Which B-Schools Produce Billionaires?

Regionally, Europe maintained the highest number of billionaires (775) followed by the U.S. (571). Despite this difference, their collective wealth is relatively close ($2,375 trillion in Europe vs. $2,266 trillion in the United States). Among nations, China trails behind the U.S., with 190 billionaires worth a combined $440 billion (up from $384 billion the previous year). The United Kingdom ($395B), Germany ($413B), Russia ($365B), Hong Kong ($343B), and Switzerland ($200B) also ranked high in collective wealth. Although the U.S. accounts for almost 25% of the world’s billionaires, billionaire wealth in Asia leaped by 30% over the previous year.

Among billionaires, 2,039 are men and 286 are women, with their average age being 63. Wealth-X also found that “63% of billionaires’ primary businesses are privately held and 81% of all billionaires made all or the majority of their wealth themselves, telling us that entrepreneurialism and private wealth are keys to billionaires’ success.” The largest proportion work in the finance, banking, and investment industry (19.3%), followed by industrial (12.1%), real estate (7.1%), non-profit and social organizations (5%), and textiles, apparel, and luxury goods (4.9%).

Geographically, the largest number of billionaires live in New York City (103), followed by Moscow (85), Hong Kong (83), London (72), and Beijing (37). In the U.S., billionaires also congregate in Los Angeles (25), San Francisco (20), Chicago (18), Dallas (17), and Houston (16).


Harvard Business School has graduated 64 living billionaires, nearly three times the number as the Stanford Graduate School of Business (23). You can almost hear Robin Leach doing a voiceover for HBS’ next promotional video.

Surprisingly, Columbia Business School beat out Wharton for billionaire MBAs by a 14-to-12 margin to rank third. The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business rounded out the top five with 10 billionaires.

The data was collected by Wealth-X, considered the leading source for information on the ultra high net worth (UHNW) market. Overall, the U.S. produced seven of the top 10 MBA programs for billionaire alumni, with New York University’s Stern School of Business (7) and the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business (5) also cracking the top 10. France’s INSEAD headed the list for international programs with nine billionaire alumni. Switzerland’s IMD (5) and the London Business School (5) also made the Wealth-X and UBS list.


David Friedman

David Friedman

Overall, 65% of billionaires possessed a university degree, according to Wealth-X. Broken down further, 42% held a bachelor’s degree, with 26% moving on for a master’s degree.  However, 21% also earned an MBA. More striking, nearly 50% of these MBA holders had earned their degree from one the top 10 programs cited earlier. Eleven per cent of billionaires also carried PhDs.

According to David Friedman, President of Wealth-X, the right MBA program (and undergraduate business program) offers unique benefits to aspiring billionaires. For example, in social media, “It provides a context for deciding whether to develop a new relationship [with you],” Friedman tells Poets & Quants. “So much of success has to do with your relationships and your network. MBA programs tend to be a place where people forge really strong relationships . . . and propel their professional career. [After graduation], it gives [MBAs] the ability to call someone to quickly get access to a decision-maker, which can make the difference in actually getting something done.”


The degree itself also opens doors and confers credibility. In the workplace, Friedman notes, an MBA can help ambitious professionals better position themselves – or their ideas. “The overly apparent assumption is that [with an MBA] you have more skills, a better understanding, and a different perspective,” Friedman says. “Therefore, that would lead to more success from a business perspective and therefore a higher percentage of billionaires. I don’t think that’s accurate, but if you look at the surface that seems to be what the data is saying.”


Friedman also believes an MBA, if leveraged correctly, can give graduates an edge in becoming a billionaire. “Say you graduate [and] go to work for an investment bank where you spend two years as analyst focusing on a specific vertical or industry. As part of those two years, you get to know every player and business model. With that knowledge, you can join or start a company in that sector and understand how to build [in that market].”

In addition, Friedman believes MBAs will continue to grow in prominence. “I see Millennials doing a greater surge towards an MBA primarily as a form of risk management in case the venture or their trajectory doesn’t work out. When an economy switches gears, they have a solid way to manage risk.”

American MBA programs could serve as a tool for continued wealth accumulation and economic growth, Friedman adds. “The biggest challenge for global education institutions outside the United States is that they don’t know how to encourage risk taking. It’s one of those soft infrastructure elements culturally that is absolutely critical to entrepreneurs and for creating billion dollar technology companies. And the only place that can be inculcated is in educational institutions in the U.S.”


To see a list of the top undergraduate and MBA programs for billionaire alumni, continue to the next page.

To access the full Wealth-X report, click here.