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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

From Laurene Powell Jobs to Leonardo del Vecchio, opportunity knocks for the world’s richest people

In our biweekly look at the world of billionaires, a US tech heiress diversifies her portfolio, an ageing eyewear titan from humble roots ensures the continuity of his empire and Facebook’s co-founder is snapping up a Hawaiian paradise.
Laurene Powell Jobs has halved her stake in Disney, the world’s largest entertainment company, in order to diversify her holdings. Stephen Lam / Getty Images / AFP
Laurene Powell Jobs has halved her stake in Disney, the world’s largest entertainment company, in order to diversify her holdings. Stephen Lam / Getty Images / AFP
In our biweekly look at the world of billionaires, a US tech heiress diversifies her portfolio, an ageing eyewear titan from humble roots ensures the continuity of his empire and Facebook’s co-founder is snapping up a Hawaiian paradise.

Laurene Powell Jobs

Steve Jobs’ widow is no longer the largest single shareholder in Disney.

According to a regulatory filing this month, Laurene Jobs has halved her stake in the world’s largest entertainment company in order to diversify her holdings.

Ms Powell Jobs reduced her stake to about US$7 billion, based on recent prices. Her updated holding is 64.3 million Disney shares, a 4 per cent stake. She previously held 128.3 million shares.

Her Disney holdings trace back to a stake that her late husband, the Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, received when he sold the Pixar animation studio to Disney in 2006 for $7.4bn. This month’s filing did not include details such as when she disposed of the stock or at what prices. Vanguard Group is now the largest Disney holder at about 5.5 per cent.

Ms Powell Jobs was an MBA student at Stanford University in 1989 when she met Steve Jobs. She took a seat next to him in the hall where he would be lecturing, and soon after they began dating. They married in 1991 and had three children together. Mr Jobs died in 2011 of complications from cancer.

Ms Powell Jobs has invested in Anonymous Content, the talent-management company behind The Revenant and Spotlight, which won the best picture Oscar last year. Her overall wealth is estimated at $16.7bn, which makes her the 47th richest person on Earth.

Leonardo del Vecchio

Sent to an orphanage at age seven by his widowed mother, Leonardo del Vecchio was working as an apprentice to a tool and dye manufacturer in Milan by the time he was 14.

“I started as the shop boy, they didn’t call me Leonardo, but simply ‘fioeu’, or boy in the local Milan dialect,” he once said.

In the late 1950s he moved to the town of Agordo, north of Venice, where he started a small business making eyeglass frames designed by others. He called the business Luxottica and launched it in 1961 with 14 workers.

Today Luxottica has about 79,000 workers and Mr del Vecchio, 81, with his $18.5bn, is the second-richest person in Italy (first is the Nutella supremo Giovanni Ferrero at $21.4bn).

On January 16, Mr del Vecchio made a deal to ensure the continuity of his business. He agreed to merge Luxottica with France’s Essilor, which is the number one maker of lenses and has been expanding in retailing via acquisitions in Britain and Canada. With the combination, “two products that are naturally complementary – namely frames and lenses – will be designed, manufactured, and distributed under the same roof,” Mr del Vecchio said.

He will share leadership of the merged company with Hubert Sagnieres, Essilor’s current chief executive.

Part of Mr del Vecchio’s motivation was to prevent a tug-of-war as he prepares to transfer his wealth to the next generation, people familiar with the matter said. Mr del Vecchio has made clear that he does not want any of his six children, from three marriages, to run the company.

“I have never considered involving my children or even my grandchildren in the management of Luxottica,” Mr Del Vecchio has said. “Your kids will always be your kids. You can fire an executive, but not one of your children.”

Rana Kapoor

Rana Kapoor, the co-founder and chief executive of Yes Bank, has become a billionaire as shares in the lender jumped in the first half of January, making it the best-performing stock among India’s banks.

India’s banks have seen their profits squeezed recently by a surge in bad loans, a problem to which Yes is less prone than its rivals.

Yes Bank’s recent gains lifted Mr Kapoor’s net worth to $1bn, according to a Bloomberg report on January 19. As of this Wednesday, the shares were up by another 4.5 per cent. That brought their gain for the month to 21.6 per cent.

The majority of Mr Kapoor’s fortune is derived from his 11.6 per cent stake in Yes Bank.

The climb in Yes Bank’s stock represents a comeback after it plunged by 18.8 per cent during 10 days in September, when the company abandoned plans to raise $1bn through a share sale. The lender cited “misinterpretation” of new rules for the so-called qualified institutional placement as the reason for the delay. It marked the first time an Indian lender had pulled a share sale since at least 2011.

Mr Kapoor, 59, is the second billionaire to emerge from India’s banking industry. The first was Kotak Mahindra Bank’s Uday Kotak, who has a $7.2bn net worth.

