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20 Billionaires Who Dropped Out of College

Bill Gates

If you ask most people, they would probably tell you that you need a college education and degree hanging on your wall in order to make it big and become wealthy.

That may be true for some, but for a select few in this world, they just seem to have what it takes to make millions, even billions, without any type of degree to their name.

It starts with an idea and that idea develops into a plan that leads to a successful business, product or company that takes off and makes the developer or owner very wealthy.

There are several billionaires that have never finished college. Some have started college, spent some time studying, and ultimately dropped out to pursue their dream.

And they have gone on to build an enormous net worth for themselves. Here is a list of 20 billionaires who have dropped out of college; some you are already familiar with, while others may surprise you.

20. Howard Hughes 

Howard Hughes is one of the most recognizable names when you talk about the wealthiest people in the US. He dropped out of college shortly after the death of his father and began to pursue his own interests, which he succeeded quite well at, being one of the wealthiest people in the world.

He was a man of many talents, including, a businessman, investor, engineer, film producer, director, aviator, and a  big philanthropist. In his day, back in the 1920's, his film productions were controversial. The big-budget films that created a stir, included, The Outlaw (1943), The Racket (1928), Scarface (1932), and Hell's Angels (1930).

19. Marc Rich 

Marc Rich is known for a lot of things. His name and story is controversial, and illegal. Before he became a businessman, he attended New York University, but dropped out after one semester to work for Phillip Brothers (Phibro LLC). 

He earned his wealth as a businessman, financier, hedge fund manager and commodities trader before he and his partner, Pincus Green were wanted on federal charges for tax evasion, wire fraud, racketeering, and making questionable oil deals with Iran in the heart of the Iran hostage crisis.

At the time the indictment was made, Rich was sitting in Switzerland, never to return to the US. On January 20, 2001, President Bill Clinton pardoned Rich, which has been an issue of controversy. The pardon incidentally came on Clinton's last day in office.

18. Ted Turner 

Ted Turner went to Brown University and was majoring in Classics which angered his father. Turner changed it to economics but wound up being expelled due his poor conduct with having a girl in his dorm room.

Turner's father owned a billboard business and when he committed suicide Turner took over the business. He was 24 years old, and it was then that his infamous media business began. A lot of his wealth came from the startup and ownership of several broadcast channels, such as Turner Broadcast Network, CNN, and as the owner of the Atlanta Braves, MLB baseball team.

17. Ty Warner 

Most of us are familiar with the little plush toys, Ty Beanie Babies. Ty Warner is the creator and owner of the company of these very popular little toys that made a huge splash and at the height of the Beanie

Baby craze, it is said that the company made $700,000 in just one year. Warner attended Kalamazoo college in Michigan but dropped out to head to Hollywood to try his hand at acting. The acting gig didn't work out so he moved back to Chicago and took up with the toy company Dakin. After 20 years with the company, he started up the Ty Beanie Babies company and has been sitting pretty every since.

16. David Murdock 

From rags to riches, that is David Murdock. He is a ninth grade drop out that got called up to serve in the army during World War II and after, he spent some time being homeless and destitute.

Murdock had one of those determinations that you hear about every once and a while and they inspire you. He didn't give up, and his determination paid off. In 1978 he acquired the control over International Mining, and in 1980, he was the largest stockholder in Occidental Petroleum. In 2011, it was estimated that he had a net worth of about $3 billion.

15. Donald Newhouse 

Donald Newhouse is a high school dropout but made it big despite. He and his brother Samuel are the co-owners of the Advance Publications, which put out many different publications, including, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Conde' Nast, and Vogue. They also put out multiple different newspapers across the US. He has a net worth of $4 billion and is one of the top billionaires.

14.  Mickey Arison 

Have you ever taken a cruise on the Carnival Cruise line? If you have, then you have cruised on Mickey Arison's ship because he owns the Carnival cruise line. He did try to go to college but wound up dropping out because of this dream to own and operate his own cruise line. He is also the owner of the NBA team, The Miami Heat. 

13. Steve Jobs 

Steve Jobs' parents could barely afford the college they sent their son to, Reed College in Portland, OR, but they used their savings anyway. After six months at the school, Jobs quit but continued to pop in on Calligraphy courses while staying in his friend's dorm room.

He went on to develop Apple, the most well-known name in computers and contributes his time in calligraphy class as being the reason there are multiple typefaces for the MAC. He was the owner and CEO of Apple and Pixar films.

12. Jack Taylor

Jack Taylor didn't like sitting in boring classrooms with boring professors, so shortly after starting college at Washington University in St. Louis, he was gone. He dropped out to pursue other things.

Taylor has talked about investments before, but investments in the sense that investments don't necessarily mean in investing in college, or a company, but in yourself. And that is exactly what Taylor did, and today he is the owner of the Enterprise-rent-a-car company and one of the wealthiest men in the world with a net worth of $7.4 billion dollars.

11. David Geffen

Geffen dropped out of Santa Monica College due to struggles with dyslexia and took a job with William and Morris Agency in the mailroom. He wanted to get into the entertainment business and wound up becoming the manager of Crosby, Stills and Nash, as well as Laura Nyro.

