Few people outside of India had heard of Gautam Adani just a few years ago. Now, the Indian businessman, a college dropout who first tried his luck as a diamond trader before turning to the coal business, has become the third richest person. world.
It’s the first time an Asian has made it into the top three of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index — compatriots Mukesh Ambani and Jack Ma of China have never come this far. With a fortune of $ 137.4 billion, Adani has surpassed Bernard Arnault of France and is currently only behind Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos of the US in the ranking.
Adani, 60, has spent the past few years expanding his coal-to-port conglomerate, venturing into everything from data centers to cement, media and alumina. The group now owns India’s largest private sector port and airport operator, municipal gas distributor and coal mining company. While its Carmichael mine in Australia was criticized by environmentalists, it pledged to invest in November. 70 billion dollars in the green energy sector to become the world’s largest producer of renewable energy.
As his empire has expanded into one of the largest corporations in the world, fueling a substantial increase in wealth, concerns have grown about the rapid pace of growth. Adani’s deals are primarily funded by debt and his empire is “over used” CreditSights said in a report this month.
Some lawmakers and market observers have also raised concerns about the unclear shareholder structure and lack of analyst coverage at Adani Group companies. Still, shares have skyrocketed – some of them more than 1,000% since 2020, with valuations hitting 750x earnings – as the tycoon focuses on areas Prime Minister Narendra Modi deems important. to achieve India’s long-term goals.
The pivot to green energy and infrastructure has won investments from companies including Warburg Pincus and TotalEnergies SE, helps Adani enter areas previously dominated by US tech moguls. The rise in coal in recent months has added to his ascent.
All told, Adani added $60.9 billion to his fortune in 2022 alone, 5 times more than anyone else. The first time he overcame Ambani as Asia’s richest in February, become a dollar billionaire in April and overcome Microsoft Bill Gates of Corp. became the 4th richest person in the world last month.
Adani has been able to overtake some of the richest American billionaires in the world in part because it has recently stepped up its philanthropy. Gates said in July he has donated $20 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, while Warren Buffett has donated more than $35 billion to the charity.
The two, along with Melinda French Gates, Gates’ ex-wife, started the Giving Pledge initiative in 2010, vowing to give away most of their fortune in their lifetime. Billions of dollars spent on philanthropy have pushed them lower on Bloomberg’s rich rankings. Gates is currently fifth and Buffett is sixth.
Adani, too, has stepped up charitable donations. He pledges to donate in June 7.7 billion dollars for social activities to mark his 60th birthday.
Register Fortune feature email list so you don’t miss our biggest features, exclusive interviews and surveys.