15 of the richest US presidential candidates in history

President John F. Kennedy smokes a cigar during a Democratic fundraising dinner at the Commonwealth Armory at Boston University. Getty Images
  • Donald Trump may be the richest president in America’s history, but Michael Bloomberg, a former 2020 Democratic nominee contender, is worth 17 times more per Forbes estimates.
  • Campaigning to be US president is an expensive business, and the challenge has drawn candidates with vast fortunes.
  • US presidential contenders derived their wealth from landowning in the early days of the nation, while recent candidates got rich from technology, oil, and their families.
  • Incumbent Donald Trump is the richest president in history, with his net worth estimated at $US3 billion. He has claimed the figure is larger.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

2020 Democratic nominee Joe Biden is a millionaire. He and his wife Jill have a net worth of about $US9 million. Much of that comes from book royalties and Biden’s salaries while serving as a senator and vice president, according to Forbes.

Campaigning to be the president of the USA is an expensive business, and the challenge has drawn candidates with vast fortunes.

Those who take the challenge of running for the oval office often have sizeable fortunes at their disposal. Three billionaires –Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg, and Donald Trump – threw their hats in the ring for 2020, but ultra-wealthy people have been on the ballot since the country’s first presidential election in 1788, Business Insider reported in 2017.

Below, Business Insider looks at some of the richest people ever to run for – and in some cases, be elected into – the White House, organised in ascending order of their net worths.

15. 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry had a net worth of $US103 million in 2003.

John Kerry. Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Source of wealth: Investments and marriage

Former Secretary of State John Kerry is one of the richest people ever to win the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, which he did in 2004. Political group Citizens United used his background to portray him as an out-of-touch elitist in ads. He lost to George W. Bush, who also came from substantial family wealth. Kerry’s fortune, estimated to have been $US103 million in 2003 by the Centre for Responsive Politics, is tied up in a portfolio of properties and other investments.

But it is dwarfed by the fortune of his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, who inherited vast sums from her late husband, John Heinz, a member of the ketchup dynasty. In 2004, The New York Times estimated her fortune at $US1 billion. The couple signed a prenuptial agreement before their 1995 marriage, and keep their financial affairs separate.

14. President Andrew Jackson was worth the equivalent of $US119 million today.

Andrew Jackson, the seventh president. Library Of Congress/Getty Images

Source of wealth: Inheritance and military

Andrew Jackson, the seventh president, was one of the wealthiest presidents of the 1800s. He made some of his fortune in the military and married into a wealthy family. The Jacksons lived in the Hermitage, a 1,050-acre estate in Nashville, Tennessee.

13. President Theodore Roosevelt was worth the equivalent of $US125 million today.

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president. Getty Images

Source of wealth: Inheritance and real estate

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, came from a wealthy family and inherited a fortune as a young man. However, he lost much of his trust fund in a Dakota business venture and relied on his inheritance and earnings as an author and public servant for most of his life.

He owned 235 acres in Oyster Bay, Long Island, which he bought after his 1883 marriage. That is now some of the most valuable land in the area, giving him a net worth that is the equivalent of $US125 million in 2010, according to an estimate by 24/7 Wall Street.

T12. Former Vice President and 2000 Democratic nominee Al Gore has a $US200 million fortune.

Former Vice President of the United States, Co-founder and Chairman of Generation Investment Management, Senior partner at KPCB Al Gore speaks during Slush 2017 startup and technology event in Helsinki, Finland. Lehtikuva/Vesa Moilanen/Reuters

Source of wealth: Inheritance and investment

When Al Gore narrowly lost to George W Bush in the 2000 presidential election, he was worth about $US1.7 million – a paltry sum by the standards of other contenders on the list. But in the years since, his wealth has ballooned, according to Bloomberg, to an estimated $US200 million. This is owing to savvy sustainable investments and the sale of a news network he founded, Current TV, to Qatari-based Al Jazeera for an estimated $US100 million in 2013, The New York Times reported at the time.

