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These are Europe's 11 richest billionaires who never went to university

IKEA, L’Oreal and Zara all get a mention.
Sep 29th 2015, 6:10 AM 34,942 27

THERE’S NO DOUBT that having a degree can open certain doors for you in life, but that’s not to say that without one you can’t break into the 1%.

Though many of today’s most successful business people are alumni of Ivy League or Russell Group institutions, there are a surprising number of billionaires who never even graduated university - about 35%, in fact.

Below are Europe’s most successful billionaires that never got a degree.

(Net worth figures according to Forbes)

11. Sir Alan Sugar — €2 billion

Alan Sugar book signing - London

Age/From: 68, UK.

How he made his money: Consumer electronics. Founder of Amstrad, which makes Sky Digital boxes.

What he did instead of university:Sugar grew up on a council estate in London and dropped out of education when he was just 14. He then went on to work for the Ministry of Education as a statistician for a brief period before selling electronics and car aerials from the back of a van he bought for £50. He has been very vocal about his opinion of higher education, branding university “a waste of time.”

10. John Caudwell — €2.2 billion

The Global Angels Awards - London Source: Ian West

Age/From : 62, UK.

How he made his money: Telecoms. Founded British phone retailer Phones 4 U.

What he did instead of university: Caudwell was 15 when he left education, and he spent his younger years as a second-hand car dealer. It wasn’t until 1987, aged 35, shortly after the first mobile phones became commercially available, that he and his brother ventured into the telecoms market and founded the business that would eventually build them their fortune.

9. Ingvar Kampgrad — €2.9 billion


Age/From: 89, Sweden.

How he made his money: Founder of IKEA.

What he did instead of university:Kampgrad showed entrepreneurial spirit from a young age, selling matchsticks to his neighbours as a child from his bike. At 17, his dad gave him a small cash reward for his school studies which he used to create IKEA. He chose business over education and five years later, he added furniture to IKEA’s product portfolio.

8. Baron Albert Frère — €4 billion


Age/From: 89, Belgium.

How he made his money: Steel investment.

What he did instead of university: Frère dropped out of high school aged 17 after his father died. He decided against returning and dedicated his early life to running the family’s small steel business. Following the company’s success, he invested in a number of other steel companies in Belgium by the age of 30. By 1970, he controlled almost all of the steel industry in the Belgian region of Chaleroi.

7. Richard Branson — €4.3 billion

Richard Branson's 'Business Stripped Bare' Book Launch Party - London Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Age/From: 64, UK.

How he made his money: Founder of Virgin.

What he did instead of university: Branson dropped out of school when he was just 16 to start a youth lifestyle magazine. He interviewed high-profile musicians such as Mick Jagger, nurturing his love for music and in 1970, aged 20, he opened a mail-order business selling imported and discounted records. A year later, a postal strike hit the mail-order business and he opened the first Virgin Records stores at 21 years old.

6. Laurence Graff — €4.4 billion

The 15th largest rough diamond in the world Source: PA WIRE

Age/From: 76, UK.

How he made his money: Diamonds.

What he did instead of university: Graff dropped out of school aged 14 and began his career by cleaning toilets as a jeweller’s apprentice. He then went into partnership with another local jeweller, helping to repair jewellery before the shop went out of business. He started creating and selling his own pieces and by 1962, aged 24, he owned two jewellery stores, one being in London’s Hatton Garden.

5. Sir Philip Green — €4.4 billion

Westfield Stratford City Source: PA WIRE

Age/From: 63, UK.

How he made his money: Fashion retail. Founder of Arcadia, which owns Topshop.

What he did instead of university: Philip Green attended a Jewish boarding school but dropped out at the age of 15, a couple of years after his father passed away. He enrolled in an apprenticeship with a shoe importer. He never returned to school and set up his first business with a £20,000 loan, importing clothes cheaply to sell onto retailers in London.

4. Roman Abramovich — €7.4 billion

Abramovich sued over oil shares Source: PA WIRE

Age/From: 48, Russia.

How he made his money: Investor.

What he did instead of university: Roman Abramovich was orphaned as a child and dropped out of school when he was 17. He began his career selling imported rubber ducks from his apartment and used a 2,000 rouble wedding present from his first wife’s parents to expand his business and add deodorant and perfume to his stock. Throughout his 20s he set up, invested in and sold several successful companies.

3. Francois Pinault — €11 billion

Italy Pinault Art Source: Associated Press

Age/From: 78, France.

How he made his money: Fashion retail.

What he did instead of university: Pinault dropped out of high school at 16 years old with no qualifications. He spent years working for the family business, a local timber trading company, but set up his own timber firm at the age of 26 after borrowing 100,000 Francs from his family. He now owns the holding company of a number of luxury fashion labels, including Alexander McQueen, Saint Laurent, and Stella McCartney. He also owns Christie’s auction house.

2. Liliane Bettencourt — €35 billion

Franck Sorbier Catwalk - Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week Source: Associated Press

Age/From: 92, France.

How she made her money: Owner of L’Oreal.

What she did instead of university: As the heiress to the L’Oreal empire, Bettencourt had no real financial or career-based need to enrol in higher education as a teen. Bettencourt now owns 33% of L’Oreal stock but lost control of her fortune after being deemed mentally unfit to do so in a legal battle with her children. She is the 10th richest person in the world.

1. Amancio Ortega — €62 billion


Age/From: 79, Spain.

How he made his money: Retail. Founder of Zara.

What he did instead of university: Ortega left school when he was 14 to work as a messenger boy. It wasn’t until 1975 at the age of 4o that he founded Zara and earned his wealth. Up until then, he worked in the textile industry, choosing to avoid education. The first Zara store opened in 1975.

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