359. T. Denny San­ford

Forbes - - PROMOTION -

$2.2 billion  Self-made Score: Source: bank­ing, credit cards age: 81 res­i­dence: sioux falls, s.d. B.a., u. of min­nesota ’58

San­ford’s path to col­lege be­gan with a jail sen­tence. Af­ter he got 90 days for fight­ing, the judge made a deal with the high school grad­u­ate: He could get out early if he’d at­tend a univer­sity. “I had no in­ten­tion of go­ing to col­lege,” San­ford says. “But he gave me the great­est wakeup call I could ever have in my life.” Re­leased on day 36, San­ford en­rolled at the Univer­sity of Min­nesota. Roughly 30 years later he bought a small bank in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and has since ex­panded its credit card busi­ness into a na­tional gi­ant by of­fer­ing high­risk bor­row­ers cards with steep in­ter­est rates and low lim­its. He’s fun­neled much of the profit into char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions, giv­ing away more than $1.6 billion so far. A fa­vorite cause? Ed­u­ca­tion.

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