Over the past year, the fortunes of the two brothers at the helm of India’s wealthiest dynasty have grown apart — to more than $40 billion apart.
Elder sibling Mukesh Ambani, 61, toppled China’s Jack Ma as Asia’s richest man, after driving a telecommunications revolution in India that propelled his petrochemicals conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd. into the $100 billion club. His personal fortune has swelled to $43.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, $5.2 billion ahead of Ma and just ahead of Microsoft Corp.’s former chief, Steve Ballmer.
Meanwhile Anil Ambani, two years his junior, has had a difficult year, with some of his businesses suffering legal and liquidity challenges that roiled stocks, cutting his personal fortune by almost half to $1.5 billion, according to the index.
Neither the brothers nor their groups responded to questions for this story regarding their wealth or business operations.
The tale of the two brothers’ diverging fortunes began 16 years ago, when their rags-to-riches father Dhirubhai Ambani, whose life inspired a Bollywood film, died of a stroke without leaving a will. The industrialist, who started out as a gas-station attendant in Yemen, had built a vast business empire, financing massive factories by selling so many shares to small investors that stockholder meetings had to be held in a football stadium.
A feud between his two sons following their father’s death dogged the group until their mother, Kokilaben, stepped in during 2005 and brokered a truce. Mukesh got control of the flagship oil refining and petrochemicals, while Anil got the newer businesses such as power generation and financial services. He also took over the telecoms unit, which under Mukesh had expanded aggressively by bundling phones with mobile connections at throwaway prices.