He is 60 years old, was born in India and has a fortune valued at 125,000 million dollars. In 2022, Gautam Adani has climbed 12 places in the ranks of the world’s richest, according to Bloomberg. He now occupies the third position. He only has Elon Musk and Bernard Arnault ahead of him. This year, in which the largest fortunes have seen their checking accounts depleted due to the fall in the stock markets, he has added 49,000 million to his wallet. The bad luck of the majority has been a blessing for him. His tenth lottery winner has two names written on it: shipping and mining. Supply chain bottlenecks have choked global trade for months and he is India’s largest port operator; In addition, he is one of the main extractors of coal on the planet at a time when the energy crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine has restored splendor to fossil fuels.
Being in the right place at the right time. His life has been marked by baraka, lucky breaks. Few survive a kidnapping and a terrorist massacre. Born into a middle-class family dedicated to the textile business, he dropped out of school early. He tried his hand as a diamond dealer and in 1988 he founded a diamond firm. trading of raw materials, the seed of his current empire. It was the time when the complex system of permits was dismantled in his country (License Raj) that had prevailed in local commerce for decades and smart people like him were making their way in the business world.
His rapid rise in society did not go unnoticed and in 1995 he was kidnapped outside a club. He was released shortly after and the local press reported that his freedom had a price: 1.5 million dollars. It would not be the last time his life was in danger. Years later, on November 26, 2008, when Adani was in the luxurious Taj Mahal hotel in Bombay, he was attacked by Islamic extremists. The businessman was at a dinner with friends, 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 four meters away,” he said then according to a chronicle published on the BBC website.
Another stroke of fate has to do with his place of origin, Gujarat. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India since 2014, was also born in this state. The growth of Adani’s companies closely parallels Modi’s political rise. The foundation stone for his port empire was laid in 1995 when he won the tender to manage the modest port of Mundra. A few years later, in 2001, Modi was elected governor of Gujarat for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya party. Within months of his victory, more than 1,000 Muslims were murdered in his jurisdiction and Modi was accused of doing nothing to curb sectarian violence. Adani came to his defense and promoted holding a business summit to promote investment in his home region. “Adani and Modi have enjoyed a long marriage of convenience: the mega-project-obsessed politician and the ambitious businessman have become indispensable to each other,” James Crabtree argues in his book The Billionaire Raj.
Today, the Adani Group is a giant with interests not only in coal or ports, but also in infrastructure and the real estate market. The stock market value of its listed subsidiaries exceeds 200,000 million dollars. The Indian tycoon has marked on his roadmap the diversification of his empire, both of the businesses and their geographical origin. Last May, he bought the Indian cement subsidiary of the Swiss group Holcim by disbursing 10.5 billion. In addition, he is close to becoming the largest shareholder of NDTV after launching a hostile takeover bid for this television channel, one of the voices critical of the management of the Indian prime minister.
But the big step forward that Adani plans is to be the messiah of renewable energy. Quite a contradiction if one takes into account that the mining operations of their companies generate more than 3% of all carbon dioxide emissions from the use of coal in the world, according to the organization SumOfUs, cited by Bloomberg. The public presentation of his ambitious green plan took place on September 27 during his speech at the Forbes Global CEO Conference event held in Singapore. “In the next 10 years we will invest 100,000 million dollars. 70% of this money will be for infrastructures linked to the energy transition, ”he announced. Solar energy and green hydrogen are two of his priorities.
The enormous investment effort promised by Adani – whose holding company is beginning to have a notable level of debt – is also a key piece in the plans of the Modi government to counteract the growing influence of China in the Indian Ocean through its program called New Route of the silk For example, the construction of a new port in Sri Lanka by the Indian businessman’s conglomerate is part of this conjunction of interests. In his conference in Singapore, Adani did not throw a single reproach against Russia for invading the Ukraine and instead poked at Beijing, something inappropriate in the sneaky business diplomacy. “China will feel more and more isolated. Nationalist movements, supply chain problems and technological restrictions will have an impact on the country. Its real estate and credit problems are increasingly reminiscent of the lost decade that Japan suffered, ”he predicted.
A few years ago, Adani proposed to the London Science Museum to be one of his sponsors. The museum, concerned about its companies’ reputation for polluting, commissioned a report from an NGO that concluded that Adani Group occupies the caboose in the ranking environmental, second only to Saudi Aramco and Exxon. Despite this warning, the museum managers looked the other way. In October 2021, it inaugurated a new space that was baptized as: “Adani Green Energy Room”. It is clear that money buys wills and washes reputations.
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