New York: Indian-born steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal and Reliance Industries’ chairman Mukesh Ambani are among the 20 most powerful billionaires in the world, as they possess not only the riches but also economic dominance as well as political clout, says Forbes.
The Indian steel baron and the head of India’s largest private sector company were included in the list of “The World’s Most Powerful Billionaires” and according to Forbes “(they) have tremendous sway over the world’s markets, workers -- and, in some cases, armies.”
Lakshmi Mittal, who controls the world’s largest steel firm, ArcelorMittal, has been ranked third on the list “despite his fortune falling $24.5 billion between March and November 2008”.
Elaborating his power quotient, Forbes says, Mittal’s political clout often incites controversy. “In 2002, then British prime minister Tony Blair reportedly wrote a letter to the Romanian prime minister hinting a sale of the country’s steel company to Mittal would facilitate its entrance into the European Union,” the US business magazine said.
Ambani, head of Reliance Industries, India’s largest company by market cap, was ranked seventh on the coveted list.
“Last March, there were 1,125 billionaires in the world, Forbes said adding that “few plutocrats possess the money, economic dominance and political clout to touch -- or the potential to touch -- all of us.”
Forbes compiled the list based on the size and scope of the industries billionaires control, the political influence they exert and the fortunes they hold.
The list was topped by Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s chief executive. Bloomberg spent $74 million becoming New York City mayor in 2001 and $85 million in 2005. “Law passed in October letting Bloomberg run for third term,” Forbes said.
Behind Bloomberg is Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who heads a nation of 58 million people, a diversified industrial economy with a gross domestic product of $2.4 trillion and a military budget of roughly $43 billion.
Warren Buffett, who controls more than 50 companies that had a combined $118 billion in sales in 2008, ranks fourth.
Forbes, however, highlighted that “perhaps no billionaire has more control over how America spends its disposable cash than Oprah Winfrey”, who was ranked 20th on the list.
“With Oprah’s approval, an unknown book instantly turns into a bestseller, and getting a product endorsed on Oprah’s Favourite Things show can be the crowning achievement of a marketer’s career,” Forbes said.
Forbes cited a research, compiled by two economics professors of University of Maryland, as per which Oprah’s endorsement of Barack Obama lent the candidate an estimated additional one million votes in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.
Other powerful billionaires in the list include Russia’s largest independent energy company Lukoil’s president Vagit Alekperov, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch.
Among others were Edward and Abigail Johnson, Li Ka-Shing, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud, Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, Serge Dassault, Saad Hariri Roman Abramovich, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, David Rubenstein, William Conway Jr and Daniel D’Aniello.