21 Self Made Billionaires Who Are College Dropouts

Formal education has its perks and it is the dream of most people all over the world to be well-educated as it is expected to make life a lot easier for them. However, many haven’t exactly fancied the idea, never had the privilege, or simply could not tow the education line. That notwithstanding, they have soared high in innovation and in pursuit of their dreams. In fact, some of the wealthiest and most influential business people in the world dropped out of college.

While being a “dropout” or tagged as one has not augured well for a lot of people and thus shouldn’t be encouraged, these billionaires just had the guts to genuinely beat the stereotype and become even more successful than some of the most educated people.  Due to their achievements, entrepreneurial skills are now being cherished much more than academics for some people.

Below is a mind-spinning list of billionaire college dropouts who have done exceedingly well for themselves, their jaw-dropping achievements and innovations have impeccably filled relevant social gaps in the world.

20. Harold Hamm

  • Date of Birth: 11 December 1945
  • Country: United States of America
  • Net Worth: $18.9 Billion
  • Source of Wealth: Oil and Gas
  • Dropped out of High School Diploma
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Harold Hamm is an American entrepreneur, inventor, and designer who is known for establishing Continental Resources, one of the biggest private oil companies.  Born into a large family, Harold is the 13th child of Oklahoma sharecroppers. Due to his background, Harold grew up picking cotton with his parents and as a result, he dropped out of high school. He also worked at a gas station around this time before starting his own trucking company in 1971 which hauls water to and from oilfields. The billionaire actually had to get a loan to drill his well. Through this venture, he has been able to take a place on the Forbes list of world’s billionaires for some years now. Today, his company which he has up to 76 percent stakes in produces more than 330, 000 barrels daily. Hamm owns 76 percent of the company.

19. David Murdock

  • Date of Birth: 11 April 1923
  • Country: United States of America
  • Net Worth: $2 Billion
  • Industry: Food/Real Estate 
  • Source of Wealth: Dole, Real Estate
  • Dropped out of High School


David Murdock suffered Dyslexia and as a result, he dropped out of school in 9th grade. He founded Dole Food Company, Castle and Cooke, and Pacific Clay and has controlled the company since 1985. He is also the founder of the California Health and Longevity Institute (CHLI). Owing to his wife’s death, the billionaire philanthropist dedicated his line of business to nutrition, good health, and disease prevention. He supervised the production of the Encyclopedia of Foods, A Guide to Healthy Nutrition, and supports the search for the cure of cancer. He also owns a number of residential and commercial properties in Arizona, California, and Hawaii.

18. Ted Turner

  • Date of Birth: 19 November 1938
  • Country: United States of America
  • Net Worth: $2.2 Billion
  • Industry: Media
  • Source of Wealth: Cable Television
  • Dropped out of Brown University


Ted Turner is a media mogul and one of the largest landowners in the United States today. He founded the first 24-hour cable news channel, CNN. He is also on the list of philanthropists who have donated $1 billion or more to the United Nations. He currently serves as the chairman of the United Nations Board of Directors Foundation. Ted built his empire from his father’s advertising business. He attended Brown University, where he was the vice-president of the Brown Debating Union and captain of the sailing team till he was expelled for having a female student in his dormitory room.

17. Ty Warner

  • Date of Birth: 3 September 1944
  • Country: United States of America
  • Net Worth: $3.5 Billion
  • Industry: Assorted Business
  • Source of Wealth: Ty Inc
  • Dropped out of Kalamazoo College


Ty Warner is a plush toy manufacturer, a hotelier, former actor and sole owner of Ty Inc. He is particularly respected for his philanthropic activities towards children. The 70-year-old entrepreneur dropped out of Kalamazoo College in Michigan. His venture into several businesses, however, fared well and has fetched him commendable recognition

16. Micky Arison

  • Date of Birth: 29 June 1949
  • Country: Isreal/United States of America
  • Net Worth: $5.7 Billion
  • Industry: Cruise Operations
  • Source of Wealth: Carnival Cruise 
  • Dropped out of University of Miami

micky arison

Micky Arison is the chairman of the largest cruise operator, Carnival Corporation. He owns about 12% of the company. The American Businessman also owns the Basketball team, Miami Heat. He is Forbes 191st world’s wealthiest man alive, ranking 66th richest in the United States. Micky Arison was born in Israel in 1949, dropped out of college in Miami to start working in the sales department at Carnival, which was founded by his father, Ted Arison, in 1972.

15. Ralph Lauren

  • Date of Birth: 14 October 1939
  • Country: United States of America
  • Net Worth: $5.9 Billion
  • Industry: Fashion
  • Source of Wealth: Apparel
  • Dropped out of Baruch College, at the City University of New York

ralph lauren

Ralph Lauren is a force to reckon within the fashion industry. As a young man, Lauren sold ties to his classmates and in 1967. He later opened a necktie store under the “polo” trademark. Ralph dropped out of Baruch College after two years of studying business. After another two years of serving in the military, he worked as a salesperson in a couple of stores; the last of which was a tie store. He literally turned rags to ties. Lauren is also a chronic collector of automobiles.

