Richest People in History Daniel K. Ludwig

About Daniel K. Ludwig, history, biography and worth of one of the richest men in history.



Currently the richest man in the U.S. and perhaps the world, Ludwig was born in South Haven, Mich., in June, 1897. The son of a real estate agent, Daniel at age nine revealed his instinct for moneymaking when he paid $75 for a 26-ft. sunken boat that everyone told him could not be salvaged. He had the boat raised, fixed it himself, and then chartered it out the following summer--winding up with a 100% return on his investment.

Ludwig quit school after the eighth grade. When his parents separated, he went with his father to Port Arthur, Tex. There he sold supplies to sailing ships and steamers, but intent upon becoming a marine engineer, he moved back to Michigan and took a job paying 20c an hour at a marine-engine plant. The company regarded his work so highly that it sent young Ludwig on assignments to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. He, too, recognized his ability, and at age 19 quit to go into business for himself.

It was not until the 1930s, however, that Ludwig hit upon the financial scheme that would eventually boost him into the realm of the richest. His plan, which was far more complicated in execution than in concept, was merely to have oil companies charter unbuilt tankers from him for future delivery; then he would take the charter agreements to the bank to use as collateral on loans to build the ships. Thus he became an early proponent of never risking his own money when he could use someone else's.

During the early 1950s Ludwig entered heavily into the construction of supertankers, and by the mid-1970s his 50 ships, totaling nearly 7 million tons, made him one of the world's largest independent shipowners.

How Much?

In addition to his ships, Ludwig owns an estate of 3 1/2 million acres in Brazil that is probably the largest privately owned piece of property in the Western Hemisphere. He owns mines in West Virginia and Australia, an oil refinery in Scotland, and several luxury hotels--including the Acapulco Princess, where fellow publicity-shy billionaire Howard Hughes spent his final days. Although Ludwig has not talked to the press since the 1950s and little about the size of his fortune can be confirmed, educated estimates put it in the neighborhood of $3 billion.

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