Indian tycoon Gautam Adani has been named the world’s third richest person with an estimated wealth of $137 billion (£117 billion) and becomes the first Asian person to break into the top three richest in the world.
Adani, 60, who founded mining-to-energy conglomerate Adani Group after leaving college, was ranked third on the daily updated Bloomberg Billionaires Index on Tuesday.
According to the index, his net worth has increased by $61 billion so far this year as the market value of many of his companies has risen. Many of his companies are involved in natural gas, coal mining and electricity generation and have likely benefited from the rise in energy prices worldwide.
Adani took third after a leap forward from Bernard Arnault, the French billionaire who owns the bulk of LVMH’s luxury brand portfolio. Arnault’s fortune has fallen $42 billion so far this year to $136 billion.
All of the top 10 billionaires except Adani have experienced a decline in their net worth this year – after making huge gains during the Covid crisis.
The only people richer than Adani are Tesla boss Elon Musk with an estimated net worth of $251 billion and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos with $153 billion.
Adani’s conglomerate owns India’s largest private seaport and airport operator, as well as a massive coal mine in Queensland, Australia. The company has been criticized for its environmental impact on the Great Barrier Reef and its use of billions of gallons of water each year.
Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmentalist, was one of them campaign against the Carmichael colliery.
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 has benefited financially from his close relationship with the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
In 2018, when six Indian airports lined up for privatization, Modi relaxed the rules to allow companies with no experience in running airports to bid on them. Adani’s company bought all six of them and became the largest airport operator in the country.
Kerala State Finance Minister Thomas Isaac described it as an “act of brutal favoritism”.
After Modi’s election victory in 2014, Adani loaned the elected prime minister his private jet for a victory tour. Adani’s net worth has risen from an estimated $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 the New Delhi Television (NDTV) television network, which is seen as one of the few remaining independent TV channels in India.
NDTV said Adani acquired its stake through a third party without informing the company’s co-founders and co-chairs, 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% of the shares, was closed “without discussion, consent or notice”.
“NDTV has never compromised on the core of its business: its journalism,” the company said. “We continue to stand behind that journalism with pride.”
AMG Media Networks Limited (AMNL), the media arm of Adani’s empire, said the acquisition was “an important milestone in the journey of AMNL’s goal to pave the way for new age media across platforms”.
“AMNL is committed to providing Indian citizens, consumers and interested parties in India with information and knowledge,” said AMNL CEO Sanjay Pugalia.
On his website, Adani is described as “a first-generation entrepreneur” [who] is driven by its core philosophy of imbuing ‘growth with goodness’ through its vision of nation building”.
“For Mr Adani, nation building means transforming India’s coastline by building a series of ports and logistics hubs,” it says. “For him, nation building also means strengthening the country’s energy security and narrowing the urban-rural divide by supplying electricity to several hundred million living in India’s hinterland.
“Nation-building, for Mr Adani, also includes increasing food security by building a modern agricultural supply chain and empowering farmers. Each of his industrial efforts 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. “I am delighted to support the climate and sustainability agenda with a focus on renewables, green H2 and new energy,” he said during the visit in April. “Will also work with UK companies to co-create defense and space technologies.”