New Internationalist

Moneymakers… Moneytakers…

Issue 137

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THE RICH [image, unknown] The richest men in the world...

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MONEYMAKERS... MONEYTAKERS... some of the richest men in the world...

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BOB JONES
of New Zealand
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Multi-millionaire property developer Bob Jones dreams of becoming Prime Minister of New Zealand - and he’s founded his own New Zealand party as a vehicle for this ambition, It’s not doing badly either - running a strong third in the opinion polls.

If New Zealanders return him at the General Election later this year they’ll have no excuse for not knowing what they are getting. This former University boxing champion has produced a full exposition of his views - which can only be termed robust’ - in his book New Zealand: How I want to see it.

He’s a vigorous believer in an ‘open society’. As an anti-statist he says ‘No government is on the side of the rich’ and wants to cut state functions to a minimum, His view is that ‘It is every citizen’s moral duty to not merely avoid, but also if necessary, to evade his taxes in the interests of his personal self-respect and of the nation,’

For him, enemies of the nation include sociologists, welfare workers and the trade unions.’ He’s little time for his opponent, claiming socialists suffer from ‘A kind of mental poverty, a bleakness of outlook, a disdain for individuality and human dignity,’ and in the book he labels a Labor Party conference audience ‘An emotion-saturated pack of wankers’.

If he’s elected, New Zealand women can expect trouble getting abortions: ‘A woman’s right to choose is as valid as a man’s right to rape.’ Curiously, he is for increased expenditure on health and education and opposed to capital punishment.

 

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KERRY PACKER
of Australia
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Yet another millionaire building on an empire founded by his father. Kerry Packer was not expected to reach his present fame. His chance came when elder brother Clyde fell out with their formidable father Sir Frank Packer, sold up his interests and left for the US, leaving Kerry in control.

His inheritance took the form of the press and television empire built up by Sir Frank, best known outside Australia for a succession of Ammericas Cup yachting challenges.

Kerry too acquired world fame through sport - when his World Series Cricket signed up most of the world’s top players in an attempt to take the game over after the Australian Cricket Board refused to give him TV rights. Since the end of that dispute he’s been a major force in cricket - with his companies dictating commercial policy in Australia.

His interests have spread well beyond Australia - he owns a substantial share in TV-AM, the British commercial breakfast television station.

Strongly believing in the power of money, he I once said to the Australian Cricket Board: ‘There is a little of the whore in all of us. Gentlemen, what is your price’?’

Although lacking Sir Frank’s strong right-wing party political bias he once startled an interviewer by naming Genghis Khan as a hero of his, saying: ‘He may not have been very lovable, but he was bloody efficient’.

 

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SULTAN QABOOS
of Oman
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It was appropriate that Sultan Qaboos of Oman should have become known in Britain by buying a university. For the man whose dealings with a company represented by Mark Thatcher caused a political storm is well-known for buying things. He’s one of the world big spenders.

One famous spree in Chicago netted him six Cadillacs, an Eldorado, six Mercedes, two Porsches, a 25-foot speedboat, 1255 pieces of luggage, eight refrigerators and a gas range - leaving that city’s traders richer by about one and a half million dollars.

Since this took all day and the cost was equivalent to eight hours of Oman’s oil revenues - to which he holds sole title - he might still have claimed to be earning faster than he spent.

Since overthrowing his father in 1970 bet seen the oil boom make him spectacularly rich and is still remarkably wealthy in spite of the recent recession and drop in oil prices.

He once told an adviser ‘I am Sultan: I can do what I like.’ What he likes includes large amounts of military hardware, accounting for 40 per cent of government expenditure and leading to the comment that ‘if he sees a nice-looking tank he feels he needs it.’

He has a relaxed attitude to corruption - calling it Sweets for the children’, and enjoys the effect created by his vast wealth. Told by a Harrods assistant that the £18,000 of perfume he’d purchased would evaporate he retorted ‘Don’t worry: it’s for the bath and he once asked how much it would cost to buy Heathrow when his private VC10 was delayed there by a strike.

 

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THE DUKE OF WESTMINSTER
of the United Kingdom
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Gerald Grosvenor, Sixth Duke of Westminster, is reportedly the richest man in Britain after Prince Charles. He is the antithesis of the self-made man. Few families have been richer longer than the Grosvenors. One hundred years ago the First Duke’s land-holdings in London were valued at £14 million ($20 million) and it was reckoned he was richer than Cornelius Vanderbilt, wealthiest of the American robber barons.

Unwitting founder of the fortune was Mary Davies, who in 1677 married Sir Thomas Grosvenor and brought with her as dowry some damp and substandard farm land. It is unlikely the recipients thought much of this until the expansion of London made that land valuable. Mary Davies’ marsh land is now 300 acres of swishest London - covering Mayfair and Belgravia.

The Duke ranks third to the Queen and the Church among London’s landowners. Other Grosvenor assets include most of Chester, land in 18 British counties, Canada, Australia, the US and South Africa, He says he doesn’t know how rich he is, but on getting married in 1978 admitted ‘It’s absolutely true we don’t have to worry about mortgages or rents or anything like that’. He’s even less reason to worry now. One estimate has put his estate’s gain from Conservative tax concessions since 1979 as high as £600 million ($900 million).

