying ownership of the entire team, which is now worth more than $2 billion.Ted Turner

6. Ted Turner

  • Net worth: $2.3 billion
  • First job: Ad executive, 1960
  • Salary then: $6,541 per year
  • That salary today: $54,095 per year

CNN founder-turned-philanthropist had dreams of joining the Navy, but fate had another plan. After being kicked out of Brown University for having a woman in his dorm room, Ted Turner began working for his father’s advertising agency.

He showed natural talent for the business and more than doubled the office’s revenue during his first year of employment. Turner eventually took over the business, which he sold to Time Warner for $7.5 billion in 1996.Roger Penske

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