Who are the Ambani brothers
For Anil Ambani, the gentle, beautiful, it is a humiliation: India, no, the whole world looks at Mukesh, the older brother and arch rival, as the one who buys the most expensive single-family house in the world. 27 floors, four floors for the 160 cars alone. Three helicopter landing sites. And a room in which the landlord lets it snow artificially when he is looking to cool off in hot Mumbai. The expensive building in the metropolis of millions is one thing above all else: a symbol of Mukesh's wealth, of his power and influence throughout the country.
When he moves in with his wife Nita and their three children, the whole country sighs: A house in heaven! This Mukesh, he is a fairy tale king - just like his father once was.
Anil's villa, 14 floors, whitewashed, appears puny by contrast. It is a points win for Mukesh in the competition between the two richest brothers in the world. They fight for recognition - and money, a lot of money. Anil, the handsome, is eaten away by the ambition to free himself from the shadow of the elder - and finally to become the richest, most powerful, most popular man in India himself.
It has been going on between the two of them for many years. For nine years, to be more precise. In 2002 the father of the opponent dies. Dhirubhai Ambani is a legend in his lifetime, almost a deity in India; Millions cry at his funeral. He bequeathed the largest industrial group in the country to his sons. It is called Reliance, in German: trust. The sales of the conglomerate account for 3.5 percent of Indian economic output and ten percent of exports. General meetings are held in sports stadiums. The business includes the world's largest synthetic yarn company, the huge Krishna Godavari natural gas field on the east coast of India and the third largest refinery on earth.
And so it happens that in some cities in India the power goes out because Mukesh is attacking Anil again. Or that the stock exchange prices shake when Anil strikes back. In these moments, thousands of Indians fear for their jobs, countless investors for their money, and politicians for their power. Yes, if the two multi-billionaires wedge each other, it is no longer just a tragic family saga, it is a national matter. The whole of India then asks itself: Are these Ambanis now harming our country more than they are good for it?
The father is to blame for everything, Dhirubhai. He died without leaving a will. He was usually considered a flawless businessman who left nothing to chance.
Dhirubhai grew up in dirt, stench and poverty. He left his home village early and worked as a gas station attendant. He soon moved to Mumbai with no rupee in his pocket. There he started as one of the first to sell saris made of synthetic fibers in poor areas, they became a big seller.
A fairytale ascent from poor, skinny boy to extremely rich industrial tycoon began. Dhirubhai built a sari factory, a second and a third, produced the synthetic fibers itself from now on, bought an oil company, an energy supplier, insurance companies, and the gas field. And he shared his wealth with India. Five million people bought his corporation's shares when he went public in 1972, many of whom he made rich; he also provided computers to poor villages. For many Indians, the old man embodied their dream of ascent, the people revered him like a saint. One looked the other way when he was threading deals again, bypassing laws, pulling politicians to his side.
Only a short time until the first shot
He's just a businessman like no other, it was said. But one who forgot to appoint a successor. And so the brothers Mukesh and Anil become arch-rivals, yes, enemies, on the day of his funeral. At first they still run the empire together. But it doesn't take long before Mukesh fires the first shot. In a secret meeting, he disempowered the younger. It is the declaration of war. Only once does the mother manage to drag the brawlers to a table: to divide up the inheritance.
Mukesh gets the traditional business areas, petrochemicals, oil and gas, determined by the mother, after all he is the firstborn. Anil, two years younger, has to be content with the new branches: telecommunications, electricity supply, financial services. He is deeply hurt after this meeting, feels disadvantaged and betrayed. And only wishes for one thing: to get revenge and to become richer, more powerful, more popular than Mukesh.
He gets up every morning at four o'clock and jogs through the streets of Mumbai, his chauffeur follows him in the car. He marries Tina, a Bollywood beauty who only wears designer clothes. Indian youth choose him as their icon at MTV. But what the hell brings all of the fortune and fame when you get on the damned Forbes-List of the wealthiest people on earth is in thirty-sixth position, far behind the hated brother who is fourth?
Dispute over gas
Anil seeks calm and answers in the Tirupati Temple, where a Hindu statue is bathed and oiled every day. He has an idea, wants to buy a successful South African telecommunications company and conquer the market in Africa and the Middle East with it. Then he would finally be richer and more popular than Mukesh.
But what is the older brother doing? Has insisted on an alleged right of veto for so long that the Africans turn away in exasperation, the promising deal has fallen through. Anil, who is usually so gentle and level-headed, rages. And the Indians ask themselves: What has happened to our Ambanis? They harm the company and the country.
From one day to the next, Mukesh refuses to deliver natural gas to his brother, even though he needs it for his power plants to generate electricity. And although everything was stipulated in a contract, back then, at the table with the mother, when the men spoke for the last time. Now is Anil suddenly supposed to pay twice as much? It is the time when the power goes out in New Delhi. There is a field to the south of the city; there should actually be a power station here to supply the Indian capital. But why start building without gas?
Anil goes to court, gets right, triumphs. But Mukesh lets his contacts play, like his father once he knows important politicians; he's calling the Supreme Court. And wins. As always, when a ceasefire seems imminent between the Ambani brothers, Reliance shares gain, this time by a whopping 30 percent.
For Mukesh, the court decision brings with it the satisfaction of having hurt the younger boy - and last but not least: a real blessing from the gas sales. Mukesh already owns around 29 billion dollars, which is roughly equivalent to Cambodia's economic output. But recently he invited to the inauguration ceremony in his new house with ballroom, hanging gardens and two fitness floors. The gem is said to have cost him a billion dollars. Mukesh can now use his brother's money well.
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