14. David Geffen

  • Date of Birth: 21 February 1943
  • Country: United States of America
  • Net Worth: $9 Billion
  • Industry: Entertainment
  • Source of Wealth: Movies, Record Labels, Self Made
  • Dropped out of the University of Texas at Austin

geffen 2

David Geffen is an entertainment mogul, another Dyslexic drop out billionaire. David attended several schools and made attempts to stay and succeed in school but all was to no avail, instead, fate and hard work led him to found Asylum Records, Geffen Records, and Geffen film company. He is also the co-founder of DreamWorks Animation SKG Studio. He is as much an ardent art collector and a supporter of medical research activities.

13. Jan Koum

  • Date of Birth: February 24, 1976
  • Country: Ukraine/United States of America
  • Net Worth: $10 Billion
  • Industry: Technology
  • Source of Wealth: Whatsapp
  • Dropped out of San Jose State University
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Jan Koum is an Immigrant business and computer program known for establishing Whatsapp. He was also the CEO of the messaging application which has been bought by Facebook.  Jan Koum worked his way through college but dropped out before he could graduate. He went on to work for Yahoo, and then to invent the messaging application WhatsApp. In 2014, he entered the Forbes list of the400  richest American with a net worth of $ 7.5 billion. Currently was estimated at $10 billion.

 12. Donald Newhouse

  • Date of Birth: 1929
  • Country: United States of America
  • Net Worth: $14.8 Billion
  • Industry: Publication (Journalism)
  • Source of Wealth: Media
  • Dropped out of Syracuse University

"Diana Vreeland Sculpture Exhibit"

Donald Newhouse and his brother Samuel inherited Advanced Publications from their late father. He later dropped out of Syracuse University in New York to focus on his father’s business. Together with his brother, they collectively own a lot of print and media assets that include a cable TV company, The Bright House Network. The Newhouse brothers also have major stakes in Discovery Communications.

11. Thomas Peterffy

  • Date of Birth: 30 September 1944
  • Country: Hungary/United States of America
  • Net Worth: $16.6 Billion
  • Industry: Finance
  • Source of Wealth: Discount Brokerage
  • Dropped out of New York University
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Thomas Peterffy is a business mogul and a digital trading pioneer who was born in Hungary. He arrived in America in 1965 at age 21 almost penniless with his dad in search of a better life than the one in his home could offer him. Despite the fact that he couldn’t speak English then, the billionaire made the most of his short engineering education, working as an architectural draftsman. During this time he got a  chance to program a newly bought computer which was the beginning of the success he enjoys to date. He is currently a major property owner with more than 500,000 acres of timberland in Florida. He is also the founder, CEO of the biggest shareholder of Interactive Brokers which markets its trading platforms to sophisticated investors.

10. Li Ka-Shing

  • Date of Birth: 13 June 1928
  • Country: Hong Kong
  • Net Worth: $28 Billion
  • Industry: Assorted Business
  • Source of Wealth: CK Hutchinson Holdings
  • Dropped out of High School


Sir Li is the richest person in Asia. The billionaire is the chairman of Cheung Kong Holdings, Hutchison Whampoa, and Li Ka Shing Foundation. 15-year-old Li dropped out of school as a result of his father’s death. He worked in a plastics company where he was able to gather some business experience and started his own in 1950. From plastic manufacturing to real estate business, electricity, and retailing (amongst others), Li Ka-Shing has exhibited his prowess in the world of business. His companies which take up a 15% slot in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange have granted 250,000 employment opportunities in 52 countries.

9. Sheldon Adelson

  • Date of Birth: 4 August 1933
  • Country: United States of America
  • Net Worth: $33 Billion
  • Industry: Business
  • Source of Wealth: Las Vegas Sands, Casinos
  • Dropped out of City College of New York


Sheldon Adelson is an American business Mogul who dropped out of the City College of New York. He is the founder and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, also the founder of COMDEX, Adelson Family Charitable Foundation, and Freedom’s Watch. He also owns Israel HaYom, an Israeli daily newspaper. From his teens, Sheldon has experimented with several menial businesses. He is well known for his hotels, resorts, and casinos in several countries. Sheldon’s political flair and interest is not in oblivion. He has donated millions of dollars to many contesting politicians in the United States.

8. Micheal Dell

  • Date of Birth: 23 February 1965
  • Country: United States of America
  • Net Worth: $38 Billion
  • Industry: Technology
  • Source of Wealth: Oracle, Software
  • Dropped out of the University of Chicago and University of Illinois

Michael Dell, CEO, Dell Inc. Round Rock, TX 7/24/08 Photo by Chris Covatta

Micheal Dell hails from Texas. The 50-year-old Business Mogul and Entrepreneur started assembling and selling computers while in college. He was a medical student at the University of Texas, Austin at that time. The young Michael decided to drop out to concentrate on his computer designs and manufacturing. He is the founder of Dell Inc, a privately owned multinational computer technology company based in Round Rock, Texas. In 1999, he authored his biography, That Revolutionized An industry. Dell has been a member of the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

7. Francois Pinault

  • Date of Birth: 21 August 1936
  • Country: France
  • Net Worth: $45.1 Billion
  • Industry: Business
  • Source of Wealth: Luxury Goods
  • Dropped out of High School


Francois Pinault dropped out of school and started his entrepreneurial journey with the family’s timber trading business. Today, he is one of the richest men in France. His retail company, Kering owns a part of the Gucci group as well as other design houses that include Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, and Yves Saint Laurent. He also owns Christie, an art business and auction house based in London, United Kingdom. Francois is an art collector.


