A recent study shows gay men actually make less than straight men. And when Apple CEO Tim Cook (who is on this list) came out, it was news because no other Fortune 500 CEO had ever done that while still leading a company. But the good news is that there's no shortage of successful LGBT role models in the business world.
This isn't an exhaustive or comprehensive list; it's more like a sampling. After all, it's difficult to accurately gauge the wealth of our top earners, thanks to investments and private assets (and the fact that few like to scream their worth from the rooftops). Take for instance, transgender entrepreneur Martine Rothblatt, who's in charge of the $4.6 billion pharmaceutical company she started, but derives much of her compensation from stock options. Journalists like Anderson Cooper and entertainment figures like director Roland Emmerich don't have to worry about their next meal, but they don't make nearly as much money as those who founded ventures or built empires.
Below are some of the LGBTs who really struck gold and, thankfully, many of them are not just wealthy scions, but philanthropic individuals who know the value of giving back.
14. Tim Gill (Estimated worth: $400 Million)
Gill amassed his wealth after founding the software company Quark, but since then his primary focus has been advancing LGBT rights. In 1994, Gill created the Colorado-based Gill Foundation to “secure full equality for LGBT citizens by changing public policies at the state level.” To date, the foundation has invested more than $259 million in programs and nonprofit organizations throughout the U.S. Gill married his husband, Scott Miller, in 2009.
13. Tim Cook (Estimated worth: $400 million)
Cook, 54, is the current CEO of Apple, having taken over the post in 2011 after Steve Jobs stepped down due to health concerns. In addition to his role at Apple, Cook also serves on the boards of directors of Nike Inc. and the National Football Foundation. A strong proponent of equality, Cook sent a 2013 memo to his employees explaining that as an organization, Apple supports further federal government protections against LGBT discrimination. “We know that equality and diversity make our company and our society stronger. So we’ve urged the U.S. Congress to support workplace protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” he wrote at the time. Then in October of last year, Cook became the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company to acknowledge he’s gay. That company just had the most profitable quarter of any company in the history of the world.
12. Elton John (Estimated worth: $440 Million)
John, 67, is best known for his recording career, having sold over 300 million records worldwide. This six-time Grammy winner has also brought home an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a Tony, and he currently headlines a show at Caesars Palace, one of the highest-grossing in Las Vegas. John is also a dedicated philanthropist — he started the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992 and has raised more than $200 million to fight HIV and AIDS. John has been with his now-husband, David Furnish, for 22 years, and together they continue the fight for equal rights worldwide.
11. Jann Wenner (Estimated worth: $700 million)
Wenner, 69, is the cofounder of Rolling Stone magazine as well as owner of Men’s Journal and Us Weekly. In Rolling Stone’s early years, the late 1960s and early ’70s, Wenner hired such then-unknown writers as Hunter S. Thompson, Joe Klein, and Cameron Crowe, plus photographer Annie Leibovitz, to help get the magazine off the ground. Since then Wenner Media has grown into a multimillion-dollar empire. Wenner has been with his longtime partner, fashion designer and model Matt Nye, since 1995.
10. Chris Hughes (Estimated worth: $700 Million)
Hughes, 31, is an American entrepreneur and one of Facebook's founders. He stepped away from Facebook in 2007 to work on the social networking campaign for then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. In 2012 he married his partner, Sean Eldridge, who was the political director for Freedom to Marry at the time and subsequently a candidate for Congress. That same year, Hughes purchased the venerable political magazine The New Republic and took on the role of editor in chief and publisher. Hughes has tried to take the magazine in a new direction, which led to a staff revolt late last year.
9. Michael Kors (Estimated worth: $1 Billion)
Kors, 55, is a New York–based fashion designer known for his women’s sportswear. Jennifer Lopez, Heidi Klum, Rachel McAdams, Alicia Keys, and First Lady Michelle Obama are all fans of his line. Obama wore a black sleeveless dress by Kors in her first-term official portrait. Kors also served as a judge on Bravo’s Project Runway for 10 seasons before leaving in 2012. In 2010, Kors filmed a video for the It Gets Better Project, and he married his longtime partner, Lance LePere, in 2011.