forbes.com, Erin Carlyle
Fashion billionaire Tory Burch is used to seeing her name all over the place: on your ballet flats, your skirt, your fashion magazines. Christening her company after herself basically means that if something happens at a California store while she’s in New York, her moniker still hits the headlines. But when it comes to her children, the rules are different, she says.
“My children are off limits,” Burch told the collection of high-powered women at the inaugural Forbes Women’s Summit May 9th in New York. “My personal life is off-limits.”
Perhaps that’s because raising nice, normal kids can be quite the challenge for billionaires. So too can be keeping your relationship with your children intact. What with the nannies, the media attention, and the abundance of wealth itself, billionaire spawn can face more than the average temptations by the time they reach 18.
There are also, unfortunately, plenty of examples of older billionaire moms who have fought with their children, including the richest mom in the world, Liliane Bettencourt, and Asia-Pacific’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart. Bettencourt, who inherited a huge stake in L’Oreal from her father, had her fortune placed under the guardianship of her daughter Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers in 2011 following a very public three-year legal battle.
In the fall of 2011, mining heiress Rinehart’s offspring began legal action against her over her alleged delay to 2068 of the vesting date of their trust. She fired back, describing their privileged lives and reportedly suggesting they were slackers in need of real employment.
Still it is a rarefied group. There are approximately 3,300 people in the world who have a father who is a billionaire but just 305 whose mom ranks among the world’s super rich. Burch is one of just 108 billionaire moms, by our count, and one of less than two dozen who made their fortunes on their own and didn’t inherit wealth from their fathers, grandfathers, husbands or moms.
Some of the better known mothers on our list include Spanx billionaire Sara Blakely, who has a young toddler to contend with as well as her $1 billion shapewear brand (she owns 100%, making her the youngest self-made woman on the Forbes rich list).
Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs‘ widow, has three children, the eldest of whom is now a senior at Stanford. Then there’s HP CEO Meg Whitman, who made her fortune as CEO at eBay. Whitman’s two boys attended Princeton just like she did, and she has described her children not as a detriment to her career, but the source of her inspiration, particularly during her failed bid for governor of California. Still, the eldest has appeared in some unflattering press reports, including a charge of battery that was ultimately dismissed.
Oprah, perhaps the most famous self-made female billionaire, doesn’t have children of her own, but she did help raise Wendy, the daughter of her longtime partner Stedman Graham, and she is de facto mother to the girls at her Leadership Academy in South Africa. They call her Mom-Oprah, according to a recent Forbes cover story on the media billionaire. The first seven grads to attend college in the U.S. stay at Oprah’s California mansion on their spring breaks, and contact her when they feel homesick.
Then there’s Inditex co-founder Rosalia Mera, whose son Marcos has inspired her activism. Mera and ex-husband Amancio Ortega founded the blockbuster Zara retail chain together, sewing dressing gowns and lingerie from their home. Today Mera’s Paideia Foundation works to integrate people with physical and mental disabilities, like Marcos, into larger society in Spain.
Forbes reporter Clare O’Connor contributed to this report.