Meet Tycoons Who Rule Their Countries


Bidzina Ivanishvili
Country: Georgia
Net worth as percentage of country GDP: 32%
Net worth: $5.2 billion
Source of wealth: Investments

Born into a poor mining family in small-town Georgia, Ivanishvili moved to Russia in his twenties and started a business selling computers. He later opened a bank and snatched up former Soviet factories and mines as they privatized in the 1990s. He returned to Georgia in 2003 and was elected prime minister of the country nine years later. He stepped down the following year with his party solidly in control and now watches over Tbilisi from his fortress home above the Georgian capital.

Najib & Taha Mikati
Country: Lebanon
Net worth as percentage of country GDP: 14% (6.9% each)
Net worth: $6.2 billion ($3.1 billion each)
Source of wealth: Telecom

Najib Mikati became Lebanon’s second-consecutive billionaire prime minister, replacing Saad Hariri in 2011. Mikati and his brother Taha started a satellite phone company in Lebanon during the war-torn 1970s, when power lines were often down. The Mikatis expanded to Syria and Africa before selling their stake in the telecom company for $5.5 billion in 2006. They are now worth $3.1 billion each. Their combined $6.2 billion fortune is equivalent to 14% of Lebanon’s GDP.

Aliko Dangote
Country: Nigeria
Net worth as percentage of country GDP: 9%
Net worth: $25 billion
Source of wealth: Cement, sugar, flour


The first African to rank among the world’s richest 25 people, Aliko Dangote dominates Nigerian industry. His Dangote Cement makes up about 30% of the market capitalization of the entire Nigerian Stock Exchange. He also owns the second-largest sugar refinery in the world. In March Dangote pledged $1.2 billion to his Dangote Foundation, which works alongside the Nigerian government to fight poverty in the country.

Rinat Akhmetov
Country: Ukraine
Net worth as percentage of country GDP: 7%
Net worth: $12.5 billion
Source of wealth: Steel, coal

Rinat Akhmetov has a powerful voice in Ukraine, but he has been hesitant to use it in the midst of his country’s current crisis. A longtime ally of now-deposed President Viktor Yanukovich, Ukraine’s richest man reportedly had a falling out with the president last year and forfeited his position in parliament. He initially stayed neutral as protesters faced off against his old friend. But in early March, he reportedly joined other Ukranian oligarchs in saying he would stand up for his homeland if Russia invaded.

Stefan Persson
Country: Sweden
Net worth as percentage of country GDP: 6%
Net worth: $34.4 billion
Source of wealth: H&M

The man behind fashion chain H&M keeps getting richer thanks to his company’s surging stock. As his net worth grows, so do his real estate investments outside of native Sweden. Last year Persson bought an 8,700-acre estate in the English countryside.

Binod Chaudhary
Country: Nepal
Net worth as percentage of country GDP: 6%
Net worth: $1.1 billion
Source of wealth: Diversified

The only billionaire in Nepal, Binod Chaudhary controls the country’s Nabil Bank, owns a hotel chain across Asia and is building more hotels in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. He never went to college but turned his family’s textile business into a diversified global empire.

Carlos Slim Helú & family
Country: Mexico
Net worth as percentage of country GDP: 6%
Net worth: $72 billion
Source of wealth: Telecom

The richest man in the world from 2010 to 2013, Carlos Slim Helú made his first fortune from Mexico’s largest phone company. But he became one of the world’s richest men by expanding in telecom throughout Latin America. Mexican regulators said he had dominant control of the telecom market and imposed anti-monopoly measures in early March. He now has a net worth of $72 billion with diversified assets in Mexico and some investments in the U.S., including a stake in the New York Times.

Petr Kellner
Country: Czech Republic
Net worth as percentage of country GDP: 6%
Net worth: $11 billion
Source of wealth: Banking, insurance

Petr Kellner built an improbably large Czech fortune one gamble at a time. He started with an office supply company, took a loan against it and started an investment fund, then bought a controlling stake in an insurance company. He later sold the stake to Italian insurance giant Generali for $3.6 billion. Now he has two major assets: lender Home Credit is worth over $4 billion, and he bought Spanish telecom giant Telefónica’s Czech business for $3.2 billion last year.



Source: Forbes / March 14, 2014


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