For someone who wants to remain intensively private, Lakshmi Mittal, Britain’s wealthiest man, seems to have the knack of exploding into the headlines at regular intervals.
The public first heard of Mr Mittal five years ago when he reportedly paid £70 million to Bernie Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One supremo, for a house in Kensington Palace Gardens in London.
In 2002 he was involved in a “cash for favours” political row. It emerged that shortly after he had made a £125,000 donation to the Labour Party, the Prime Minister wrote to his Romanian counterpart support a bid by Mr Mittal’d company for Sidex, Romania’s state steel firm.
Mr Blair insisted that he did not know that Mr Mittal was a Labour donor and that he had offered his support because the deal, which went thrugh for £300 million, represented British interests.
In 2004 the extravagant £30 million celebrations for the wedding of his daughter Vanisha at the Palace of Versailles propelled Mr Mittal back into the newspapers.
Yesterday he did it again with an audacious £12.7bn bid for rival steel firm Arcelor which has caused a political storm in French and Luxembourg political circles.Mittal Steel is already the world’s largest producer of steel giving Mr Mittal a near £15 billion fortune which is fair testament to the business acumen of a man, born 55 years ago in western Rajasthan a village without electricity. When his family moved to Calcutta he studied accounting and business. At 21 he began working for his father Mohan, who ran a small, family owned steel mill.
Frustrated by Indian burearacy he left the country for Indonesia in 1976. Backed by his father, he founded a steel plant and the rest is history, as they say.
Mittal Steel is still very much a family business. Vanisha and her brother Aditya work in the company and Mr Mittal has said: “It’s natural to have my family in the business. I wanted to build something to last, to make something for the future”.