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- Donald Trump may be the richest president in America’s history, but one of the former 2020 Democratic nominee contenders is worth 17 times more, Forbes estimates.
- Campaigning to be US president is an expensive business, and the challenge has drawn candidates with vast fortunes.
- US presidential contenders derived their wealth from landowning in the early days of the nation, while recent candidates got rich from technology, oil, and their families.
- Incumbent Donald Trump is the richest president in history, with his net worth estimated at $3 billion. He has claimed the figure is larger.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Campaigning to be the president of the USA is an expensive business, and the challenge has drawn candidates with vast fortunes.
Those who take the challenge of running for the oval office often have sizeable fortunes at their disposal. Three billionaires – Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg, and Donald Trump – threw their hats in the ring for 2020, but ultra-wealthy people have been on the ballot since the country’s first presidential election in 1788, Business Insider reported in 2017. Steyer withdrew from the race Saturday, and Bloomberg dropped out Wednesday after a disappointing showing on Super Tuesday. The former New York City mayor was trounced in almost all of the Super Tuesday primaries after spending roughly a quarter of a billion dollars on advertising in those states alone.
Below, Business Insider looks at some of the richest people ever to run for – and in some cases, be elected into – the White House, organized in ascending order of their net worths.
12. 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry had a net worth of $103 million in 2003.
- Zach Gibson/Getty Images
Source of wealth: Investments and marriage
Former Secretary of State John Kerry is one of the richest people ever to win the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, which he did in 2004. Political group Citizens United used his background to portray him as an out-of-touch elitist in ads. He lost to George W. Bush, who also came from substantial family wealth. Kerry’s fortune, estimated to have been $103 million in 2003 by the Center for Responsive Politics, is tied up in a portfolio of properties and other investments.
But it is dwarfed by the fortune of his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, who inherited vast sums from her late husband, John Heinz, a member of the ketchup dynasty. In 2004, The New York Times estimated her fortune at $1 billion. The couple signed a prenuptial agreement before their 1995 marriage, and keep their financial affairs separate.
11. President Theodore Roosevelt was worth the equivalent of $125 million today.
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Source of wealth: Inheritance and real estate
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, came from a wealthy family and inherited a fortune as a young man, according to 24/7 Wall Street. However, he lost much of his trust fund in a Dakota business venture and relied on his inheritance and earnings as an author and public servant for most of his life.
He owned 235 acres in Oyster Bay, Long Island, which he bought after his 1883 marriage. That is now some of the most valuable land in the area, giving him a net worth that is the equivalent of $125 million in 2010, according to an estimate by 24/7 Wall Street.
10. Former Vice President and 2000 Democratic nominee Al Gore has a $200 million fortune.
- Lehtikuva/Vesa Moilanen/Reuters
Source of wealth: Inheritance and investment
When Al Gore narrowly lost to George W Bush in the 2000 presidential election, he was worth about $1.7 million – a paltry sum by the standards of other contenders on the list. But in the years since, his wealth has ballooned, according to Bloomberg, to an estimated $200 million. This is owing to savvy sustainable investments and the sale of a news network he founded, Current TV, to Qatari-based Al Jazeera for an estimated $100 million in 2013, The New York Times reported at the time.
He also comes from a wealthy family. His father, US Senator Albert Gore Sr., who died in 1998, owned a controlling stake in Occidental Petroleum, according to The Times. Gore also receives an annual $20,000 royalty from Occidental for zinc mining on family, The Times reported.
9. Senator and 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney made a $250 million fortune running a private equity firm.
- George Frey/Getty Images
Source of wealth: Private equity
Mitt Romney started his career as a consultant with Bain & Company and built his fortune as a founding member of its investment arm, Bain Capital, Business Insider’s Henry Blodget previously reported.
Under his stewardship, Bain Capital became one of the world’s most successful private equity firms. His declared wealth when he unsuccessfully ran for the presidency in 2012 against Barack Obama was $250 million, according to The Washington Post. The Post, however, said that his total assets are likely much greater.
Having served as governor of Massachusetts, Romney was elected again to the Senate in 2018 to represent Utah, according to the AP.
8. The $439 million fortune of Forbes Magazine Editor-in-Chief Steve Forbes did not help him secure the GOP nomination in 1996 or 2000.
- Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
Source of wealth: Publishing, inheritance, and property
Publishing tycoon Steve Forbes, founder of the Forbes business magazine, ran on the GOP ticket in 1996 and again in 2000. On both occasions, the New York businessman was beaten in the primaries, Forbes Magazine reported.
