Photograph by Colin Anderson/Gallery Stock

B-School Billionaires

  1. Striking It Rich by Hard Work and Dumb Luck
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    Striking It Rich by Hard Work and Dumb Luck

    An MBA doesn't guarantee riches, but for these B-school alumni, it didn't hurt. Each of the MBA grads (and one MBA dropout) listed in the slides that follow holds a spot on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Some became known for their shrewd business moves—such as John Paulson, who bet against mortgage-backed securities, and Alexey Mordashov, who built Russian mining company Severstal into a multibillion-dollar conglomerate. A handful had notable family connections or inheritances, and one of them was a successor at a company controlled by his father. Others are famous for starting their own enterprises, such as Nike (NKE) founder Phil Knight and Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio. Classrooms and case studies may be a distant memory for these billionaires, but make no mistake: At one time, they, too, were binder-toting business students ambling across campus.

    Note: Net worth shown is three-month average effective Jan. 29, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

    Photograph by Colin Anderson/Gallery Stock
  2. Ernesto Bertarelli
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    Ernesto Bertarelli

    MBA: Harvard Business School
    Net Worth: $14.8 billion

    Bertarelli's father worked for the pharmaceutical company that developed the fertility drug Pergonal, which aided in creating the world's first test-tube baby. Bertarelli took control of the company from his father in 1996, and the family sold its 65 percent stake to Merck KGaA (MRK:Xetra) for $8.6 billion in 2006.
    Photograph by Victor R. Caivano/AP Photo
  3. Alexey Mordashov
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    Alexey Mordashov

    MBA: Northumbria University in Newcastle, U.K.
    Net Worth: $14.5 billion

    Chief executive of Russian steel and mining company Severstal, Mordashov has built the company into a publicly traded conglomerate that generated $15.8 billion in sales in 2011.
    Photograph by Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg
  4. Philip Knight
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    Philip Knight

    MBA: Stanford Graduate School of Business
    Net Worth: $14.1 billion

    The Nike (NKE) founder gave $105 million to his B-school alma mater in 2006, which went toward a new buildings and faculty programs. The Knight Management Center opened in 2011 and includes a 600-seat auditorium and a design classroom for developing new products, among other features.
    Photograph by Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg
  5. Steve Ballmer
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    Steve Ballmer

    MBA: Dropped out of Stanford Graduate School of Business
    Net Worth: $14.1 billion

    The Microsoft (MSFT) CEO famously dropped out of Stanford's MBA program to join the software company in 1980 at the request of his friend Bill Gates. Over the years, Ballmer has made a number of return visits to speak at the B-school.
    Photograph by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
  6. Ray Dalio
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    Ray Dalio

    MBA: Harvard Business School
    Net Worth: $13.9 billion

    After a summer stint at Merrill Lynch, Dalio took a job heading commodities trading at a mid-sized brokerage. Dalio decided to start Bridgewater Associates in the spare bedroom of his Manhattan apartment. By 2011, Dalio was steward of the world's best performing hedge fund, Bridgewater's Pure Alpha I—part of a run that has generated $35.8 billion in net gains since 1975.
    Photograph by Scott Eells/Bloomberg
  7. Ron Perelman
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    Ron Perelman

    MBA: University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School
    Net Worth: $13.1 billion

    Known for his majority stake in Revlon (REV), Perelman completed his first buyout when he was 18 with the help of his father, also a University of Pennsylvania alum. The younger Perelman is a member of the Wharton Board of Overseers.
    Photograph by Kathy Willens/AP Photo
  8. George Kaiser
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    George Kaiser

    MBA: Harvard Business School
    Net Worth: $13.0 billion

    George Kaiser built his fortune through Kaiser-Francis Oil, an oil-and-gas exploration company his father created after fleeing Nazi Germany. Kaiser took the reins of the business in 1969. IRS records show that he directed $2.8 billion into his philanthropic foundation from 2003 to 2010. In that time, the foundation has disbursed $317 million.
    Photograph by Tom Gilbert/AP Photo
  9. Susanne Klatten
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    Susanne Klatten

    MBA: IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland
    Net Worth: $13.0 billion

    Klatten's father saved BMW during its troubled post-war era and built the company into the world's largest maker of luxury vehicles. When he died, Klatten inherited stakes in BMW and the chemical company Altana. She joined BMW's [BMW] supervisory board in 1996 and is on the boards of Altana and Munich Technical University. She is also chairman of a charitable foundation named after her father.
    Photograph byThomas Lohnes/AFP via Getty Images
  10. John Paulson
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    John Paulson

    MBA: Harvard Business School
    Net Worth: $11.8 billion

    Paulson's bet against mortgage-backed securities was praised in Gregory Zuckerman's book, The Greatest Trade Ever. He is also generous with his funds, donating to Harvard Business School, NYU (where he earned his undergraduate degree), and New York City's Central Park, the U.K.'s Daily Mail reports.
    Photograph by Rick Maiman/Bloomberg
  11. Ricardo Benjamin Salinas Pliego
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    Ricardo Benjamin Salinas Pliego

    MBA: Tulane University's Freeman School of Business
    Net Worth: $11.5 billion

    Salinas is chairman of Mexico's Grupo Elektra (ELEKTRA*), a banking and retail conglomerate that operates more than 2,000 outlets in Latin America. He is also the majority shareholder of Spanish-language broadcaster TV Azteca (AZTECACP MM).
    Photograph by Joshua Lott/Bloomberg