Liberty Media Corporation (NASDAQ:FWONA) Chairman John Malone has his hands in a lot of places in the cable, satellite, and digital worlds.

LMC is not a traditional company that makes things or provides a service. It's more of a holding company for a broad range of assets including the Atlanta Braves and Sirius XM (NASDAQ:SIRI). Malone's company also holds minority, but significant, shares in Live Nation Entertainment (NYSE:LYV) and a number of other lesser-known companies and minority equity investments in Time Warner and Viacom. In many ways, LMC is a reflection of Malone's interests and a vessel for him to use to make investments.

John C Malone

Malone Source: Liberty Media Corp.

In addition to his position at LMC, Malone serves in the same capacity at a number of affiliated companies, including Liberty Interactive Corporation (NASDAQ:LVNTA), Liberty TripAdvisor Holdings (NASDAQ:LTRPA), Liberty Broadband Corporation (NASDAQ:LBRDK) (NASDAQ:LBRDA), and Liberty Global plc (NASDAQ:LBTYK).

Malone also personally holds a stake in DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV), but he no longer has an operational role in the company. Though he shuns the spotlight and has remained a bit of a shadowy figure, he's a major power player, by way of a diverse portfolio that includes small stakes in a number of other media movers and shakers, including Time (NYSE:TIME) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC).

In recent years, Malone has been involved in countless deals, and his name seems to be the first to come up when whispers of a sale or acquisition begin to rise in the cable and satellite industries. He doesn't seek publicity like Donald Trump or Rupert Murdoch, but Malone is as big as, if not bigger than, his fellow billionaires behind the scenes.

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Sirius XM is one of the companies Malone controls via LMCA. Image source: SiriusXM

How did Malone make his money?
Unlike some of his peers, Malone worked his way to his fortune. Born in 1941 in Milford, Conn., Malone earned his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and economics at Yale and a master's in industrial management from Johns Hopkins, where he later earned a Ph.D. in operations research.

Malone used those degrees to forge an impressive career. Liberty Media lists some of the highlights in his bio:

  • Malone began his career in 1963 at Bell Telephone Laboratories (formerly a division of AT&T), working in economic planning and research and development.
  • In 1968, he joined McKinsey & Company.
  • In 1970, he became a group vice president at General Instrument Corporation. He was later named president of Jerrold Electronics, a GI subsidiary.
  • He served as director of the National Cable Television Association from 1974 to 1977 and again from 1980 to 1993.
  • From 1996 to March 1999, when Tele-Communications merged with AT&T, he was chairman and chief executive officer of TCI.
  • From 1973 to 1996, Malone served as president and chief executive officer of TCI.
  • He currently serves on the board of directors for the Cato Institute, Discovery Communications, Charter Communications, Expedia, and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.

A part of Malone's fortune comes from when TCI was sold to AT&T for $48 billion, Fortune says. That transaction was huge -- the second largest in the United States up to that point -- but it was really just the jumping-off point for the mogul. He reportedly made over $1.5 billion personally on that deal

After that sale, Fortune added, Malone began to acquire real estate, becoming one of the largest landowners in the world, if not the largest.  In 2012, Fortune put those holdings, which span the world, at 2.2 million acres.

What is John Malone's net worth?
Despite giving some of his fortune away, Malone still placed at No. 162 on the 2015 Forbes billionaires list, with an estimated wealth of $8.4 billion. That's a lot of money, but the billionaire may not be done yet, as Liberty Media remains very much in the mix to acquire more assets, especially in the wake of the collapsed deal between Time Warner Cable and Comcast.

In addition to his for-profit ventures, Malone has been an active philanthropist through his Malone Family Foundation. That organization has donated millions in pursuit of its goal "to improve access to quality education -- particularly at the secondary school level -- for gifted students who lack the financial resources to best develop their talents."

Malone may be a bit of a mystery compared with some of his higher-profile billionaire peers, but he has somewhat quietly built an empire and has made himself one of the richest people in the world.

Daniel Kline owns shares of Apple. He has never mentioned this many stocks in a story before. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), Liberty Global, Lions Gate Entertainment, and Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), Lions Gate Entertainment, and Netflix and has the following options: short July 2015 $24 puts on Live Nation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.