He inherited a vast family publishing and property empire, valued at $439 million in 1996, according to the AP. He spent $69 million of his own money in his two unsuccessful presidential bids.
7. George Washington’s $525 million fortune makes him second-wealthiest president in American history.
- DeAgostini/Getty Images
Source of wealth: Real estate
Adjusted for inflation, the first president’s fortune would today stand at $525 million, Business Insider reported in 2017. This made him the wealthiest person to win the presidency until Trump’s 2016 victory.
Washington’s fortune was bound to his vast estates in Mount Vernon, Virginia, which stretched across 8,000 acres in Virginia, Business Insider previously reported. He also owned 300 slaves.
In the early days of the presidency, only white, male property owners were allowed to vote. This meant that many of the first presidents were wealthy landowners, with 3rd president Thomas Jefferson worth $236.8 million, Business Insider reported in 2017.
T6. President John F. Kennedy was born into one ultra-wealthy family and married into another, giving him a net worth of $1 billion.
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Source of wealth: Inheritance
John F. Kennedy was born into enormous wealth, and married oil heiress Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953, according to Forbes. His career was bankrolled by his father, Joe Kennedy, one of the richest men in America, who had made his fortune in banking, stock trading and bootlegging, Forbes reported.
When elected to the White House, JFK gave away his $100,000 annual salary to charity, Business Insider previously reported. Had he not been assassinated in 1963, Kennedy stood to inherit a significant portion of his family’s fortune, calculated at about $1 billion.
T6. Vice President and GOP presidential candidate Nelson Rockefeller had a $1 billion fortune, mostly inherited from his grandfather.
- The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images
Source of wealth: Inheritance
Nelson A. Rockefeller was the grandson of one of the richest men in the world: oil magnate John A. Rockefeller, according to PBS.
When he became vice-president to Gerald Ford in 1974, estimates put his part of the inherited family fortune at $1.3 billion. Before becoming vice president, he made three unsuccessful runs for the presidency as a Republican candidate: in 1960, 1964 and 1968.
4. Former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer has used his $1.6 billion fortune to fund his bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
- Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Source of wealth: Finance
Tom Steyer was one of the latest entrants to the 2020 presidential race, before suspending his candidacy on Saturday. He spent millions of his own fortune on environmental causes and recently paid for ads on prime-time TV calling for President Trump to be impeached.
Steyer ran hedge fund Farallon Capital for 26 years, but stepped aside from the position in 2012 to focus on environmental and political causes.
Forbes estimates Steyer’s net worth to be $1.6 billion.
3. With a net worth of $3.1 billion, Donald Trump is the richest president in America’s history.
Source of wealth: Real estate, inherited
The president’s net worth has been on the decline since he’s been in office, dropping $400 million since January 2017. Still, Trump rakes in millions of dollars of revenue from his various properties including New York real estate to his golf clubs around the world, Business Insider reported.
Trump has claimed to be even wealthier than that in the past, overstating his net worth by more than $7 billion, Bloomberg News reported in 2015.
2. Two-time third-party candidate Ross Perot had a $4.1 billion fortune.
- Shelly Katz/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images
Source of wealth: Technology and investments
Ross Perot was a plain-speaking Texan, who in 1992 became the most popular third-party candidate to run for the presidency when he ran against George H.W. Bush, according to the AP. Perot did not win but he did become the most popular third-party candidate in almost a century. He ran again in 1996, and was beaten by Bill Clinton, the AP reported.
At the time, he was the richest man ever to run for president, with his self-made fortune estimated at $3.5 billion when he ran in 1992.
Perot was one of the first tech billionaires, selling his company Electronic Data Systems to General Motors for $2.4 billion in 1984 and investing a fortune in municipal bonds. At the time of his death in July 2019, Forbes estimated his fortune at $4.1 billion.
1. With a net worth of $55.9 billion, former 2020 candidate Michael Bloomberg is 17 times richer than the current president.
- REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Source of wealth: Financial media
The multibillionaire made his fortune from Bloomberg LP, the media company he cofounded that now brings in $10 billion in annual revenue, Business Insider’s Katie Warren and Emmie Martin previously reported.
Bloomberg is currently the richest person in New York and the ninth-richest person in the nation, Martin and Warren reported.
Bloomberg largely self-financed his campaign before dropping out following a disappointing Super Tuesday. Before suspending his presidential bid, Bloomberg spent roughly a quarter of a billion dollars on advertising in the Super Tuesday states alone.