In the last few years, I’ve kept an eye on private equity billionaire Robert F. Smith, the 55-year-old Cornell and Columbia grad. Smith is a former Goldman guy who struck out on his own as founder of Vista Equity Partners along with his co-founder Brian Sheth in 2000. In recent years, Forbes pegged Smith’s net worth at $2.5 billion. That’s more than Michael Jordan, but less than Oprah. Now, the 2018 Forbes World’s Richest People list is out, and Smith’s wealth has soared to $4.4 billion, making him the richest black American.
Smith’s philanthropy has been growing, too, as we’ve been reporting for a few years, now. His giving really kicked into high gear in 2016 when he announced a $50 million gift to Cornell, establishing a fellowship program and supporting black and female students at Cornell’s College of Engineering. Smith also announced that he would foot the education bill for 24 Chibok girls, including the 21 who were released by Boko Haram.