He also comes from a wealthy family. His father, US Senator Albert Gore Sr., who died in 1998, owned a controlling stake in Occidental Petroleum. Gore also receives an annual $US20,000 royalty from Occidental for zinc mining on family, The Times reported.

T12. Former 2020 Democratic candidate John Delaney is worth $US200 million.

Democratic presidential candidate former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, at the end of a campaign speech in Des Moines, Iowa. AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Source of wealth: Finance

John Delaney, a former representative for Maryland’s 6th congressional district and 2020 presidential candidate, made his millions founding Capital Source, a commercial lender, and co-founding Health Care Financial Partners, a lender for healthcare companies. According to Forbes, he made $US30 million in 1999 when he sold HealthCare Financial Partners to Heller Financial. He founded Capital Source the following year and raised $US542 million to launch it.

Delaney began running for president in 2017 and dropped out on January 31, 2020, after spending more than $US10 million on his campaign.

10. President Thomas Jefferson was worth the equivalent of $US212 million today.

Thomas Jefferson was the third president. Hulton Archive / Stringer / Getty Images

Source of wealth: Inheritance, property, and politics

President Thomas Jefferson inherited 5,000 acres of land in Virginia from his father, Peter. When his father died, Jefferson began building a large house on the property, which he expanded slightly, and called it Monticello. Jefferson also inherited, bought, and sold hundreds of enslaved people throughout his life.

Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and famously opposed banks, saying they would “deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered,” Forbes reported in 2011. Jefferson struggled with finances later in life, especially after inheriting his father-in-law’s debt.

9. Senator and 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney made a $US250 million fortune running a private equity firm.

Former Massachusetts Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is interviewed at the Silicon Slopes Tech Conference on January 19, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. George Frey/Getty Images

Source of wealth: Private equity

Mitt Romney started his career as a consultant with Bain & Company and built his fortune as a founding member of its investment arm, Bain Capital, Business Insider’s Henry Blodget previously reported.

Under his stewardship, Bain Capital became one of the world’s most successful private equity firms. His declared wealth when he unsuccessfully ran for the presidency in 2012 against Barack Obama was $US250 million, according to The Washington Post. The Post, however, said that his total assets are likely much greater.

Having served as governor of Massachusetts, Romney was elected again to the Senate in 2018 to represent Utah.

8. The $US439 million fortune of Forbes Magazine Editor-in-Chief Steve Forbes did not help him secure the GOP nomination in 1996 or 2000.

Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media Steve Forbes speaks during the Forbes’ 2015 Philanthropy Summit Awards Dinner on June 3, 2015 in New York City. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Source of wealth: Publishing, inheritance, and property

Publishing tycoon Steve Forbes, founder of the Forbes business magazine, ran on the GOP ticket in 1996 and again in 2000. On both occasions, the New York businessman was beaten in the primaries.

He inherited a vast family publishing and property empire, valued at $US439 million in 1996, according to the AP. He spent $US69 million of his own money in his two unsuccessful presidential bids.

7. George Washington’s $US525 million fortune makes him the second-wealthiest president in American history.

Portrait of George Washington (1732-1799) following the victory at Yorktown, October 19, 1781. DeAgostini/Getty Images

Source of wealth: Real estate

Adjusted for inflation, the first president’s fortune would today stand at $US525 million, Business Insider reported in 2017. This made him the wealthiest person to win the presidency until Trump’s 2016 victory.

Washington’s fortune was bound to his vast estates in Mount Vernon, Virginia, which stretched across 8,000 acres in Virginia. He also owned 300 slaves.

In the early days of the presidency, only white, male property owners were allowed to vote. This meant that many of the first presidents were wealthy landowners, with 3rd president Thomas Jefferson worth $US236.8 million.

