ONCE Britain’s richest man (see our sister Asian Rich List 2009*), Lakshmi Mittal is probably at least thinking about full retirement from the cut and thrust of running the world’s largest steel company, ArcelorMittal.
Valued at around $50 billion (£36bn) as a company with more than 190,000 employees, the Indian-born 70-year-old tycoon still remains something of an enigma. He has not done many interviews and rarely speaks to the media about anything.
Many of those who know him say he is the consummate dealmaker – and the proof is very much there in the pudding – though from a successful Marwari (Marwadi) trading family who had interests in steel, he branched out to manage his own plant in Indonesia and has never looked back.
From the family’s early days in Kolkata as traders and merchants – many in the Marwari community relocated from their original region of Rajasthan to other parts of northern India and some left Sindh, now in Pakistan, at the time of Partition and many of them relocated to Kolkata as one of the Empire’s foremost trading posts.
In one profile, Mittal is said to have hardly earned anything more than a basic managerial salary and any dreams of being one of the world’s richest men were simply that when he took up responsibility for running the plant in Indonesia.
His skill is in management and strategic planning – plotting his moves rather like a grand chess master. Each move would leave him stronger and more capable of making the next.
His ability to wheel and deal and see opportunities where others hesitated is perhaps well documented now, but in in 2006 his successful bid for Arcelor, a crumbling multi-national mostly European Luxembourg- headquartered firm was seen as audacious and bold and improbably risky. “We are driven