Britain’s richest man and his £35bn loss

Over the past eight months, Lakshmi Mittal, Britain’s wealthiest man, has lost around $51bn (£35bn). Mittal, who controls steel producer Arcelor Mittal, has profited from the construction boom of the past decade, driven by the emerging economies of China and India.

His stake in the business in June was worth $65bn. But, as demand for steel has crashed, so has the Arcelor Mittal share price. His holding is now worth $14bn – a staggering loss, although he is not exactly on the streets yet.

Mittal is not alone. Many of the world’s richest are finding their fortunes hollowed out by the havoc wreaked on financial markets.

Sir Tom Hunter pledged to donate £1bn to charity at the peak of the markets, but some of his retail investments have run into trouble, including USC which went into administration this month. Some estimates suggest his wealth has shrunk by £250m and he recently sold his villa in the south of France for £50m, although he maintains that was simply an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Robert Tchenguiz, whose astute investments, built a fortune alongside his brother Vincent, has also suffered heavy losses. The property tycoon was left an estimated £800m out of pocket after demands for the recall of loans from the Icelandic bank Kaupthing forced the sale of stakes in J Sainsbury and pub group Mitchells & Butlers.

Mike Ashley, the Newcastle football club owner who made more than £900m from the flotation of Sports Direct, also fell foul of volatile markets last year, admitting that he lost £100m from a gamble in HBOS shares. That was nothing compared with the $1.2bn losses nursed by the currency speculator Joe Lewis after buying shares in the Wall Street firm Bear Stearns in the months before it was sold at a knockdown price last year.

Saturday 31 January 2009
David Teather

Source: The Guardian

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