Oil is often described as black gold, an essential commodity that drives economic growth. It’s therefore no surprise that many shrewd operators have amassed vast wealth through oil production. Here are seven billionaires that made it big through oil, in no particular order:
1. John D. Rockefeller
No list of oil billionaires would be complete without John Davison Rockefeller Sr., who is thought to have been the wealthiest man in modern history. Adjusted for inflation, he is thought to have been worth around $400bn (over £300bn) at his peak. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company was an early player in the oil industry. As the demand for oil grew in the United States, first for kerosene and then for gasoline, Rockefeller became the richest man in America with control over 90% of the country’s oil.
In 1911, the US Supreme Court ruled that his Standard Oil Company violated federal anti-trust laws. It was subsequently divided up into smaller independent companies, such as Chevron and ExxonMobil, which today makes the Mobil range of lubricants. This only helped Rockefeller’s personal wealth, though, because the combined worth of the smaller entities exceeded that of the original whole.
2. The Koch Brothers
Koch Industries was founded in the 1940s by Fred Koch after developing a new process to refine heavy crude into gasoline. It is now the largest privately held company in America after international food conglomerate Cargill. Fred’s sons, David and Charles, later inherited the business, also paying $1.1bn (£840m) for their other two brothers’ stakes. They are often referred to collectively, and their combined wealth goes well into the tens of billions.
It also seems Koch Industries will remain privately held for some time to come, with Charles Koch once saying that any public offering would only happen “over my dead body”.
3. Roman Abramovich
Best known in the UK as the Russian self-made billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovich made his fortune by investing in steel, gold, and aluminium in addition to oil. While he may not be the richest oil billionaire, he has the distinction of owning the world’s biggest yacht.
4. Folorunsho Alaija
Self-made supremo Folorunsho Alaija received the honour of becoming Nigeria’s first female billionaire after engaging in various areas, such as her role as vice chair of Famfa Oil Limited. Through philanthropic ventures like Rose of Sharon Foundation, she gives some of her considerable wealth back to the community.
5. Vagit Alekperov
Having been Minister for Oil and Gas before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Vagit Alekperov was uniquely positioned to profit from the Russian oil sector. He soon became a billionaire running Lukoil in the post-Soviet period.
6. Mohammed Al Amoudi
Second only to the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Al Amoudi is one of the wealthiest people in Saudi Arabia. He got his big break with the $30bn (£23m) project to build the country’s underground oil-storage network.
7. Viktor Vekselberg
One of Russia’s three richest men, Vekselberg has combined interests in the oil, chemical and communication sectors. He is also known for having the largest collection of Fabergé eggs in the world.