The B-School Club For Billionaire MBAs



A Learjet on standby for treks to St. Barts. A heated marble driveway for their Lamborghini Veneo Roadster. An Olympic-sized swimming pool surrounded by waterfall grottos. 24-karat gold-leafed walls peppered with Picassos, Monets, and Cézannes.

Admit it: You’ve probably dreamed of living like business titans, with their labyrinth gardens and two-story wine cellars. Ah, ‘champagne wishes and caviar dreams.’ And who would turn down the opulence, glamour, and renown of being a billionaire? Just imagine your face dotting the cover of Fortune or walking passed buildings bearing your name? Still, the bliss inherent to wealth is rooted in something deeper than ritz, ego, and security. It’s about knowing that you’ve left a legacy…and your sacrifices were worth it.

Make no mistake: MBAs are looking to make it big. They may not aspire to be a Carlos Slim or Abigail Johnson, but they’re ultimately seeking certain comforts. That’s why they forfeit steady paychecks for two years; They’re polishing their skills and building their networks for a future payout. If future MBAs are looking to hit the jackpot and join the billionaires club someday, there is one program that stands above all others: Harvard Business School.


Harvard Business School at night

Harvard Business School at night

That was the finding from a Wealth-X report released Tuesday (November 11). According to their research, 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’s 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 United States produced seven of the top ten 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.


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. 11% of billionaires also carried Ph.D.s.

David Friedman

David Friedman

According to David Friedman, President of Wealth-X, the right MBA 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. 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].”

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