 

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J.R.D.TATA
of India
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The 80-year-old patriarch of the family group which has been termed ‘India’s corporate magpie’, Mr J. R. D. Tata has controlled one of Asia’s largest industrial conglomerates for 45 years.

He’s the inheritor of a family tradition extending back into the 19th century - the first Tata fortunes were made in textiles and trade with China. They had a London office as early as the 1920s. Although a company director as early as 1926 Mr J.R.D. Tata made his first real impact on Indian life as an aviator. In 1929 he became India’s first licensed pilot. Founding Tata Airlines in 1932 he himself piloted the first Karachi to Bombay flight that year. Tata Air formed the basis of Air India, founded in 1946. And Tata chaired the national airline until its nationalisation in 1953.

He may have lost the airline, but he still controls more than 20 other companies. Major holdings are in the iron and steel, engineering and electrical industries - the Tata group is also the world’s largest producer of tea and owner of the St James’ and Bailey’s hotels in London.

Mr Tata has held determinedly to high ethical standards - refuting to bribe politicians or use the black market. In the 1970s Tata were briefly overtaken as India’s largest industrial enterprise by the more flamboyant Birla family group. But it has now reclaimed that position, with total assets of $3.3 billion. Mr Tata has no children so the succession remains in doubt.

 

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DANIEL K. LUDWIG
of the USA
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Claimed to be the world’s richest citizen, Daniel K Ludwig belongs to the reclusive school of super-rich though without taking his shyness to the extent of previous title-holder Howard Hughes.

In spite of a property and shipping empire extending over 200 companies in 50 countries which has generated a personal fortune estimated at 4500 million dollars - although after an unwise venture in the Amazon jungle he’s believed to be down to his last 3,000 million - he has no entry in the US Who’s Who and is extremely reluctant to be photographed.

He showed entrepreneurial instincts even before dropping out of high school. At the age of nine in 1906, he bought a sunken boat for 75 dollars, repaired it and chartered it for 150 dollars. He subsequently pioneered buy-now pay-later shipbuilding and by the outbreak of World War Two was the world’s largest ship-owner.

His companies operate under flags of convenience such as Panama and Liberia with costs cut ruthlessly. He ordered his designers to produce ships without masts after being informed you couldn’t store oil in them and also demanded they substitute exhaust pipes for the more expensive funnels. He once bought a tanker called ‘Anahuac’ which nobody could pronounce, but kept the name as ‘It would have cost 50 dollars to paint it out’.

 

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CHARLES BRONFMAN
of Canada
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Charles Bronfman, of the power conferred by his great wealth: ‘Sometimes it can be a little bit frightening. Sometimes it can be damn pleasurable.’ He should know. As an heir to the family labelled ‘Canada’s answer to the Rothschilds, only richer’, he holds a substantial chunk of family assets estimated at seven billion dollars.

The fortune was established by his father Samuel, the son of Bessarabian Jewish immigrants, who built on profits made from US prohibition. His Seagram company is now the largest distillers in North America. Charles has found social acceptance easy, in contrast to his father, who was never quite welcomed by the Canadian establishment.

Dropping out of university, he found it hard to establish a sense of purpose or identity until he took over ownership of the Expos, Montreal’s baseball club in the late 1960s. A business acquaintance says: ‘We talk about business about five minutes every six months. I try to get more out of him. But Charles always goes back to baseball:

The relaxed image took a beating in the mid-1970s when he came out as a fierce opponent of Quebec separatism - threatening to withdraw Seagrams from Montreal if the Parti Quebecois won provincial power and being forced to backtrack rapidly when they did.

He’ll go on getting richer. As elder brother Edgar, who runs the family’s US operation, says: ‘Making 100 dollars into 110 is hard work. Making 100 million into 110 million is inevitable.’ Edgar proved his own point and became probably the richest Bronfmaninthe 1982-3 US stock market boom which added over 150 million dollars to the value of his shares.

 

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LANG HANCOCK
of Australia
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It is the fifteenth of the month, payday for Lang Hancock, Australia’s iron-ore magnate. A cheque for a quarter of a million dollars arrives, his half of a 2.5 per cent royalty on Hammersley mine, a nice addition to the $40 or so million accumulated since 1966.

Riches-to-more riches is the story: wealthy pastoralist finds mountains of iron ore. Hancock may not be free with money but he showers the nation with advice and his own brand of ‘philosophy’. He was the original owner of Wittenoom asbestos mine which has been linked to more than 200 asbestos disease cases, including 45 deaths: ‘Some people have to suffer so the majority can benefit from asbestos’. He declines to contribute to a trust set up to help victims: ‘I believe I have saved millions of lives by producing asbestos’.

He is aware, however, of the problems facing ‘half-caste’ aborigines and suggests a solution: ‘...dope the water up so they were sterile and breed themselves out’ thus ‘curing people who are in a miserable situation to stop them bringing more unfortunate people into their misery’.

He does not drink or smoke but eats a lot. He is 17 stone. Hancock is against governments, big corporations, bureaucracy, red tape, most social welfare, conservationists (‘let the bastards freeze in the dark’). He is for using the H-bomb to dig mines and blast harbors, Australia making itself indispensible as a mining supplier to an N-power, a White Australia policy and for the Ludwigs and Henry Fords: they create jobs for millions ‘but from the point of view of contributing something to the general welfare of the human race, well the average run-of-the-mill bloke would not make much difference if he were on the earth or not, would he?’

Cameron Forbes


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