Rants and musings from the magazine team
If QPR investor Lakshmi Mittal wants something, money is no object.
When he wanted Bernie Ecclestone’s home in Kensington Palace Gardens in 2004, he bought it for £57 million. When his daughter got married that same year, he sent out silver-encased, 20-page invitations and rented a 17th-century French chateau to host the ceremony, a total cost of more than £30 million.
Extraordinary stories of Mittal’s wealth – currently rated at an Abramovich-dwarfing £12.5 billion – are matched only by the tale of his rise from a small town in the Indian state of Rajasthan to No.2 on FourFourTwo’s football rich list.He was born in 1950 in the small town of Sadulpur, into a family that wasn’t particularly well-to-do. In his early years he lived with an extended family of 20, living and sleeping on bare floors. Not an auspicious start for a young boy named after the Hindu goddess of wealth.
Mittal: From pavement to penthouse
However, his father Mohan worked for one of India’s top pre-independence industrial houses, before moving to Calcutta and becoming a partner in a steel company. In 1976, the Mittal family struck out alone, founding the Mittal Steel Company, with Lakshmi in charge of establishing its international arm.
He had a knack for taking run-down and loss-making units and converting them into flourishing, profitable businesses. By 1994 he had become extremely successful in his own right, so after a rift with the family, he split from them, moved to London and took exclusive charge of the international wing of Mittal Steel.
Ever since, there’s been no looking back for Lakshmi. Today, his ArcelorMittal company is the single largest steel producer in the world, with a presence in 60 countries. Its total assets were valued at $133.6 billion in 2007, and even after the impact of the global economic crisis it remains one of the richest companies in the world – hardly surprising, given that its market share is nearly three times that of its nearest competitor.
The darling of India, where he is heralded as a national hero, Mittal – now the third richest man in the world, behind only Warren Buffet and Bill Gates – is renowned for his opulent lifestyle as much as his business. He decorated the house in Kensington, which nestles between the Palace and the Sultan of Brunei’s pad, with marble from the same quarry that supplied the Taj Mahal.
So, is Kaka en route to Loftus Road? Don’t hold your breath. Although Mittal is worth £12.5 billion, he has only invested £200,000 in QPR, a small fraction of the £14m paid by other mega-rich investors Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore.
Having only invested what amounts to pocket change, it could be that Mittal is – for now, at least – merely keeping his hand in, with his son-in-law Amit Bhatia keeping an eye on things as the club’s vice-chairman.
Bhatia: In at the loft
For now, Mittal will be concentrating on business closer to home. Although still the world leader, AcelorMittal has had a terrible second half of 2008: stock market turmoil and fears over steel demands slashed an eye-watering 70 percent off its value in just five months.
However, even with the family stake having plunged from £33bn to £9.7bn, he’s hardly likely to turn to busking outside Shepherd’s Bush station. He may be a silent partner at the moment, but if the man with the third deepest pockets in the world decides to step up the game, there’s no telling how far he might take QPR.
For the full Rich List, see FourFourTwo magazine, out now. If quoting, credit FourFourTwo magazine and link to FourFourTwo.com.
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BLOG: How will recession hurt football?BLOG: How players' wages have taken over footballBLOG: How the Rich List has changed in half a decadeBLOG: Who is this Sheikh character?BLOG: ...and who's this Lakshmi Mittal?
BLOG: How to buy a football clubBLOG: ...and some rich folk you might like to ask
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