The Money Men. New Top 10 of telecom's richest is dominated by Russians
Bill Gates, who led the Rich List for many years, finally lost his top billing four years ago and now there are rumours, following Steve Ballmer's lachrymose resignation as CEO of Microsoft and his pending and very extended departure (he seems to be making his 'positively last appearance' more times than Frank Sinatra did), to the effect that Microsoft shareholders are calling on Gates himself to stand down as Chairman of the company he founded and headed for so long.
Those that slide down the greasy are 'helped' on their way by newcomers who clamber over them to get to the top.
So, to the the list.
At Number 1 is Carlos Slim of América Móvil.
Mr Slim isn't just the richest man in telecoms, he is also the richest man on the planet with a fortune of at least US$73 billion. To get some sort of an idea of how much that is remember that it takes four full days and nights to count to a million at the rate of a number a second - nonstop. So, do the arithmetic. I can't, it's too early in the morning and I don't have enough fingers and toes. Carlos Slim's holding in América Móvil is valued at $36.3 billion and the man's wealth has increased threefold since 2005 - mainly on the back of the runaway success of his mobile phone business. Over the same period, América Móvil's user base has grown from 66 million in Latin America in 2005 to 251.8 million users all over the world.
Number 2 is Mikhail Fridman of VimpelCom. He has a fortune of $16.5 billion. Headquartered in Russia, but with a presence and brands all over the world, Vimpelcom is the world's sixth largest mobile comms company in terms of subscriber numbers and at the end of last year had 214 million customers.
Number 3 is Ananda Krishnan of Maxis. He is the second richest man in Malaysia with $11.7 billion. His largest asset is his holding in Maxis but he is also a major investor in Aircel, the Indian telecoms giant.
Number 4 is Masayoshi Son who is the second wealthiest person in Japan and the owner of a stonking 70 per cent of Sprint Nextel. He is worth $9.1 billion
At Number 5 is Alexei Kuzmichev, also of Vimpelcom. His rise to mega-wealth has been rapid. In eight years his wedge of readies has shot up from $1.6 billion to $8.2 billion today. Most of the cash is generated by VimpelCom but Alexei Kuzmichev is also the head of the A1 group, a consortium that owns a wide variety of other companies in other sectors across Russia.
At 6 is Sunil Mittal of Bharti Airtel the biggest telecoms network in India. He is worth $6.8 billion. Airtel has 183 million subscribers in India alone and also provides telecoms services to a further 19 countries. However, the company's rapid expansion and determination to become a major player in Africa (always a difficult market/s) resulted last year in a 73 per cent fall in net profits. Mittal says this is no more than a temporary setback on the road to world domination but the fact of the matter is that he has personally seen more than $1 billion in net value sliced off his fortune since last year.
At Number 7 is Vladimir Yevtushenkov the controlling owner of MTS, the biggest mobile network in Russia and surrounding countries. He is worth $6.7 billion but the road to riches has had a few bumps in it for him too. For example MTS was, for a while, banned in Uzbekistan and the government there seized the company's assets. It quickly backed down though when in a tit-for-tar retaliation the Russian authorities seized the property and assets of the daughter of the Uzbekistan President. Collape of stout party and end of sabre rattling.
In 2009 Vladimir Yevtushenkov lost an astonishing $8.8 billion of his then net worth of $10 billion but by 2010 his bank balance was up to $7.5 billion.
At Number 8 in the chart is Xavier Niel of Free Mobile with $6.6 billion. He's an upstart and iconoclast who has caused ructions in the French telecoms market after transmuting his ISP business into a mobile comms network with tariff's massively cheaper than any other of his competitors. Loved by subscribers and loathed by the French telecoms establishment, Xavier Niel has only been on the scene since 2010 but in that short time he has taken the French telecoms sector by the scruff of the neck and shaken the living daylights out of it. Well-groomed fur flew and hasn't been smoothed back fully in to place to this day.
At Number 9 is another Russian, Pyotr Aven, again of Vimpelcom. He is worth some $5.4 billion and works mainly on the banking and finance side of the company.
And, at Number 10, is Denis O'Brien of Jamaica-based Digicel. Worth $5.2 billion, has made his mark on the market and his own personal fortune by, since 2001, concentrating on the mobile market in Central America and its surrounding regions. In the twelve years since Digicel has grown to be the leading mobile operator in the Caribbean and Central American territories. It has a 70 per cent market share and 13 million subscribers, two million of whom are in battered and tattered Haiti.
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