£1.7bn fortune propels online poker tycoon on to Asian rich list

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The Independent Online

At the age of 25, he was just another computer engineer pursuing the fortunes of the dotcom bubble. Less than a decade later, the gambling software he created for online casino games has made Anurag Dikshit one of the world's youngest billionaires.

And tomorrow, the 34-year-old co-founder of PartyGaming, which includes the world's most popular online poker site, will enter the Asian Rich List for the first time, ranked third, with a fortune of £1.7bn.

Mr Dikshit's entrepreneurial drive is representative of many of the success stories featured on the new list. He went into business with the Californian Ruth Parasol in 1998, after studying at the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, and developing software for American computer companies. Ms Parasol had sold her online pornography interests, worth millions, and wanted to invest in online gambling, which she predicted would be the next internet growth area. She considered Mr Dikshit's skills crucial to the business, so allocated him shares in PartyGaming.

The company joined the London Stock Exchange last year in the biggest flotation of a British company in five years. According to the company, at any given time 70,000 people are gambling on its web-based system. And Mr Dikshit (pronounced "Dixit") owns a 32 per cent stake.

Only 3 per cent of people listed on the Asian Rich List have inherited wealth, compared with one third of people on The Sunday Times Rich List. And only 22 women appear in the top 300 Asians, including Meena Pathak of the Pathak spices empire.

Philip Beresford, who has compiled the Asian Rich List for the past decade, and is also author of The Sunday Times Rich List, said: " Overwhelmingly, this is a list of self-made people, with 290 people on the list making their own fortunes rather inheriting wealth."

He said that people on the list are now "much, much richer, on average". The combined wealth of the 300 Asian multi-millionaires has risen more than 40 per cent from £24.9bn last year to £35.5bn this year.

The 58-year-old steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, who lives in Kensington, remains at the top of the list with a fortune of £14.8bn. The second entry is Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja, with a joint wealth of £3.6bn from their global finance, telecommunications, film and oil businesses.

In seventh position on the list is Vikrant Bhargava, marketing director of PartyGaming, worth £592m.

Dr Avtar Lip, chairman of Sunrise Radio, who also appears on the list with a £75m fortune, said: "Asian wealth is increasing far more rapidly than the general growth of wealth across the country. This is partly because many business owners are bilingual or trilingual and are happy to travel on business, and partly because many business people have links with the East, which is a huge economic growth area.

"Third generation Asians are refusing to go into cornershop businesses - whose fate has been sealed by Tesco and Morrisons appearing on every corner."

The Asian rich list will be broadcast by Sunrise Radio tomorrow.

The richest men from Asia

1 LAKSHMI MITTAL

The Indian-born steel magnate with stake in the LNM Group has a fortune of £14.8bn.

2 GP AND SJ HINDUJA

The Hinduja Brothers have a combined wealth of £3.6bn from their global businesses.

3 ANURAG DIKSHIT

The software designer's PartyGaming stake is now estimated to be worth £1.7bn

4 ANIL AGGARWAL

Mr Aggarwal, owns the mining company Vedanta Holdings ­ worth £1.68bn

5 JATANIA BROTHERS

Built their Lornamead company buying 'orphan' brands ­ worth £850m.

6 NARESH GOYAL

The Jet airways tycoon, worth £780m

7 VIKRANT BHARGAVA

The marketing director for PartyGaming has a fortune estimated at £592m.

8 FELIX GROVIT

The founder of the Chequepoint foreign exchange is worth £465m.

9 LORD SWARAJ PAUL

The family behind the Caparo Group, a steel and engineering company, worth £465m.

10 GULU LALVANI

The chairman of the Binatone telephone chain ­ worth £450m.

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