Mr Kapoor was educated in India and America. He cofounded Yes Bank with his brother-in-law, Ashok Kapur, in 2003. The following year, it became the first new Indian lender in a decade. The partners had acquired seed capital of $10 million each a year earlier, when they sold their stakes in Rabo India Finance, a joint venture they had formed with Rabobank of the Netherlands.

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife fell in love with an island in Hawaii. Now that they are buying it, locals could be the losers.

The Facebook co-founder has launched lawsuits that could lead him to secure full ownership of his island hideaway from Hawaiian families who retain rights over the land dating back generations.

Documents filed on December 30 in the Hawaii State circuit court show that three Zuckerberg companies filed the lawsuits under what is known as “quiet title and partition”. That is the legislative process used to establish ownership of land where inheritance has occurred over generations and there is no formal documentation or title deeds.

Forbes reported that Zuckerberg paid close to $100m for 700 acres of prime seafront land on the secluded north shores of the island of Kauai in 2014.

In a Facebook post on December 28, Zuckerberg posted pictures and comments on a visit to Kauai with his wife and their daughter, Max. “A few years ago, Priscilla and I visited Kauai and fell in love with the community and the cloudy green mountains. We kept coming back with family and friends, and eventually decided to plant roots and join the community ourselves,” he wrote. “We bought land and we’re dedicated to preserving its natural beauty.”

Private ownership of land was virtually unknown in Hawaii until the “Great Mahele”, a programme of land redistribution enacted in 1848. Two years later the Kuleana Act was approved and people were given the right for the first time to petition for title of land on which they had lived or worked. This also allowed descendants to inherit land automatically in the absence of a will or deed.

Today, small fractions of larger tracts of land can be owned by many descendants who have no paper proof or documentation but can prove a long-term familial – and therefore legal – interest.

The “quiet title” system can be used to establish ownership and to force a sale. Ultimately, the issue is decided by a judge who can put the land to auction to the highest bidder.

Warren Buffett

“I like numbers,” Warren Buffett says in a documentary about his life that is to be broadcast on Monday. “It started before I could remember. It just felt good, working with numbers.”

Success with numbers has helped the billionaire become one of the world’s most admired investors, despite spending most of his 86 years far from Wall Street in Omaha, the Nebraska city from which he has run Berkshire Hathaway since 1965.

His life is now the subject of the HBO documentary Becoming Warren Buffett. The documentary is largely narrated by Mr Buffett and contains interviews with people close to him, including his sisters, three children, the Berkshire vice chairman Charlie Munger, and Bill and Melinda Gates.

Longtime fans will not learn much new. But Mr Buffett does share lesser-known stories, such as overcoming his fear of public speaking by attending a Dale Carnegie course, and picking up a high school date in a hearse he owned half of. “Not the smoothest thing,” he recalled.

Mr Buffett’s first wife, Susan, moved out in 1977. They remained married but lived separately. “There’s no finer human being than who he is,” she said in an interview just before her death in 2004. Buffett’s second wife, Astrid, who he married on his 76th birthday, was not interviewed for the film.

The film shows Mr Buffett’s preference for a buy-and-hold style of investing. Other aspects of Mr Buffett that the film depicts are him driving to work from his normal-sized house, his distaste for vegetables and his plain talk about markets and the world. That includes his 1991 congressional testimony about a treasury auction bidding scandal at Salomon Brothers, where he was interim chairman. He vowed to be “ruthless” towards people who harmed their employer’s reputation.

Vitaly Orlov

Peering into the midmorning darkness from his sixth-floor office on Russia’s Kola Bay, Vitaly Orlov strains to see the new factory he has just built across the water, his view obscured by a creeping cloud bank that shrouds the Arctic seascape.

The $30m structure is the jewel of Mr Orlov’s Murmansk-based Norebo. Set amid tenements and a wooden church, it was built to service Norebo’s fleet of fish trawlers that together hauled in almost 11 per cent of the 4.75 million tonnes caught by Russian fisherman last year.

“I’ve only ever been sure of one thing – that my life will always be tied to the north and the fishing industry,” said Mr Orlov, 51, polite and deliberate, pocket square tucked into a tailored suit, in an interview.

From that modest goal, Mr Orlov has built a fortune that Bloomberg values at $1bn, benefiting from the colliding forces of global trade and sanctions that today define Vladimir Putin’s Russia. While his business derives as much as 60 per cent of its sales from outside the country, it has also seen a surge in domestic consumption as sanctions limit food imports.

Mr Orlov graduated in 1991 from a marine engineering school in Murmansk with a navigator’s degree and a fluency in English, months before the Soviet Union collapsed.

A third of the city’s population left in search of better opportunities. Mr Orlov left, too, heading west to Norway before being drawn back home by the Barents Sea.

He was hired in 1993 by Magnus Roth, a former Swedish naval officer, to work for a company selling cheap Russian fish across Scandinavia. Four years later they started their own business in Norway, leasing Norwegian ships to Russian fishermen who were struggling with outdated Soviet-era boats.

By 2015 the closely held business had revenues of $600m.

* Agencies and The National

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