T6. President John F. Kennedy was born into one ultra-wealthy family and married into another, giving him a net worth of $US1 billion.

President John F. Kennedy smokes a cigar during a Democratic fundraising dinner at the Commonwealth Armory at Boston University. Getty Images

Source of wealth: Inheritance

John F. Kennedy was born into enormous wealth, and married oil heiress Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953. His career was bankrolled by his father, Joe Kennedy, one of the richest men in America, who had made his fortune in banking, stock trading and bootlegging.

When elected to the White House, JFK gave away his $US100,000 annual salary to charity, Business Insider previously reported. Had he not been assassinated in 1963, Kennedy stood to inherit a significant portion of his family’s fortune, calculated at about $US1 billion.

T6. Vice President and GOP presidential candidate Nelson Rockefeller had a $US1 billion fortune, mostly inherited from his grandfather.

New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller (1908 – 1979) and his second wife Happy at an election night celebration, waving their hands, following the defeat of Frank O’Connor, 1966. The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Source of wealth: Inheritance

Nelson A. Rockefeller was the grandson of one of the richest men in the world: oil magnate John A. Rockefeller.

When he became vice-president to Gerald Ford in 1974, estimates put his part of the inherited family fortune at $US1.3 billion. Before becoming vice president, he made three unsuccessful runs for the presidency as a Republican candidate: in 1960, 1964 and 1968.

4. Former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer has used his $US1.6 billion fortune to fund his bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

Tom Steyer holds one of his Need to Impeach town hall meetings at DoubleTree Hotel on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Largo, MD. Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Source of wealth: Finance

Tom Steyer was one of the latest entrants to the 2020 presidential race, before suspending his candidacy in February. He spent millions of his own fortune on environmental causes and paid for ads on prime-time TV calling for President Trump to be impeached.

Steyer ran hedge fund Farallon Capital for 26 years, but stepped aside from the position in 2012 to focus on environmental and political causes.

Forbes estimates Steyer’s net worth to be $US1.6 billion.

3. With a current net worth of $US2.1 billion, Donald Trump is the richest president in America’s history.

President Donald Trump walks into the East Room of the White House to speak about his judicial appointments, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, in Washington. Associated Press/Patrick Semansky

Source of wealth: Real estate, inherited

The president’s net worth has been on the decline since he’s been in office, dropping $US400 million since January 2017. Still, Trump rakes in millions of dollars of revenue from his various properties including New York real estate to his golf clubs around the world, Business Insider reported.

Trump has previously claimed to be even wealthier than that in the past, overstating his net worth by more than $US7 billion,Bloomberg News reported in 2015.

2. Two-time third-party candidate Ross Perot had a $US4.1 billion fortune.

Texas oil magnate Ross Perot posing for TIME in his office. Shelly Katz/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

Source of wealth: Technology and investments

Ross Perot was a plain-speaking Texan, who in 1992 became the most popular third-party candidate to run for the presidency when he ran against George H.W. Bush. Perot did not win but he did become the most popular third-party candidate in almost a century. He ran again in 1996 and lost to Bill Clinton.

At the time, he was the richest man ever to run for president, with his self-made fortune estimated at $US3.5 billion when he ran in 1992.

Perot was one of the first tech billionaires, selling his company Electronic Data Systems to General Motors for $US2.4 billion in 1984 and investing a fortune in municipal bonds. At the time of his death in July 2019, Forbes estimated his fortune at $US4.1 billion.

1. With a net worth of $US55.9 billion, former 2020 candidate Michael Bloomberg is more than 17 times richer than the current president.


Source of wealth: Financial media

The multibillionaire made his fortune from Bloomberg LP, the media company he cofounded that now brings in $US10 billion in annual revenue.

Bloomberg largely self-financed his campaign before dropping out following a disappointing Super Tuesday. Before suspending his presidential bid, Bloomberg spent roughly a quarter of a billion dollars on advertising in the Super Tuesday states alone.