From Rockefeller, to George Washington, to Donald Trump, here are 11 of the richest US presidential candidates in history

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

  • Campaigning to 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 inheritance.
  • The wealthiest presidential candidate in history was Ross Perot, who unsuccessfully stood as a third-party candidate in 1992 and 1996, and was worth $3.5 billion.
  • Incumbent Donald Trump is the richest president in history, with his net worth estimated at $3 billion. He has claimed the figure is larger.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

When campaigning for the presidency, candidates will often try to convey a down-home image meant to appeal to ordinary Americans.

But building a political career and running for president is an expensive business, and those who take the challenge often have at their disposals fortunes beyond the reach of most people.

Below, Business Insider looks at some of the richest people ever to run for the White House.
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1992, 1996: Ross Perot — technology and investments — $3.5 billion

1992, 1996: Ross Perot — technology and investments — $3.5 billion

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 HW Bush.

Perot did not win, but became the most popular third-party candidate in almost a century. He ran again in 1996, and was beaten by Bill Clinton.

He is also the richest man ever to run for president, with his self-made fortune estimated at $3.5 billion when he ran in '92.

Perot was one of the first tech billionaires, selling his company Electronic Data Systems to General Motors for $2.4 billion in 1984 and investing a fortune in municipal bonds.

At the time of his death in July, Forbes estimated his fortune at $4.1 billion.

2016, 2020: Donald Trump — real estate and hospitality — $3.5 billion

2016, 2020: Donald Trump — real estate and hospitality — $3.5 billion

According to Bloomberg, the 45th president's net worth currently stands at about $3 billion, making him the richest presidential candidate ever to win office.

It's increased slightly since he launched his bid in 2016, when Bloomberg put it at $2.9 billion.

Trump has often claimed a much higher net worth — as much as $7 billion — but has struggled to produce evidence that he really has that much money.

Most of the president's fortune is tied up in his real estate portfolio, which comprises New York skyscrapers, golf resorts in Florida, Ireland and Scotland, and high-end hotels in cities across the world.

1789: George Washington — landowner — $525 million

1789: George Washington — landowner — $525 million

Adjusted for inflation, the first president's fortune would today stand at $525 million, according to a figure reported by Business Insider 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 vastly wealthy landowners, with 3rd president Thomas Jefferson worth $236.8 million.

1996, 2000: Steve Forbes — publishing, inheritance and property — $439 million

1996, 2000: Steve Forbes — publishing, inheritance and property — $439 million

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 $439 million in 1996. He spent $69 million of his own money in his two unsuccessful presidential bids.

2004: John Kerry — investments and marriage — $100 million

2004: John Kerry — investments and marriage — $100 million

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.

But his background was used to portray him as an out-of-touch elitist. He lost to George W Bush, who also came from substantial family wealth.

Kerry's £100 million fortune 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.

The New York Times has estimated her fortune at $1 billion.

The couple signed a prenuptial agreement before their 1995 marriage, and keep their financial affairs separate.

2012: Mitt Romney — private equity — $250 million

2012: Mitt Romney — private equity — $250 million

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.

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 $250 million.

The Washington Post, however, reported that his total assets are likely much greater.

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

2000: Al Gore — inheritance and investment — $200 million

2000: Al Gore — inheritance and investment — $200 million

When Al Gore narrowly lost to George W Bush in the 2000 presidential election, he was worth about $1.7 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 $200 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 $65 million in 2013.

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.

1960, 1964, 1968: Nelson Rockefeller — inheritance — $1 billion

1960, 1964, 1968: Nelson Rockefeller — inheritance — $1 billion

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

When he became vice-president to Gerald Ford in 1974, estimates put his part of the inherited family fortune at $1.3 billion.

Before making vice president, he made three unsuccessful runs for the presidency as a Republican candidate: in 1960, 1964 and 1968.

1901: Theodore Roosevelt — inheritance and property — £125 million

1901: Theodore Roosevelt — inheritance and property — £125 million

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 – and is now some of the most valuable land in the area, giving him an estimated net worth of $125 million.

1960: John F Kennedy — inheritance — $1 billion

1960: John F Kennedy — inheritance — $1 billion

John F Kennedy was born into enormous wealth, and married rich 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 $100,000 annual salary to charity.

Had he not been assassinated in 1963, Kennedy stood to inherit a significant portion of his family's fortune, calculated at about $1 billion.

2020: Tom Steyer — finance — $1.6 billion

2020: Tom Steyer — finance — $1.6 billion

Tom Steyer is a latecomer to the 2020 presidential race, having announced his candidacy in July.

He has spent millions of his own fortune on environmental causes, and recently 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 places Steyer's net worth at around $1.6 billion.

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