Personal wealth: 'World's richest man? I'm only worth £25bn'

Indian tycoon buys his wife an Airbus – and just can't understand all the fuss
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The Independent Online

As gifts go – to even the most loved of loved ones – it appears rather extravagant. Does any spouse really need a personal Airbus? But if the report is true, then the plane bought by Mukesh Ambani for his wife is just the latest display of decadent consumerism by someone who is undeniably the richest man in India – a country plagued by poverty – and newly hailed as the richest man in the whole world.

There was no comment yesterday from Mr Ambani, but a report by a newspaper based in Mumbai, the tycoon's home and India's financial capital, claimed the plane is fitted with a state-of-the-art business office, games, music and other equipment. It comes with a master bedroom, showers and bar.

"The customised monster-of-a-bird, that should have been delivered in April, rolled into Delhi's Indira Gandhi International airport en route to Mumbai on Thursday morning," the paper reported. If the price tag – reportedly £30m – sounds preposterous, it is worth bearing in mind that Mr Ambani is the latest man to be identified as the world's richest person.

The Press Trust of India (PTI) reported last week that Mr Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Industries, had seen his worth soar to more than £30bn, taking him past Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and Mexican Carlos Slim.

But not so fast, said Mr Ambani. His spokesman said that the PTI had counted some of his assets twice. There was no way Mr Ambani was the richest man in the world: he was worth just £25bn, said the spokesman. Even stranger was that the spokesman claimed his boss was very upset by all the speculation about his wealth and could not understand why there was so much interest.

One possible answer might include a reference to the home – called Antilla – that Mr Ambani is having built for himself, his wife and mother in an exclusive Mumbai suburb. Plans for the £500m property suggest it will have 27 floors, a health club, 600 staff and parking space for 168 cars. It is said it will be the most expensive private home on the planet. And this in a country where a recent official report suggested up to 800 million people survive on as little as 25p a day.

Yet, for a man so flash with his wealth and with no obvious evidence of any philanthropy, Mr Ambani still professes concern for his fellow countrymen not able to build 27-storey towers or buy jets for their wives. "I think the world is spiky, because 15 to 20 per cent of people in the developing world live in plenty, while 80 per cent live in scarcity," he said recently. "We have people who have to survive on $2 a day... We cannot have islands of prosperity surrounded by oceans of poverty." Well, Mr Ambani, you said it.

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