6. Amancio Ortega

  • Date of Birth: 28 March 1936
  • Country: Spain
  • Net Worth: $67.3 Billion
  • Industry: Fashion & Retail
  • Source of Wealth: Zara
  • Dropped out of an unknown school at age 3


Amancio Ortega is currently one of the richest persons in the world. He is the co-founder of the Inditex fashion group, owning about 59.29% of the company. He owns and started the Zara brand with designs he made with his wife in their living room. In his teen, he worked for a local shirt maker. The Spaniard business mogul also owns several other brands aside Zara with thousands of stores around the world and over 90 000 employees. However, long before his current success, when he was 14, he abandoned school and shortly learned how to sew clothes by hand.

5. Sergey Brin and Larry Page

  • Date of Birth: ‎August 21, 1973/March 26, 1973
  • Country: United States of America
  • Net Worth: $66.3 Billion/$68.1 Billion
  • Industry: Technology
  • Source of Wealth: Search Engine
  • Dropped out of Stanford University


Sergey Brin and Larry Page co-founded Google, a company we all love and use today. While Larry is the CEO, Sergey is the Director of Google X and Special Projects. They each own about 16%, of the company. Google is an American multinational technology company specializing in Internet-related services and products. These include online advertising technologies, search, cloud computing, and software. Both friends trashed their Ph.D. programs in Computer Science at Stanford University to start what we know today as Google.

4. Larry Ellison

  • Date of Birth: 17 August 1944
  • Country: United States of America
  • Net Worth: $80 Billion
  • Industry: Technology
  • Source of Wealth: Oracle, Software
  • Dropped out of the University of Chicago and University of Illinois


Larry Ellison is a software programmer, internet entrepreneur, businessman, and philanthropist who didn’t finish his education despite attending two reputable universities; the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois. He was the Chief executive officer of the software company Oracle Corporation between its foundation in 1977 and 2014. Ellison is a certified pilot and has worked with the CIA. In 1997, he worked with Steve Jobs as the director of Apple Computers. Besides Oracle, Larry Ellison owns stakes in several reputable companies including Salesforce.com, NetSuite, Quark Biotechnology Inc., and Astex Pharmaceuticals.

3. Mukesh Ambani

  • Date of Birth: 19 April 1957
  • Country: India
  • Net Worth: $88.9 Billion
  • Industry: Oil and Gas
  • Source of Wealth: Petrochemicals, Oil & Gas
  • Dropped out of Stanford University


Mukesh Ambani is the first son of the late Indian business tycoon, Dhirubhai Ambani. He is the chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries Limited, the second most valuable company in India. He has 44.7% stakes in the company. Aside from his prowess in Oil & Gas sector, he also owns the Indian Premier League franchise, Mumbai Indians. He has worked as a member of the board of directors, Bank of America Corporation, and other petrochemical-related associations. He dropped out of Stanford University where he was running an MBA to nurture their family business.

2. Mark Zuckerberg

  • Date of Birth: 14 May 1984
  • Country: United States of America
  • Net Worth: $100.1 Billion
  • Industry: Social Media/Technology
  • Source of Wealth: Facebook
  • Dropped out of Harvard University


Mark Zuckerberg is the CEO and co-founder of Facebook. The American billionaire was a Psychology and Computer Science major student before he dropped out to found his own company. Facebook was first launched from Zuckerberg’s Harvard dormitory in partnership with his roommates in 2004. From there, it spread to other campuses and to the rest of the world. Three years later, at age 23, he became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire. Currently, there are over 1 billion Facebook users. Irrespective of his personal wealth, Zuckerberg’s salary is just $1.

1. Bill Gates

  • Date of Birth: October 28, 1955
  • Country: United States of America
  • Net Worth: $116.1 Billion
  • Industry: Technology
  • Source of Wealth: Microsoft
  • Dropped out of Harvard University


Bill Gates remains one of the richest men on the planet. A position he has maintained since 1995 till date. But apparently, he isn’t the most educated rich man. Gates dropped out of school to establish his small Seattle-based Microsoft company with his bosom friend Paul Allen in 1975. He served as a board member of the software company but in 2018, he stepped down. He currently channels his time in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private charitable foundation which he chairs. The foundation focuses on health improvement and equal access to health for people around the world. The billionaire has sold or given away much of his stake in Microsoft – and now owns only about 1% of shares. However, he has invested in a mix of stocks and other assets.

Amara O
Amara O
Amara is a creative writer and has been creating content for several years. Her experience cuts across various segments such as African cuisine, travel, nature, and politics.


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