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America’s Newest Billionaire: Chobani Yogurt’s CEO

Daily Ticker

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America has a newly minted billionaire, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires index.

It's Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder and sole owner of New York-based Chobani Greek yogurt. His net worth is estimated to be $1.1 billion, a direct reflection of America's obsession with Greek yogurt.

Greek yogurt sales make up 35% of the total U.S. yogurt market, up from just 4% in 2008, according to research firm Bernstein Research.

Ulukaya is a Turkish immigrant who founded Chobani in 2005 with only five employees. Today the company employs more than 1,200 workers and controls 47% of the U.S. Greek yogurt market, according to Bernstein Research, and 17% of the total U.S. yogurt market, according to market research firm SymphonyIRI Group.

The Daily Ticker interviewed Ulukaya in August at the company's first brick-and-mortar retail store in New York City's SoHo neighborhood.

"I've had this in my mind for the longest time," Ulukaya tells The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task. "When I was walking around these streets I used to say 'one day we will have a shop."

The Greek yogurt leader has seen its sales jump 400% since 2009, according to Bloomberg.

When asked whether the craze for Greek yogurt is just a fad, he said:

"Yogurt is not going anywhere. When it comes to yogurt America is still underdeveloped. If we keep making good yogurt, there's room for grow for everybody."

If that's the case, one would expect his wealth to continue to rise. According to Bloomberg, his ex-wife Ayse Giray has filed a lawsuit claiming that Ulukaya owes her more than half of the company.