Indian tycoon Gautam Adani has been named the world’s third richest person with an estimated fortune of $137bn (£117bn) and becomes the first Asian person to enter the world’s top three richest person.
Adani, 60, who founded mining-energy conglomerate Adani Group after dropping out of college, was ranked third on the Daily Update on Tuesday Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
His wealth has soared by $61 billion so far this year, according to the index, as the market value of several of his businesses has increased. Many of his businesses are involved in natural gas, coal mining and power generation, and have likely benefited from rising global energy prices.
Adani took third place after overtaking Bernard Arnault, the French billionaire who owns most of LVMH’s portfolio of luxury brands. Arnault’s fortune has slipped from $42 billion so far this year to $136 billion.
All of the top 10 billionaires except Adani have seen a decline in their wealth this year – after making massive gains during the Covid crisis.
The Adani conglomerate owns the largest private operator of seaports and airports in India, as well as a huge coal mine in Queensland, Australia. The company has come under heavy criticism for its environmental impact on the Great Barrier Reef as well as its consumption of billions of liters of water per year.
Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmentalist teenager, is among those campaign against the Carmichael coal mine.
Last year, it pledged to invest $70 billion in green energy and become the world’s largest producer of renewable energy.
Some critics suggest that Adani benefited financially from his close relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
When six Indian airports were lined up for privatization in 2018, Modi relaxed the rules to allow companies with no experience in airport management to bid for them. Adani’s company bought all six and became the country’s largest airport operator.
Kerala state finance minister Thomas Isaac described it as a “brazen act of cronyism”.
After Modi’s election victory in 2014, Adani lent the prime minister-elect his private jet for a victory tour. Adani’s wealth has grown from around $8 billion at the time of Modi’s election in 2014 to $137 billion today, an increase of more than 1,600%.
Last week, Adani increased his influence by buying a 29% stake in television network New Delhi Television (NDTV), which is considered one of the few remaining independent television stations in India.
NDTV said Adani acquired its stake through a third party without informing the company’s co-founders and co-chairmen, Radhika Roy, a former journalist, and her husband, Prannoy Roy, a well-known economist.
The company said the deal, which includes a proposal to buy an additional 26% stake, was reached “without discussion, consent or notice.”
“NDTV has never compromised on the heart of its operations: its journalism”, the company said. “We continue to proudly defend this journalism.”
AMG Media Networks Limited (AMNL), the media arm of Adani’s empire, said the takeover was “an important step in the journey of AMNL’s goal of leading the way for new media age on all platforms”.
“AMNL seeks to empower Indian citizens, consumers and those interested in India with information and knowledge,” AMNL Chief Executive Officer Sanjay Pugalia said.
On his siteAdani is described as “a first generation entrepreneur [who] is driven by the core philosophy of instilling “growth with good” through its vision of nation building”.
“For Mr. Adani, nation building means transforming the Indian coastline by constructing a series of ports and logistics hubs,” he said. “For him, nation-building also means enhancing the country’s energy security and bridging the urban-rural divide by providing electricity to several hundred million people living in India’s hinterlands.
“Nation-building, for Mr. Adani, also involves building food security by building a modern agricultural supply chain and empowering farmers. Each of its industrial enterprises has created tens of thousands of jobs.
Adani said he was “honoured” that Boris Johnson visited the Adani Group’s headquarters in Gurjarat, western India, becoming the first British Prime Minister to visit the state. “Delighted to support the climate and sustainability agenda with a focus on renewable energy, green H2 and new energy,” he said during the visit in April. “Will also work with UK companies to co-create defense and aerospace technologies.”