Men, white, from the United States or from some European country. This is how the exclusive club of the 5 richest people in the world was made up until not long ago.
However, that changed just a few weeks ago, when Indian businessman Gautam Adani unseated Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, from fourth place and removed banker Warren Buffett from the group, according to the Billionaires indices compiled by Forbes magazine and the specialized economic news agency Bloomberg.
The Indian tycoon entered the select circle thanks to the fact that his fortune has experienced a significant increase in recent years, and in particular in the last 12 months. Today it is estimated that Aldani’s companies and properties exceed US$125 billion, which is twice the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Uruguay in 2021.
In the last year alone, the businessman has seen his wealth increase by $48.7 billion, making him the richest man in all of Asia.
In contrast, the other members of the club (Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and new owner of Twitter; Bernard Arnault, owner of Louis Vuitton; Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and Bill Gates) have suffered significant losses, due to the turbulence they have been experiencing. markets, especially after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Adani is the founder of a conglomerate of companies called Adani Group, which has interests in sectors ranging from infrastructure, logistics to energy.
Now how did this empire start?
Adani is not a millionaire by inheritance. He was born in June 1962 into a middle-class family in Ahmedabad, in the western state of Gujarat, near the big city of Mumbai. His father was a small textile merchant.
After finishing high school he started studying Commerce at Gujarat University, but in the second year he dropped out.
In 1981 his older brother bought a plastics factory in Ahmedabad and invited him to join the business. Adani was dedicated to the import of PVC, but years later it expanded to other products and also began to export textiles, agricultural products and precious stones (diamonds).
Fortune smiled on him. So in 1995 he got his first port in the country, today he operates several throughout the Asian country.
However, the prosperity attracted the attention of criminal gangs and one of them kidnapped him in 1997 when he was leaving an exclusive club.
He was released hours later, but after paying US$1.5 million, according to the local press.
Years later, on November 26, 2008, when Adani was at the luxurious Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, it was attacked by Islamic extremists.
The businessman was at a dinner with colleagues, but he was unharmed, because he managed to hide in the basement of the building until the Indian commandos liquidated the terrorists.
“I saw death at 4 meters,” he later declared.
connections to power
From ports and merchandise distribution, Adani jumped into power. So today he not only owns plants that generate electricity, but also owns companies that distribute and market it directly to Indian households.
He is also the owner of the controversial Carmichael project in Australia, an open-pit coal mine to power power plants, for which he has received harsh criticism from environmentalists and even legal proceedings.
However, in his country he has factories that develop solar panels and also data processing centers.
Beyond his nose and good eye for business, in India there are those who believe that there are other reasons that explain Adani’s success.
One of these reasons is his relationship with the current prime minister of the country, the Hindu nationalist Narendra Moodi, with whom he has maintained a close friendship since the time he was governor of the state of Gujarat (2001-2014), where Aldani was born and has the headquarters of their companies.
“He has obtained favorable treatment from the state,” investigator Hemidra Hazari told the US network CNBC.
In 2019 Aldani was awarded the contract to manage 6 airports in the country, despite not having experience in this field.
“In India something similar to what happened with the Russian oligarchs, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, who became rich with the privatization of former Soviet properties, thanks to their access to the leaders, is happening,” added Hazari.
Furthermore, Adani has been a major financier of the Bharatiya Janata, Moodi’s party.
And proof of this is that when the prime minister came to power in 2014, he used a tycoon’s plane to fly from Gujarat to New Delhi, the country’s capital, to take office, the London-based Financial Times reported in November 2020.
With the go-ahead from the government, Adani now wants to venture into another area: communications. In August he launched a bid for 26% of New Delhi Television (NDTV), the country’s leading news station.
Some in the country see this as one more step favoring Moodi’s chances, ahead of the 2024 general election.
Adani’s connections to Indian political power also appear to have shielded him from the financial turmoil that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused. The reason? The Moodi administration has refused to impose sanctions on Moscow and in response the Kremlin has decided to sell India its oil and gas at a discount.
This policy would explain why Adani is one of the few billionaires that he has seen as the value of his companies has risen in recent months.
So far this year, the value of Aldani Power, the group’s energy division, has seen its share price rise 293%. For its part, those of Aldani Gas have increased 146%, according to reports from Bloomberg.
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