- Indian tycoon Gautam Adani is close to becoming Asia’s richest man on the Bloomberg Billionaire Index.
- As shares in his companies rose on Wednesday, Indian news media began placing him in first place.
- Adani, who dropped out of university, worked as a diamond sorter and survived a kidnapping and a terrorist attack.
It has been a good year for Gautam Adani.
The port magnate, who comes from India, saw his fortune increase by $ 55.3 billion in 2021, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, which knocks Zhong Shanshan, China’s richest man, into third place when it comes to measuring Asia’s richest billionaires.
Adani, 59, now has a net worth of $ 89.1 billion according to the index. That makes him $ 800 million shy of energy magnate Mukesh Ambani, the richest person in Asia and India.
On Wednesday, Adani moved closer to claiming first place as shares in Adani Enterprise and Adani Ports rose 2.76% and 4.59%, while Ambani’s companies, Reliance Industries and Reliance Industries Infrastructure, fell by 1.48% and 1.57 % in the share price, the Indian business APB News reported.
Several local media are now praising Adani as Asia’s richest man, even though he still sits in second place on Bloomberg’s index from Thursday.
Adani has business interests in energy, defense and real estate and owns India’s largest commercial port, one of the world’s largest coal mines and a 74% stake in Mumbai International Airport. And he has come a long way from his days as a college dropout and time as a gem sort.
Diamonds, exports and loans
Born in 1962 as one of eight children in Ahmedabad, Adani was the son of a textile trader but refused to take on his father’s business, Silicon India reported.
Instead, he enrolled at Gujarat University in Ahmedabad to study trade, but dropped out after his sophomore year and chose to work as a diamond sorter in Mumbai in the early 1980s, according to Business Today magazine.
Adani then went on to diamond trade and eventually started his own company, Adani Enterprises, to import and export commodities in 1988, The Financial Times reported in an interview with him.
He would use profits from his business to cover heavy loans so he could go into other industries, FT reported.
Adani received permission from the Gujarat government in 1995 to start a port in the city of Mundra, according to The Times of India. It eventually developed into India’s largest private port.
Adani, an ally of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, since the latter was prime minister of Gujarat in 2003, has been criticized for increasing his prominence and wealth because he supported the national leader. In his interview with FT, he denied that his business success came from his political ties.
A terrorist attack and a ransom of $ 2 million
In 1998, Adani accused several men of kidnapping him and a companion, Shantilal Patel, according to The Indian Express. He claimed he and Patel were traveling in a car on New Year’s Day when a scooter blocked their way, allowing a group of men to abduct the couple into a van with weapons.
A report filed against the men said they demanded a ransom of $ 2 million from Adani’s family, and he and Patel were released after the money was sent over, according to The Indian Express. But two of the gangs brought to justice were acquitted of the case in 2018, while six others were acquitted of the charges in 2015 because the prosecution could not tie them to the kidnapping, Times Now India reported.
Adani does not like to talk about the incident, according to FT, who tells the broadcast: “Two or three very unfortunate incidents happened in my life, this is one of them.”
His second danger came a decade later, during the terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008, a violent 60-hour siege of the city by ten heavily armed Pakistani militants that left 166 people dead.
Adani was eating at the Taj Mahal luxury hotel when the siege took place, saying he could see the militants entering the building from his desk, India Today reported.
He hid in a basement with the help of hotel staff and later moved to a chamber hall on a top floor as the attack continued overnight. When commandos stormed the hotel the following day and Adani was escorted to safety, he told India Today that he “saw death at a distance of only 15 feet.”
Over 100 people hid with him, he said at the time. “Some had hidden under the couch while others had taken a similar evasive stance. As I sat on a couch, I told them they should have faith in God.”
In 2018, he wrote a reflection on the attack published on The Indian Express and wrote that the anniversary of the attack was a “day of personal reflection and prayer” for him every year.
“One of the lives they saved that night was mine. I still remember some of the faces – people I will never know, people I will never be able to pay back,” he wrote. “I am often struck by the thought that this was God’s way of keeping me grateful and indebted.”
Insider has contacted Adani Group for a comment.