Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 August 2019

The mining billionaire looking to win a Trump-style election campaign down under

In our latest roundup on the world's wealthy, Clive Palmer wants to 'Make Australia Great' and a Dutch entrepreneur is taking on Uber Eats

 Federal leader of the United Australia Party Clive Palmer has spent more than $30 million on his election campaign. EPA
 Federal leader of the United Australia Party Clive Palmer has spent more than $30 million on his election campaign. EPA

Clive Palmer

Half a world from the White House, another big-talking billionaire wants to make his country great again.

Clive Palmer, who made his fortune in mining, is running for the Senate on his right-of-centre United Australia Party ticket. Billboards of his smiling face and raised thumbs are spread across the country in advance of this month’s election.

The 65-year-old, whose last foray into politics saw his party implode amid infighting and acrimony, has spent more than $30 million (Dh110m) - a significant sum in a country with a population less than 25 million - attempting to win influence with an agenda that includes slashing taxes and doing more to tap Australia’s mineral wealth.

While he’s nowhere near as popular as Donald Trump - polls show he’s unlikely to win any lower house seats - Mr Palmer has enough support to influence the crucial swing state of Queensland.

Mr Palmer rejects comparisons with the US president, boasting of the large swing that catapulted him into federal parliament in 2013. “Donald Trump didn’t start to do anything for three or four years later,” he says.

The billionaire turned to politics after collecting assets across Australia and his advertising blitz threatens to eclipse the government and Labor. Hundreds of yellow “Make Australia Great” billboards have popped up across the country, while advertisements have flooded television screens. He wants to run candidates in all 151 lower house seats.

Mr Palmer’s political ambitions are bankrolled by a fortune that the Bloomberg Billionaires Index values at more than $1 billion.

Jitse Groen. Photo by Jeroen Bouman
Jitse Groen.

Jitse Groen

Delivering pizza, wings and curries into the grateful hands of hungry college students, frazzled parents and late-night workers has proved to be rewarding for Jitse Groen, from the Netherlands, whose Takeaway.com soared to a record this month.

The stock has more than tripled since a 2016 initial public offering, making him a billionaire in the process.

The delivery firm’s rise mirrors the growth of single-person households in the European Union, which surpassed those with children in 2013 and use such services more often. But competition is heated, with established leaders like Takeaway and Just Eat competing with Uber Eats and Deliveroo, which are growing rapidly in large urban centres.

Increased demand and a string of acquisitions have given Takeaway a top three position in every European country where it operates. The firm’s shares surged in December after it agreed to buy Delivery Hero’s German operations for about $1bn, ending an expensive rivalry in a country where both were competing for market share at the cost of profitability.

Mr Groen, 40, created Takeaway in 2000 in his dorm room at the University of Twente in the Dutch town of Enschede near the German border. He developed the first version of the platform that today forms the core of his business, connecting hungry, home-bound patrons to more than 44,000 restaurants in 12 countries, including the Netherlands and Germany. He’s now worth about $1.5bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The business processed 31.1 million orders in the first three months of 2019, up 51 per cent from a year earlier. That works out to 345,556 deliveries every day or 14,398 an hour.

Some of those might even be delivered by Mr Groen himself. Despite being one of his country’s richest people, he occasionally hops on one of his company’s bikes and delivers meals.

Alex Shih is set to become chairman of Centaline Group in Hong Kong when his 70-year-old father Wing-Ching Shih retires. Bloomberg
Alex Shih. Bloomberg

Alex Shih

The heir to the biggest real estate agency in property-mad Hong Kong doesn’t own a house.

Not only that, he won’t inherit his father’s stake in Centaline Group, estimated to be worth about $400m according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, because it was donated to charity more than a decade ago.

But Alex Shih isn’t perturbed, even though he’s missing out on the wealth that other offspring of some Hong Kong tycoons are taking control of along with the family business.

“I personally accept it,’’ the 30-year-old Shih says of his father’s decision not to pass on the family fortune to his three children. “He told us when we were very young and we didn’t have a choice. He would say that it’s better not to lead a life that’s too comfortable in one go. You’ll treasure more if you gain things step by step.”

Mr Shih took over running Centaline, which handles two out of every five property transactions in Hong Kong, at the start of this year when he was named vice-chairman. He is set to become chairman when his 70-year-old father Wing-Ching Shih retires, which he expects to happen sometime soon.

While the firm handles millions of dollars of transactions a day, the softly-spoken Mr Shih says he earns only a regular salary. The foundation that his father donated the Centaline stake to aims to alleviate poverty in rural China, from building infrastructure to supporting under-privileged children’s education.

“My friends who are working in finance are making more money than I do,” he says.

A graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science, Mr Shih says he considers himself an average Hong Kong citizen. His office is small and sparsely decorated, and he enjoys hiking and playing badminton - hardly the pursuits of the billionaire set.

His modest upbringing has also helped keep him humble - his father eschewed the elite international schools favoured by Hong Kong’s wealthy and enrolled his children in local government-subsidised schools, and instilled his philosophy that money should be used to help the less fortunate from an early age.

And, like many other millennials in a city ranked the world’s least-affordable for the past nine years, he’s still saving for his first house. He aims to buy a two-bedroom apartment in a middle-class neighborhood - a far cry from the multi-million dollar mansions his agency sells.

Jim Goodnight, chief executive of SAS, is grooming his chief operating and technology officer Oliver Schabenberger to replace him when he retires. Bloomberg
Jim Goodnight. Bloomberg

Jim Goodnight

More than four decades after co-founding the SAS Institute, Jim Goodnight is considering some changes.

The college professor-turned-entrepreneur is grooming his 54-year-old chief operating and technology officer Oliver Schabenberger to eventually take over when he retires, Mr Goodnight said recently.

Mr Goodnight has headed SAS - the world’s largest closely held software company by revenue - since its inception in 1976. Despite its low profile, the firm had revenue of $3.27 billion in 2018, thanks to analytic platforms that are used by more than 83,000 businesses, governments and universities.

The changes at the top aren’t imminent and are part of a longer-term strategy. Mr Goodnight, 76, is still in the office every day and remains an active chief executive officer.

“I can’t retire yet,” he says. “My golf game is terrible.”

Asked if he’d ever consider selling, Mr Goodnight says “if the right offer came along,” but later adds “we are not considering a sale of the company for the foreseeable future".

Still, that’s a more accommodating stance than a decade ago, when the company said: “We don’t have a sign in the front yard by any means.”

Since then, the business of analysing data has attracted plenty of deep-pocketed rivals like Alphabet, Amazon.com and International Business Machines. To keep pace, SAS is increasing its investment in artificial intelligence with a $1bn push to further automate data analysis decisions. Over the past two years, the firm has been incorporating AI into its anti-money laundering tool for financial institutions.

“I have always thought in terms of two years down the road,” Mr Goodnight says. “Two years out, I think we will have brought AI to a lot more of our solutions.”

The business Goodnight and his colleagues spun out of North Carolina State University has become one of the biggest companies in the region. Revenue has grown every year since 1976, helping make Mr Goodnight - who owns two-thirds of the company - the 39th richest person in the USwith a $13bn fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Updated: May 4, 2019 10:57 AM