Oprah Is Or Is Not The Richest Black Woman In The World

Earlier this month, the Internet reported that Oprah was no longer the richest black woman in the world. Meet Nigeria’s Forlounsho Alakija

Alakija’s networth is estimated to be about 300 million dollars more than Winfrey’s and that gap is pretty hefty. Forlounsho’s immense wealth can be attributed to her high-end label, Supreme Stitches, and her oil-exploration license. 

Want to know more? I did! According to Time:

The 62-year-old started her career as a secretary at the erstwhile Merchant Bank of Nigeria, but moved to England in the early 1980s to study fashion design. She then returned to her native country and set up a high-end label called Supreme Stitches.

Although she amassed some wealth from the label, a significant proportion of Alakija’s fortune comes from an oil-exploration license granted to her company Famfa Ltd. in 1993. The 617,000-acre oil block would go on to become the highly lucrative OML 127, in which Alakija’s family retains a 60% stake.

Today, Forbes puts Alakija’s net worth at $2.5 billion, making her one of the richest people in Africa, alongside Angola’s Isabel dos Santos.* (Note: of the top 10 richest people in Africa, 9/10 are male and 7/10 look like they’d fit right in at St. Andrews.) That doesn’t seem to exceed the spending power of Lady O, though, whose fortune Forbes estimates at $3 billion. Hm. I guess Oprah caught up fast? Never underestimate a woman who gives away cars for fun.

Forbes also mentions that Alakija is one of 52 children. And you thought you were scrunched up in the backseat of your parents’ car! 

Does Having Money Make You Trustworthy?

The Atlantic takes us to an interesting place this morning, asking us to consider whether we put more instinctive faith in the rich than in the poor and, if so, whether we’re mistaken. Here’s a thought experiment to go with your morning joe:

You’re standing on a corner in downtown San Francisco. It’s a four-way stop, meaning cars are supposed to pause before entering the intersection. As you’re sipping your latte, you look to your left before stepping off the curb. The car approaching is a shiny BMW. Do you cross? How about if it’s a Ford Fusion? The model of trust I’ve been describing suggests you might want to pause if it’s the BMW.

So, do you place more trust in the driver of a Bimmer or that of some midrange American car? What if there’s a third car, a real junkbucket, in the mix? Who’s more likely to hit you? Tell us, science!

The Weird World of Financial Aid at Boarding Schools

Paul Sullivan at the Times covers the strangely inconsistent and subjective ways fancy private schools dole out financial aid to prospective students. In a world where tuition is so expensive even parents who make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year apply for financial aid -- and get it! -- each school has its own system, and lemme tell you, it ain't no FAFSA.

The Lifestyles of the Super Rich and Forbes Famous

My dad had a habit of checking the Forbes list of Richest People for Jewish names. He also liked to make a note of how many Jews in the New York Times Weddings & Celebration married other Jews (good) vs. how many shamed their families by aligning their fates, in civil, Unitarian Universalist or, worst, Episcopalian, ceremonies with Trevors and Mackensies (bad). What can I say? My old-school dad and David Duke alike kept track of these things.

I’m more broad-minded: I read the Vows section and the Forbes list to feel something. Schadenfreude! Hilarity! Whatever. I just want to be surprised and diverted. And somehow these pipelines never disappoint. Witness Forbes‘s list of America’s Richest Families, arriving in your mailbox July 21. The picture displays a tall, thin, stylist blonde mama, an even taller, distinguished, bespoke papa, a tiny dog yapping almost out of the frame, and two porcelain-white tots: OLYMPIA, 1, and FORCE, 3. A billionaire named one kid after a mountain where dead gods once lived, and another after a noun that completes the phrase “Excessive Use Of ______.” Now that’s entertainment.

Unlike our flagship Forbes 400 list of America’s richest and our World Billionaires ranks, which focus on individual or nuclear-family wealth, America’s Richest Families includes multigenerational families of all sizes, ranging from just 2 brothers to the 3,500 members of the Du Pont clan. Families needed a combined net worth of $1 billion to make the cut.

My favorite is the Mars family, #3, because their summary says “Source of Wealth: candy.” Also the Duncan family, #10, because their summary says “Source of Wealth: energy,” and the scion is pictured surrounded by lions. Like, yeah! I’ll bet he needs serious energy to mind-control those lions. Anyway, peruse them at your leisure. Without billions to manage, you have nothing but time, after all, right? Whether you look for members of your own ethnic group / sexuality / religion is entirely up to you.

The Tricky Business of Criticizing Big Philanthropy

Dissent has published a smart primer by Joanne Barkan on "how to effectively criticize big philanthropy." The piece uses education reform as a way to talk about how unregulated mega-foundations can exert influence on policy outside of the democratic process. Barkan talks us through a few common "challenges" you might hear when, say, you have a little too much wine at a dinner party and decide it's time to be that guy.

Silicon Valley Ladies Are Doing It For Themselves

Do you know what "venture capital" is? I do now, but once I did not, and I met a venture capitalist at a party, and she was like, "What do you do?" and I was like, "I work at a start up" (about which more here) and she was like, "Oh, great! I'm in VC!" and I had to nod and laugh and pretend I knew what she was talking about because I am scared to look stupid, lest someone force me to take the SATs again.*

Rich People Magazine: Summer 2014 Edition

The summer edition of WSJ. Money is out, AKA, Rich People Magazine (or as editor Mike Miller put it, the magazine "for people who are voyeuristically interested in the high end and are at the high end"), and it doesn't disappoint.

Anderson Cooper Has His Own Millions, Thank You

Here is another fact in a long series of facts maybe everyone knows but me: Anderson Cooper is a Vanderbilt?! Of railroad tycoon fame? More specifically, his mom is the 90-year-old heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, who has $200 million dollars that she is NOT giving to her son when she dies.

Anderson Cooper, per the NY Post, is fine with that. In fact, he’s a little smug about it:

“I don’t believe in inheriting money … I think it’s an initiative sucker. I think it’s a curse.

“Who’s inherited a lot of money that has gone on to do things in their own life? From the time I was growing up, if I felt that there was some pot of gold waiting for me, I don’t know that I would’ve been so motivated.

“I’m doing fine on my own, I don’t need any,” he said.

I get where he’s coming — or at least the idea that ‘earning’ money just feels a lot better than getting it because you implanted in a very lucky uterus — but I think the next paragraph provides some critical context:

A Hedge Fund Manager Turned Environmental Activist

This Men's Journal profile of the unlikely pursuit of billionaire Tom Steyer is excellent. Steyer takes the writer, Joe Hagen, for a hike, squeezes Meyer lemons, yells into canyons, drives an old hybrid Honda Accord, and says that anyone who doesn't see that his former employer Goldman Sachs "got deferential access and deferential outcomes," is a "fucking idiot."