He started his own record label, Asylum Records, in 1970 and was the label under which there were many famous bands and singers. The Eagles, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Linda Ronstadt and many more, have been signed under Geffen's record label. He also owns Geffen Records, DGC records and DreamWorks SKG.

10. Ralph Lauren 

Ralph Lauren really needs no introduction as he has one of the biggest clothing lines in the world, Ralph Lauren. He attended Baruch College for two years and studied business, but dropped out after the second.

He then went on to serve in the army for two years, from 1962-64 and eventually went on to work as a salesman for Brooks Brothers before he went on to open a necktie store and began designing his own neckties under the name Polo. He had no fashion school training, only a drive to succeed and a natural ability to design clothes.

9. Michael Dell

Michael Dell attended the University of Texas, Austin, where he created a little startup business, right out of his dorm room. He put together upgrade kits for computers and eventually got his vendor's license so that he could make bids on jobs that were companies for the state of Texas.

It was perfect for Dell, because he had no overhead, being that he was in a dorm, and the "no-overhead" low-cost bids were his winning ticket. He eventually dropped out of college to pursue this computer venture, and today he is worth $15 billion dollars due to his Dell business.

8. Sergey Brin 

Sergey Brin was in his Ph.D. program at Stanford University when he dropped out due to the startup of his and his buddy's idea for what we know as Google, today. He and his buddy, Larry Page, came up with the idea to have a search engine that would take you anywhere online, and the program became a huge success that propelled him into the billion dollar world.

So, although he did not drop out of regular college, he did technically drop out since he was in his Ph.D program, but it was well worth it, I think he'd say.

7. Larry Page 

Teamed up with Sergey Brin, Page and Brin loaded their dorm room at Stanford to work on building the Google search engine. When the two dropped out of Stanford, they took up room in a rented garage to work on and complete their idea.

It is these two together, that created the infamous Google that we use on a daily basis to tool around the internet and get us from site-to-site. What would we do, or where would we be without Google?

6. Mark Zuckerberg

Who isn't a member of Facebook or at least heard of the social networking site? The site is the development of Mark Zuckerberg and three of his college buddies from Harvard University. Zuckerberg is a computer programmer, entrepreneur, and of course, now, Chairman and chief executive.

He left Harvard to pursue the idea of Facebook and has become one of the richest men in the world because of his one idea that blossomed into a billion dollar idea.

5. Kirk Kerkorian 

Kirk Kerkorian is one of the biggest key players in the shaping of Las Vegas, Nevada, working with architect, Martin Stern, Jr. He built the largest hotel in the city three times, originally known as The International Hotel (1969), then the MGM Hotel (1973), and finally, the MGM Grand, in 1994. Kerkorian is a big philanthropist and has donated over $1 billion to Armenia through his foundation. He was worth $24.9 billion at the time of his death in 2014.

4. Sheldon Adelson 

Sheldon Adelson is a businessman and involved in the hotel, resort and casino business. He has started over 50 0f his own businesses over the years and twice, became a millionaire but lost his wealth.

His first business was at the age of 12 when he sold newspapers, then went on to sell a chemical that defrosted windshields.  He is one of the wealthiest men in the world and is the owner of the infamous, Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

3. Larry Ellison

Lawrence Ellison attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for a short period of time before he left due to his adoptive mother passing away. He then attended the University of Chicago for a term and left.

Ellison is the co-founder of the Oracle Corporation, and is a software developer and businessman who has developed software for major organizations and companies. He has also created his own yachting team, known as BMW Oracle Racing.

2. Bill Gates 

Bill Gates has been declared the most wealthy man in the world until his spot was overtaken by Jeff Bezos. Gates dropped out of college to startup his Microsoft business, which has proven to be the most lucrative computer business globally. Gates and his wife Melinda Gates, have started up a charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is busy helping millions of people across the world.

Gates is one of the biggest philanthropists and his goal in life is to give away the majority of his wealth in the effort to make the world a better place, especially for those who are much less fortunate in life. He has given away 47% of his wealth so far and claims to donate even more before he dies. 

1. John D. Rockefeller 

John D. Rockefeller was the wealthiest man in the world with anywhere between $392-$663.4 billion, at the time of his death (adjusted for inflation). His name is synonymous with "rich," which he became by developing a strong work, save and give, ethic.

Rockefeller got into the oil and refinery business with his brother, William Rockefeller, which one would grow to be the largest oil refinery in the world. Rockefeller was not a college graduate and still managed to become the wealthiest man in the world.

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Lily Wordsmith

Written by Lily Wordsmith

Lily Wordsmith is a freelance writer who has had a love affair with the written word for decades. You can find her writing blog posts and articles while sitting under a tree at the local park watching her kids play, or typing away on her tablet in line at the DMV. In addition to her freelance career, she is pursuing ebook writing with an ever-growing repertoire of witty ebooks to her name. Her diversity is boundless, and she has written about everything from astrobotany to zookeepers. Her real passions are her family, baking desserts and all things luxe.

Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith

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