Gautam Adani, Asia’s richest man, suddenly found himself at the center of a firestorm on Wednesday after prominent short seller Hindenburg Research alleged his India-based business empire was built by fraud.
Adani, 60, saw an increase in his personal wealth last year even as the global economy suffered from a period of slow growth.
He is chairman of Adani Group, a sprawling $21 billion conglomerate that owns numerous Indian airports, the country’s largest private port, media giant New Delhi Television and numerous other holdings.
A college dropout, Adani began his career in the diamond industry before joining a plastics factory run by his brother, according to the Financial Times.
Eventually, Adani established his own company, which started as an import-export operation in the commodities sector and gradually expanded into other ventures.
A biography on the Adani Group’s website describes its namesake founder as a “first generation entrepreneur” who focuses on “nation building” through infrastructure development. He is married and has two sons, Karan and Jeet.
“For Mr. Adani, nation building means transforming India’s coastline by constructing a chain of ports and logistics hubs,” the biography reads. “For him, nation-building also means enhancing the country’s energy security and bridging the urban-rural divide by providing electricity to several hundred million people living in India’s hinterlands.”
Apart from his high-profile business career, Adani also survived the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, as well as a kidnap and ransom attempt in 1998, according to the BBC and other media.
Adani has faced his fair share of criticism during his rise to international wealth and notoriety. Critics have scrutinized his close relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his support.
The industrialist is so well connected in Indian political circles that he has been dubbed ‘Modi’s Rockefeller’.
Adani was an early promoter of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party. In 2014, Modi reportedly flew to the capital, New Delhi, on Adani’s private jet to take over as prime minister.
His wealth has exploded since Modi took power, from around $5 billion in 2014 to $121 billion by the end of 2022, according to Bloomberg.
During this period, Adani Group has landed various government contracts and infrastructure projects, according to the Financial Times.
“Modi doesn’t help anyone directly, I can tell you that,” Adani told the Financial Times in 2013. “Modi helps industries through policies and doesn’t allow any nonsense into the system.”
Adani’s net worth skyrocketed by $44 billion last year – more than any other individual tracked by Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index – as he passed Jeff Bezos, executive chairman of Amazon, and Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett.
But the Adani Group’s empire has come under unprecedented scrutiny after Hindenburg – an influential firm that previously targeted electric vehicle companies Nikola and Lordstown Motors – claimed to have “uncovered evidence of brazen accounting fraud , stock manipulation and money laundering at Adani, taking place in the course of the course”. of decades. »
“Adani achieved this gargantuan feat with the help of government facilitators and a cottage industry of international companies that facilitate these activities,” Hindenburg said in a lengthy client note about his findings.
Hindenburg noted that Adani Group has been the subject of at least “four major investigations into government fraud” and noted that “8 of 22 top executives are members of the Adani family.”
Adani-controlled stocks lost the equivalent of about $12 billion after Hindenburg’s allegations came to light.
After Hindenburg’s damning report, Forbes estimated that Adani was the fourth richest person in the world, with a net worth of $119.1 billion, behind billionaires Bernard Arnault, Elon Musk and Bezos. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index also placed Adani as the fourth richest person and his wealth at $119 billion.
Adani Group denied the allegations in a statement from its chief financial officer, Jugeshinder Singh.
“We are shocked that Hindenburg Research released a report on January 24, 2023 without attempting to contact us or verify the factual matrix,” Singh said. “The report is a malicious combination of selective misinformation and outdated, baseless and discredited allegations that have been tested and thrown out by India’s highest courts.”