Gautam Adani, Asia’s richest man, suddenly found himself at the center of a storm on Wednesday after popular short-seller Hindenburg Research alleged that his India-based business empire was built through fraud.
The 60-year-old Adani’s personal wealth grew last year as the global economy suffered from a period of slowing growth.
He is the chairman of Adani Group, a sprawling $21 billion conglomerate that owns many of India’s airports, the country’s largest private sector port, media giant New Delhi Television and many other holdings.
Adani, a college graduate, started his career in the diamond industry before joining a plastics factory run by his brother, according to the Financial Times.
Eventually, Adani started his own company, which started as an import-export operation in the commodity sector and gradually expanded into other ventures.
A bio on Adani Group’s website describes its namesake founder as a “first generation entrepreneur” focused on “nation building” through infrastructure development. He is married and has two sons, Karan and Jit.
“For Mr. Adani, nation-building means transforming India’s coastline by building a series of ports and logistics hubs,” the bio reads. “For him, nation-building also means strengthening the country’s energy security and mitigating the urban-rural divide by bringing electricity to several hundred million people living in India’s hinterlands.”
In addition to his high-profile business career, Adani survived the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, as well as a 1998 kidnapping and ransom attempt, according to the BBC and other sources.
Adani faced his fair share of criticism as he rose to international wealth and fame. Critics have scrutinized his close relationship with and support for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The industrialist is so well-connected in Indian political circles that he is referred to as ‘Modi’s Rockefeller’.
Adani was an early supporter 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.
According to Bloomberg, since Modi came to power, his fortune has increased from about $5 billion in 2014 to $121 billion at the end of 2022.
According to the Financial Times, during this period Adani Group carried out various government contracts and infrastructure projects.
Adani told the Financial Times in 2013: “Modi is not directly helping anybody, I can tell you that.” “Modi is helping industries through policies and not allowing any nonsense in the system.”
Last year, Adani’s net worth increased by $44 billion — more than any other person tracked by Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index — as he surpassed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett.
But the Adani Group empire has faced unprecedented scrutiny after Hindenburg, the influential firm that previously targeted electric car firms Nikola and Lordstown Motors, claimed to have uncovered evidence of “brazen accounting fraud, share manipulation and money laundering at Adani”. . decades”.
“Adani achieved this spectacular feat with the help of government acolytes and a cottage industry of international companies facilitating these activities,” Hindenburg said in a lengthy client note on its findings.
Hindenburg noted that the Adani Group has faced at least “four major government fraud investigations” and that “8 out of 22 key leaders are members of the Adani family”.
Shares controlled by Adani lost nearly $12 billion in value after the Hindenburg allegations emerged.
After the damning Hindenburg report, Forbes estimated Adani to be the world’s fourth-richest person with a fortune of $119.1 billion, behind billionaires Bernard Arnault, Elon Musk and Bezos. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index also placed Adani as the fourth richest person with a net worth of $119 billion.
Adani Group denied the allegations in a statement issued by CFO Jugeshinder Singh.
“We are shocked that Hindenburg Research published a report on January 24, 2023 without even attempting to contact us or verify the actual matrix,” Singh said. “The report is a damaging combination of selective disinformation and outdated, baseless and discredited claims that have been tried and rejected by India’s highest courts.”