The ‘six degrees of separation’ theory argues that we are all just six introductions away from any other person on the planet. But as two of the wealthiest men to ever exist, is the connection between Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller closer than we think?
Bill Gates is related to the Rockefellers, albeit quite loosely. According to Famous Kin, Bill’s 7th cousin 3 times removed is Nelson Rockefeller, the 41st Vice President of the United States. Nelson’s grandfather is billionaire John D. Rockefeller. Despite this, Bill says that he sees no similarities between himself and the oil-entrepreneur.
Is it completely coincidental that Gates and Rockefeller are related? Or is it true that success runs in the family? Stick around for a full analysis of the similarities between these business moguls.
Who Are the Rockefellers?
Much like the Kardashians and the British Royal family, the Rockefeller family is one of the most well-known dynasties in the world. Currently in their 6thgeneration, the family’s fame and fortune primarily emanates from the 1800s with the birth of John D. Rockefeller.
John lived a relatively straightforward life working as a bookkeeper. But this all changed in 1859 when Edwin Drake discovered oil 70 feet below the surface of a small town in Pennsylvania. John spotted an opportunity to capitalize on this, so in 1970 he incorporated an oil refining business with his brother, William, along with a few others.
Standard Oil quickly went on to become the largest oil refiner in the world, 20 times bigger than its nearest competitors. But it seems this was all too good to be true, as in 1911 the Supreme Court ruled that Standard Oil constituted an “unreasonable monopoly”. The company was dissolved and split into 34 countries, including well-known brands such as Chevron, Mobil, Amoco.
But this wasn’t enough to set John back. By 1916, John became America’s first billionaire, and in 1918 he topped Forbes’ list as the richest person in the world. Following his controversial oil career, John devoted his life to philanthropy by setting up the Rockefeller Foundation.
The Formula For Success
From this brief history it’s easy to see why comparisons are made between John D. Rockefeller and Bill Gates. Both men are white Americans who established ground-breaking businesses that went on to become hugely successful, in the process earning them millions of dollars.
So how do their immense wealth’s compare? At the time of his death, John was worth approximately $1.4 billion and Bill is currently worth $102 billion. But the calculation is not that simple. According to CelebrityNetWorth, if you take into account inflation and relative GDP, John D. Rockefeller would be worth $340 billion in today’s money.
Similarly, at the time Rockefellers net worth was equal to 2.5% of the gross national product for the US. But Bill Gates’ net worth is currently equal to 0.5%. Both businessmen were extremely successful and driven, but Rockefeller was infinitely richer.
The Alliance for Green Revolution
The similarities don’t end there. After dissolving Standard Oil and selling shares in Microsoft, both John and Bill focused on their philanthropic efforts. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is currently the world’s largest philanthropic organization, and Bill has contributed $33.5 billion of his wealth. It follows in the footsteps of the Rockefeller Foundation, to which John donated $540 million.
Surprisingly, the two foundations have come together in recent years. Founded in 2006, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa secured $100 million in funding from Gates and $50 million from Rockefeller. It builds on the work of the Rockefeller Foundation in combating poverty and hunger in Africa between the 1940s and the 1960s.
Speaking of the collaboration, Melinda said:
“Together we share a vision for creating lasting change that will help millions of the most vulnerable people in Africa lift themselves out of extreme poverty. We’re honored to be working with the Rockefeller team.”