Welcome to the Billionaires’ Club

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By Orna taub

210 people from 42 countries have joined Forbes’ Billionaire Club.  Noteworthy among them are two young American Jews that earned their fortune by the sweat of their brows: Tory Burch 46 and Nicholas Woodman 37.

Tory Burch is a beautiful fashion designer considered to be the queen of the Jet Set. Her net worth is estimated at 1 billion dollars which places her this year in the number 1342 place on Forbes’ list of worldwide billionaires and number 426 in the U.S list.  She is the second youngest billionaire in America after Sara Blakely who is 42 years of age and the owner of Spandex the famous undergarment label who have applied for and received a patent for short, sculpted tights that may be worn as underpants.

Nick (Nicholas) Woodman, 37 entered the list of youngest billionaires in 17th place with an estimated worth of 1.3 billion dollars.  Woodman, known as the “mad billionaire” is the founder and CEO of GoPro a company producing equipment for digital area and motion photography.  GoPro is an American company with the greatest growth.  The prototype model of the first camera he built in his bedroom using his mother’s sewing machine and a drill.  The first camera, a 35mm model entered market in 2004 and today the company is worth 2.25 billion dollars. More on Nick Woodman to follow.

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Tory Burch / Getty

Tory Burch / Getty

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Tory Burch beauty and style

Tory Burch is identified by her tag TRB or simply Tory Burch which she launched in 2004.  The big push came only a year later when she received the “rising star” award in 2005 from the international fashion group and received serious publicity via Oprah Winfrey who presented her as the “next great thing in fashion”.

The first shop which is still her flagship store opened in the Nolita (little Italy) section of Manhattan and since then she has opened 83 brand stores world wide.  In addition her fashion line is the best seller in some 1000 stores and boutiques as well as department stores such as Bloomingdales and the more prestigious stores such as Sachs Fifth Avenue, Bergoff Goodman and Neiman Marcus.

Burch is considered as one of the designers that changed the lowly T-Shirt into a fashion statement and her fashion style called “Sheiko” bohemian and light suitable for women of every body shape and life style and most importantly every age.  We are talking about clothes that are easy to throw on and go out with suitable for working women and housewives as well as society women and celebrities.  Among her designs are tunics with prominent prints for daily wear or silk fabrics for festive occasions. She has penetrated into virtually all areas of fashion: kaftans, sweaters with sequins, evening clothes, children’s bathing suits ad hand bags.  An especially popular line is her collection of women’s flats know as “Reva” named after her mother Reva Robinson.

Meanwhile she continued to garner prizes.  In 2007 she won the prize as “Accessory Brand of the year” awarded by the Outstanding Accessory Board.  A year later in 2008 she received the award as the “Accessory Designer of the Year” from American Committee of Fashion Designers.

Her great break-through in these years was recognized by all. She also increased her philanthropic activities and sponsored the spring gala of the American Ballet Theater and founded a fund in her name that is meant to give economic opportunities to women and their families.  Her stores market several products whose revenues are designated for the work of this fund.

Burch, who was born in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania claims that her designs are inspired by her father, a businessman and serious investor, Earl Robinson and her mother Reva Shapiro, a Jewish actress who dated Steve McQueen and Marlon Brando.  They were a glamorous couple who loved to entertain, travel and collect attractive items.  They were involved with the Hollywood scene and socialized with celebrities and movie stars.

She received her degree in art history form the University of Pennsylvania and from there went to New York and begin to work for fashion designers such as Zoran of Yugoslavia, Vera Wang and Ralph Lauren as well as for the fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar.

Her first marriage was to William Macklowe son of a real estate tycoon.  Following her divorce from Macklowe she was married for 9 years to the businessman Christopher Burch, one of he investors in the Internet Cable Group and her business partner who claimed that after their divorce he gave her 2 million dollars to establish her first store in New York.  Chris Burch, in December 2012 sold 28.3% of his shares in the company and thus established the value of the company at more than 3 billion dollars.  In 2007  Burch was dating Lance Armstrong and as of late has associated her name with Lior Cohen. (see article on Lior Cohen)

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Nick Woodman - Robert Scoble

Nick Woodman – Robert Scoble

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Extreme Nick Woodman

Any place that you go where extreme activity is taking place; you will certainly encounter a GoPro camera, the brand that in the last month alone sold $100 million dollars worth of products.  Woodman is the brains behind GoPro, the camera that can be attached to any point of motion.  To the body, clothing, hats as well as to equipment and accessories which makes it ideal for use by sportsmen and action lovers.

Woodman hit upon the idea while surfing in Indonesia and Australia and was searching for a method of filming himself while engaging in sporting activities. The cameras he developed support WiFi, are remotely controlled and feature 64GB of memory.  They are water proof and inexpensive selling in the $300 range.  Thus virtually anyone can film himself skiing on Alpine slopes, surfing on giant waves in Hawaii or Bungee jumping in Australia.  These cameras are used by both amateurs and professionals and may be found with Hollywood directors, football players and law enforcement and military officers.  The Rolling Stones used them on stage and they are also used by those who bring us those rare pictures from the mouths of sharks and alligators.

Woodman received his sobriquet the “mad billionaire” due to his childish behavior and eccentricities that he cultivates deliberately, however his path to the summit was not easy.  Following receipt of his degree in Visual Arts from the University of California, San Diego he founded a marketing company called funBag that was not successful.  At the age of 26 he decided to travel and surf in order to find inspiration.  He surfed in Indonesia and Australia for some five months with a 35mm camera attached to the palm of his hand usually by a rubber band, although this was very awkward and tended to fall.

In order to solve this problem he developed and built a belt that would attach a camera to the body.  In order to finance the project he and the women who today is his wife, Jill bought shell necklaces for $1.90 each in Bali which they sold from their car along the California coast for $60.  With the money they earned together with $35,000 borrowed from his mother they were in business.

In 2004 GoPro achieved its first success when a Japanese firm ordered 100 cameras at a sports show at which it was exhibited.  From that year on, GroPro more than doubled its sales every year.  In 2012 the company sold 2.3 million cameras.  Foxconn a Chinese electronic company recognized the huge potential of the company and in December 2012 invested 200 million dollars in it.  Thus the value of the company rose to 2.25 billion dollars and introduced Woodman into the Forbes Billionaire club.

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