Gates, Buffett may not be able to keep pace

And Warren Buffett, the Sage of Omaha, is up a modest 50%, from $35 billion in 2002.
There’s another big reason why the Sultan of Software and the Sage may not be able to keep pace with the brothers. Gates and Buffett have committed a substantial part of their wealth to charity. Add to this the incidence of estate duty in the US, and Gates, Buffett and the Waltons are bound to drop places in the Richie Rich list in time to come. LN Mittal, being an Indian, may not be subject to estate duty and hence find it easier to stay in the reckoning for the top slot.

So, give it another 4-5 years and Ambani & Ambani could well be the richest family in the world - at the very top of the Forbes list. It will truly be a tribute to what we at ET call the Global Indian Takeover - or, better still, the World At Your Feet. Remember what Mukesh Ambani said, addressing RIL shareholders at last year’s AGM: “This strategic move has resulted in incremental shareholder value of nearly Rs 46,000 crore ($10 billion), representing the market capitalisation of the demerged entities when listed. This is undoubtedly the largest shareholder value unlocked in Indian corporate history .” Ambani Sr later told ET in his first exclusive media interaction after the split: “The easiest way to look at it is that it’s a win-win for both groups (RIL and R-ADAG ).”

ET has always aspired to bring the two Ambani brothers together - as readers of ET would remember , we made them shake hands at the height of the Reliance split at the ET Awards For Corporate Excellence 2005-06 . They could be running different businesses, but instead of working at cross-purposes , they should enhance the wealth of their shareholders - and, very soon, become the richest family on earth, even ahead of Bill Gates.

The recent Forbes list of billionaires places Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani at the 14th and 18th positions with individual net worth of $20.1 billion and $18.2 billion respectively. Their combined wealth of $38.3 billion will take them to the fourth slot, behind Bill Gates ($56 billion), Warren Buffett ($52 billion) and Carlos Slim ($49 billion). It will place them ahead of Ikea’s Ingvar Kamprad ($33 billion) and steel king LN Mittal ($32 billion).

The growth of the two Ambani brothers after the split has been mind-numbing . Here’s more fodder for Divide And Grow: In 2002, Forbes had ranked Dhirubhai Ambani at number 138 in the list of billionaires with a net worth of $2.9 billion. In 2003, when the two brothers were listed together for the first time, their net worth was $2.8 billion and were ranked at number 123. Even when they were listed together for the last time by Forbes in 2005, they were ranked No.60 with a net worth of $7 billion. The demerger and the subsequent listing of companies has resulted in five-times increase in the combined net worth of the Ambani brothers as well as tremendous increase in market cap of both group companies.


The world’s second-richest business family, after the Waltons, hails from India - and their family members live under one roof, at the famed Ambani residence ‘Sea Wind’ in South Mumbai . Children of both brothers wait their turn to kiss their grandmother goodnight, the one person who’s made sure that Ambanis stay with Ambanis. So far.

Forbes should take note: it’s not easy to establish the wealth of Indian families, many factions of which still live under the same roof, share the same kitchen, pet the same dogs... And their children still play with each other in the backyard enjoying the Sea Wind and often, oblivious to business realities. For all you (and Forbes) know, LN Mittal’s wealth may actually go up by a few more billions if you were to add the net worth of his brothers based in India .

From here, there’s only one way for the two Ambani brothers to go - up. It’s time they looked beyond competition, beyond rivalry, beyond business. Even beyond what’s described as the highest point in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs - self actualisation. More simply, towards a richer tomorrow, not defined merely in terms of the billions they make.

We would like our readers to log on to economictimes .com and post their congratulatory messages to both Ambani brothers.
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