Monday 11 December 2017

What does Santa bring the world’s richest man?

Eoghan Williams

THE world's richest man is worth almost as much as the combined fortunes of Ireland's richest 100 people.

Mexican telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim is believed to have increased his fortune by €13.5bn to €39bn in the last 12 months, knocking PC overlord Bill Gates off the top spot.

The steep rise in Slim's fortune is in large part due to a 35 per cent growth of shares in America Movil in which he owns a €17bn stake. His mobile phone companies rival many of Irishman Denis O'Brien's Digicel operations.

Slim, noted for wearing a cheap plastic watch and preferring paper to computers files, controls over 200 companies in his family's empire and has invested in major US companies including Citigroup and the New York Times. Now 70, by the age of 26 he was already worth $4bn.

William Gates III, Microsoft founder and Harvard drop-out, was this year demoted to second place. He is valued at €38bn — a mere €36m less than Slim.

Gates, now the poster boy of “philanthrocapitalism”, is joined by two fellow Americans in the top ten of the Forbes Magazine billionaires list.

Warren Buffett, the investor who was once the world's richest man, is down to his last €34bn. Buffett's relegation to the number three spot comes despite a recovery of shares in his conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett, who turns 80 this year, has also given away approximately €22bn worth of shares in Berkshire Hathaway to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

This generosity has helped put Buffett behind Gates and once allowed the Microsoft man to call himself the world's richest person.

Indian industrialists Mukesh Ambani and Lakshmi Mittal are the forth and fifth richest men in the world. Ambani, worth €21bn, is chairman of India's largest conglomerate, Reliance Industries Limited.

As a hobby, Ambani owns the Mumbai Indians cricket team.

London-based Mittal, worth €20.8bn, is a steel magnate. He is the UK's richest resident. Mittal's daughter-in-law Megha recently bought insolvent German fashion house Escada.

Ireland’s richest citizen is Indian-born gazillionaire Pallonji Mistry, who claimed his Irish passport through marriage to a Dublin woman.

Another billionaire with an Irish link is Major-General Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster. He was brought up on an island in Lough Erne. Worth €8.7bn, the Duke is Britain's biggest property developer and the 45th richest man in the world. He owns large parts of Belgravia and Mayfair, whose high-rent positions on the Monopoly board are true to life.

New York-born Larry Ellison is the sixth richest man in the world. Ellison, worth €20bn, owns a 140-metre yacht, the Rising Sun, twice the length of the Dublin- Holyhead fast ferry. He built a smaller yacht because the Rising Sun was hard to park. Ellison is team principal of BMW Oracle Racing whose yacht recently won the America’s Cup.

He started Oracle in 1977 and took it public a day before Microsoft in 1986.

Ellison remains CEO and last year was paid $57m (€42m). Not known for thriftiness, he is reported to have spent $1m (€735,000) on a home entertainment system.

The richest European, Bernard Arnault, placed seventh, saw shares in luxury goods outfit LVMH (maker of Louis Vuitton and Moet & Chandon) surge 57 per cent. The Frenchman, worth €20bn, is €36m ahead of the Brazilian Eike Batista, a true billionaires' billionaire.

Eike, son of a former Brazilian mining minister has vowed to become the world's richest man. He is a former powerboat racer and was once married to a Playboy cover girl. Two-thirds of his fortune comes from a relatively new source, OGX, the oiland- gas exploration company he founded in 2007 and took public a year later. He insists daddy's position was a hindrance, not a help.

Police raided his home in 2008, alleging he smuggled gold and unfairly influenced a railway acquisition. He denied all wrongdoing, and emerged unscathed.

The world's ninth richest man is the Spaniard Amancio Ortega, founder of Inditex which owns Zara. Valued at €18bn, he built the foundations of his fortune by making dressing gowns and lingerie in his living room. He has expanded his real estate and gambling interests this year, picking up some bargains.

Tenth is Theo Albrecht, Germany’s richest man, who owns Aldi supermarkets and is valued at €17bn. He was kidnapped in 1971 and released after a €2.2m ransom was paid. The last known photograph of the billionaire is a grainy shot snatched in the mid-1980s. Fiercely private, we know little about his private life other than his love of golf and orchid growing.

Sunday Independent

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