Meet Laurene Powell Jobs, the mysterious woman who inherited Steve Jobs’ fortune

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Thomson Reuters

Laurene Powell Jobs is not just the widow of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs. She’s also an accomplished businesswoman and a generous philanthropist.

And she ranks among the 50 richest people in the world, according to Wealth-X.

Upon her husband’s death in 2011, Powell Jobs inherited his fortune – primarily shares of Apple and Disney – which has grown to an estimated $14.4 billion. Though she remains staunchly private about her personal life and relationship with her late husband, Powell Jobs has more openly discussed her business ventures and philanthropic pursuits in recent years.

Read on to meet the mysterious woman who’s carrying on Steve Jobs’ legacy, in her own way.


Laurene Powell Jobs was born in West Milford, New Jersey, in 1963 to a teacher and a Marine pilot. Her father, the pilot, died in a plane collision when she was 3 years old, and her mother later remarried.

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Stephen Lam/Getty Images

Source: Vogue


After double-majoring in political science and economics at the University of Pennsylvania, Powell Jobs worked on Wall Street for Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs before heading west to earn her MBA at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business in 1989.

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The Knight Management Center at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
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Steve Castillo/Wikimedia Commons

Source: New York Times, Stanford


It was during her time at Stanford that Laurene Powell met Steve Jobs. He briefly sat next to her during a lecture, before getting up to address the room as the guest speaker. Still thinking of her afterward, he asked the young Powell out, in the parking lot. She said yes to dinner, and they were together from then on.

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Diana Walker / Contour by Getty Images

Sources: The New York Times, International Business Times


They married in March of 1991 at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park.

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Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, California.
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Thomson Reuters

Source: International Business Times


The couple had three children: Reed, Erin, and Eve. The youngest, Eve, will head to college in the fall, leaving her mother an empty nester. But Powell Jobs has plenty keeping her occupied. “I have more time to work; I just do. Because once your kids are up and running, that frees you up a good 20, 30, hours a week,” she told Vogue.

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Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images

Source: Vogue


When Jobs died from cancer in 2011, his wife inherited his wealth — including 5.5 million shares of Apple stock and a 7.3% stake in The Walt Disney Company — making her a billionaire. With a $14.4 billion net worth, Powell Jobs is the fourth-richest woman on earth.

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Reuters/Gus Ruelas

Source: The New York Times, Business Insider


Her stake in Disney — which has tripled in value in the five years since Jobs’ death — comprises more than $12 billion of Powell Jobs’ net worth and makes her the company’s largest individual shareholder.

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Roller Coaster Philosophy/Flickr

Sources: Business Insider [1, 2]


Even though she married one of the most powerful and influential people in Silicon Valley, Powell Jobs was never a bystander to her husband’s success. Smart and educated, she pursued her own projects and career, with a strong focus on philanthropy. “In the broadest sense, we want to use our knowledge and our network and our relationships to try to effect the greatest amount of good,” she told The Times in 2013.

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Source: The New York Times


In the early ’90s, she cofounded Terravera, a natural-food company aimed at developing organic raw materials, such as legumes and grains, for the food and feed industries. She later backed off from Terravera to spend more time tutoring and raising her growing family.

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Shutterstock

Sources: Terravera, Vogue


In 1997, Powell Jobs founded College Track, a storefront nonprofit organization that helps prepare low-income students for college through tutoring and mentoring. College Track has expanded to eight locations across California, Colorado, and Louisiana.

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College Track/Facebook

Source: College Track


In the early 2000s, Powell Jobs started Emerson Collective — named after Ralph Waldo Emerson — an organization that makes grants and investments that focus on immigration, social justice, and education. A private company rather than a traditional nonprofit, Emerson Collective has funded startups like AltSchool, a VC-backed school that aims to transform education by personalizing student instruction with technology.

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A classroom in San Francisco’s AltSchool.
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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Sources: Los Angeles Times, Motley Fool, Vogue


Last September, Powell Jobs pledged $50 million via Emerson to fund XQ: The Super School Project, a venture that aims to reform education from the inside out by revamping how high schools approach curriculum. She is the chairwoman of XQ’s board of directors.

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Laurene Powell Jobs with XQ CEO Russlyn Ali.
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Getty Images/Angela Weiss

Source: The New York Times


XQ will collect proposals for overhauling the high-school experience, and a team of judges will then narrow the nominations to 10 winners who will receive financing. The project aims to create a new kind of school that can better prepare all students for success in both college and life. “There is a huge gap between what students want for their future and what their schools are offering,” Powell Jobs told The Times.

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Flickr/Pete

Source: The New York Times


Powell Jobs serves on the board of several organizations, including Teach for America, Conservation International, and the New America Foundation. She’s a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University’s board of trustees.

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Stanford University.
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Via Flickr

Source: Bloomberg


Like her husband, Powell Jobs has rarely discussed her personal views publicly, though recently she’s become vocal on some issues. Apart from her education-reform efforts, Powell Jobs has openly supported and financed efforts to pass the Dream Act, which would grant citizenship to undocumented minors. She’s also donated to groups supporting Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and wrote a glowing endorsement of Clinton for Time’s “100 Most Influential People”‘ list.

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REUTERS/Jim Young

Source: Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, Time


As for her husband’s legacy, Powell Jobs has at times taken an active role in shaping it. She urged Walter Isaacson to write Steve’s biography back in 2009, though some speculate that she wasn’t thrilled with the result and felt similarly to Tim Cook and Jony Ive, who publicly criticized how the book depicted the Apple founder.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Source: Fortune


Last October, she spoke out against “Steve Jobs” — the Aaron Sorkin-written movie based largely on Isaacson’s book — which portrays her husband in a harsh light. Powell Jobs, who called the movie “fiction,” was against the project from the get-go, reportedly calling Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale personally to ask them to decline roles in the film.

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Aaron Sorkin won the Golden Globe for best screenplay — despite Powell Jobs’ efforts to derail the movie.
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Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

Sources: CNN Money, Fortune


Strategically deploying the fortune left by Apple’s visionary leader is now Laurene Powell Jobs’ primary concern, and friends and colleagues say her personality is particularly suited for the job. “Laurene is a very formidable person,” Leon Wieseltier, a renowned writer who is partnering with Powell Jobs on a new journal, told Vogue. “She is an unreconstructed idealist, an idealist without any irony about her idealism.”

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Kimberly White/Stringer/Getty Images

Source: Vogue