Back in 1994, long before Donald Trump became the U.S. president, he told an ABC News journalist that his problems with his ex-wife Ivana stemmed from her management role at one of Trump’s Atlantic City casinos. “I think that putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing. If you’re in business for yourself, I really think it’s a bad idea,” he said. Trump may be surprised to know then that five self-made women worth more than him started their businesses with husbands.
There are eight self-made women richer than Trump, whose most recently published net worth was $3.7 billion. That includes two women from China who made their 10-figure fortunes in Trump’s beloved real estate. Here, Forbes tracks how they stack up, in order from poorest to richest.
Rafaela Aponte met her husband on a ferry ride. He was captain of the ferry; she was a passenger. In 1970, they launched Mediterranean Shipping. Now called MSC, it’s the world’s second largest shipping container company with 480 vessels. Aponte also designs the interiors for the couple’s cruise liners.
Diane Hendricks and her husband Kenneth opened up their first roofing supply company in 1982. They ran the business together for years until 2007 when Ken died unexpectedly (he’d been doing work on their roof and fell through). Diane got offers at the time to sell but kept building the company, which had nearly $3 billion in revenues. The mother of seven has doubled sales to $6 billion in a decade. “I have no reason to sell,” she recalls.
Lam Wai Ying and her husband cofounded Biel Crystal Manufactory, which makes smartphone touch screens for clients like Apple and Samsung. She’s the chairman of the Hong Kong based firm and controls 49%, while her husband owns 51%.
Wu Yajun and her ex-husband cofounded the publicly traded real estate developer Longfor. It has built more than 100 projects across China since 1993. A former journalist, she currently serves as the company’s chairman.
Hong Kong’s Pollyanna Chu comes from a prominent hotel and casino family, but she decided to strike out on her own. She launched Kingston Financial Group in 1992. The publicly traded financial services company has quickly become an asset management and brokerage powerhouse with a market capitalization of more than $7 billion.
Chan Laiwa chairs Fu Wah International, a real estate developer she founded in 1988. Based in Beijing, the company has built 1.6 million square feet of China’s capital city, including its Jinbo Street development in the Wangfujing District. Chan is reportedly a descendant of the Manchu dynasty, though that didn’t make growing up easier. Her family was so poor that in the 1940s she left high school to work. She once said “poverty was the best college education she could have hoped for. “
Marian Ilitch is now the richest self-made woman in America; her husband Mike died in February 2017, and she inherited his stake in the companies they owned together for years. The couple opened their first Little Caesars pizza restaurant outside Detroit in 1959. He was the marketing guy, while she had the financial sense. Today Little Caesars sells more than $4 billion worth of pizzas worldwide. Some of the fortune may go to one of their seven children when the estate is settled.
The richest self-made woman billionaire in the world is Zhou Qunfei, who reportedly grew up on a farm in central China and dropped out of school to work on a factory line six years before she started her own company. The Hong Kong resident founded touch-screen glass supplier Lens Technology when she was 22 years old. The publicly traded company now makes mobile phone and tablet covers for the likes of Apple and Samsung.