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.
8. Jon Stryker (Estimated worth: $1.2 Billion)
Stryker, 56, is an architect, philanthropist, and heir to the Stryker Corp., a medical equipment supplier. He is also founder and president of the Arcus Foundation, a grant-making organization that supports LGBT social justice endeavors and the conservation of apes around the world. He has also donated to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.
6. Domenico Dolce/7. Stefano Gabbana (Estimated worth: $1.65 Billion)
Italian designers and onetime boyfriends, Dolce, now 56, and Gabbana, now 52, started their fashion house in 1985, and it quickly rose to the pinnacle of the sartorial world. Known as part of the “power trio” (Prada, Versace, and Dolce & Gabbana), the company was first recognized for its menswear. However, it ultimately found international recognition and female buyers in the early 1990s when Madonna wore a Dolce & Gabbana corset lined with multicolored gems to the premiere of Truth or Dare. Since then, the designers have continued to dress Madonna and other performers, including Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Kylie Minogue. Through their company, they've supported the African efforts of UNICEF.
5. Jennifer Pritzker (Estimated worth: $1.8 Billion)
In August 2013, Chicago investor and philanthropist Jennifer Pritzker became the world’s first and only openly transgender billionaire when she announced she identified as a woman. A retired army lieutenant colonel, the 64-year-old is currently CEO of private wealth management firm Tawani Enterprises. Her philanthropy reaches far and wide; she created the Pritzker Military Library, donated to Norwich University, and contributed over $1 million to the Palm Center’s Transgender Military Service Initiative.
4. Megan Ellison (Estimated worth: up to $2 Billion)
Film producer and production company owner Megan Ellison, 29, is the founder of Annapurna Pictures. The daughter of Oracle founder and CEO Larry Ellison (the third richest man in America, with an estimated net worth of $50 billion in 2014), was reported to inherit $2 billion on her 25th birthday. With that money, she took Hollywood by storm, starting Annapurna and racking up four Academy Award nominations for Best Picture since 2010. Ellison’s company is responsible for such critically acclaimed films as Zero Dark Thirty, Her, American Hustle, and Foxcatcher. With last year’s Oscar nominations for Her and American Hustle, this out lesbian became the first woman to ever score two Best Picture noms in the same year.
3. Peter Thiel (Estimated worth: $2.2 Billion)
PayPal cofounder, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist Peter Thiel, 47, owns an estimated $1 billion stake in Palantir, a computer software and services company. He was also the first outside investor in Facebook and reportedly doubled his money when he cashed out. The out, self-described conservative libertarian has donated to mostly Republicans and supported LGBT organization GOProud and the American Foundation for Equal Rights.
2. David Geffen (Estimated worth: $6.1 Billion)
Media mogul David Geffen, now 71, founded Asylum Records in 1970 and Geffen Records in 1980, and in 1990 he sold the labels to MCA for $550 million. From there, he joined forces with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg to start DreamWorks SKG and DreamWorks Animation. His philanthropy is wide-reaching — Geffen has given hundreds of millions to the medical school at the University of California, Los Angeles. Geffen was also part of the campaign against California's antigay Proposition 8; despite the efforts of Geffen and others, voters approved the anti–marriage equality measure, but it was later struck down in court.
1. Giorgio Armani (Estimated worth: $7.3 Billion)
Italian designer Giorgio Armani, now 80, skyrocketed to the pinnacle of the fashion world after starting his company in 1975. He’s dressed Jessica Chastain, Rihanna, Anne Hathaway, and Penelope Cruz, to name only a few stars. He's now shifting his incredible eye for detail to the travel and tourism sector, having started Armani Hotels and Resorts, with locations in Dubai, Milan, London, and New York. Notoriously private, Armani did once speak about his bisexuality to Vanity Fair.