Born in Ethiopia and now a Saudi citizen. Built fortune in construction and real estate in Saudi Arabia before betting on energy. Began investing in Sweden in 1974; owns Svenska Petroleum and Swedish refinery Preem. Has invested more than $2 billion in Ethiopia, from hotels to stevedoring. Hit jackpot with gold mine in the Oromo region of Ethiopia; it now produces 6 tons of gold annually, set to double production by 2010. Owns several properties in London and the U.S. Donated more than $1 million to the Clinton Foundation.
Education:University of Witwatersrand, Bachelor of Arts / Science, University of Witwatersrand, Medical Doctor
Marital Status:married, 2 children
Dad was a village doctor in China; family immigrated to South Africa during WWII. Finished high school at age 16; was a doctor by 23. Got only half-salary because of apartheid race rules. Joined UCLA faculty 1980; developed technique for inserting islet cells into pancreas to treat diabetes. Founded VivoRx; quit after fight with brother, investors. Took American Pharmaceutical Partners public 2001. Invented cancer drug Abraxane; nanotech drug is more potent, has fewer side effects. Split company in two in 2007: APP Pharmaceuticals creates hospital products, Abraxis BioScience develops drugs (shares flat in past 12 months). Sold APP Pharmaceuticals to German dialysis-clinic operator Fresenius for $5.6 billion including debt in July; netted $3 billion. Plans to donate $1 billion to create “the Bell Labs of health care.” Will hire mathematicians, physicists, computer scientists, doctors to build database of biological markers to better identify ailments, treatments.
Education:Christ Church, Oxford U, Bachelor of Arts / Science, Christ Church, Oxford U, Master of Arts
Marital Status:married, 1 child
Chairman of De Beers, world’s largest diamond producer, which had $5.9 billion in sales last year. Has been through a sea change over past five years: sold off a piece of De Beers’ South African operations to a black-empowerment group, first major ownership change in a century; welcomed its first black executive; and settled a long-standing price-fixing suit that prevented it from opening offices in the U.S. Sold off a third of family’s interest in mining giant Anglo American, founded in 1917 by grandfather Ernest. On behalf of De Beers, Oppenheimer courted Russian President Vladimir Putin in fall of 2006; two months later De Beers and Russia’s state-owned Alrosa diamond mining firm signed joint prospecting deal. With the demand dampening, the company bought fewer stones for resale from Alrosa last year. In December announced that production from its biggest open-pit mines in South Africa and Botswana, which had been running at full capacity, would be reduced until diamond demand recovers. His response to declining markets, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Education:University of Chicago, Bachelor of Arts / Science,
Youngest son of Orascom conglomerate founder and fellow billionaire, Onsi Sawiris. Took over leadership of empire’s flagship construction and fertilizer division in 1998; Orascom Construction shares tumbled 80% over past year. Chief still bullish, projecting 50% increase in group revenues from projects in Gulf and North Africa; company also sitting on $1 billion cash war chest. Spun off group’s cement division 2 years ago to French giant LaFarge, landing Nassef a seat on the board and a 13% stake. University of Chicago grad launched boardroom battle last October at U.S. cement supplier Texas Industries, in which he holds 15% stake; succeeded in rallying shareholders to pass no-confidence votes against 2 board members to protest company’s poor performance, no one was ousted. Asking for board seat and chance to increase stake to 25%.
Education:Swiss Federal Polytechnical Institute, Bachelor of Arts / Science, Swiss Federal Polytechnical Institute, Master of Science
Marital Status:married, 4 children
Eldest son of Orascom conglomerate founder and fellow billionaire Onsi Sawiris. Heads up Orascom Telecom, one of largest mobile providers in Middle East, Africa and South Asia. Telecom tycoon’s insatiable risk appetite backfiring; his personal fund, Weather Investments, saddled with $7.7 billion in debt from leveraged buyouts of Italian phone company Wind and leading Greek telecom companies Wind Hellas and Tellas three years ago. Sold 10% of fund to trio of private equity players for $1 billion last year to pay down debt. Not slowing down: in December paid a visit to Kim Jong Il to sign license agreement granting Orascom exclusive access to North Korea’s cell phone market; first mobile company to invest in the pariah state.
Though initial offerings of his sugar and flour companies were oversubscribed in 2007, stocks in both have fallen nearly 70% since last February. Using his role as committee member on government economic advisory board to encourage federal government to rescue the nation’s capital markets. His conglomerate, the Dangote Group, has expanded its cement operations with new plants across Nigeria and as well as South Africa and Ethiopia. Sparring with new Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola over oil and gas concessions; Otedola parried by buying up stock in Dangote’s companies. Dangote began career as trader at age 21 with loan from his uncle; built his Dangote Group into conglomerate with interests in sugar, flour milling, salt processing, cement manufacturing, textiles, real estate, and oil and gas. Closely linked to Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo.
Sudanese-born “Mo” founded Celtel, a mobile phone company that now serves 15 African countries. Sold it in 2005 for $3.4 billion; pocketed $1.4 billion. The London resident now spends his time on philanthropy and investing in Africa. Created Mo Ibrahim Foundation to award monetary prize to former African heads of state who have shown exemplary leadership in such areas as promoting political freedom; awarded first $5 million prize in October.
Founding patriarch of Egypt’s most famous business dynasty saw shares in primary holding, Orascom Construction Industries, plunge 80% over past year; remains chair. His 3 sons run construction, telecommunications and tourism divisions. Studied agriculture in college after lawyer father urged him to pursue farming. Found it boring, instead opened a small contracting firm in Upper Egypt. Construction baron forced to rebuild empire after it was nationalized by Nasser in 1960s.
Education:Bachelor of Arts / Science, Doctor of Jurisprudence
Marital Status:married, 3 children
Johannesburg mining magnate is South Africa’s first black billionaire. Born in the sprawling black township of Soweto and then trained as a lawyer, became first black partner at Bowman Gilfillan law firm in Johannesburg, before starting a contracting business doing mine scut work. Bought low-producing gold mine shafts in 1994, turned them profitable using lean, mean management style. Since then built $875 million (sales) mining conglomerate, African Rainbow Minerals (ARM), with interests in a wide swath of minerals: platinum, nickel, chrome, iron, manganese and coal. Benefited from South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) laws, which mandate that companies be at least 26% black-owned in order to get a government mining license. Also holds a 5.5% stake in Sanlam, a publicly traded financial services company outside Cape Town.
Politician’s son used a majority stake in African Petroleum to get himself appointed its chief executive last year. Now he plans to merge it with his private firm, Zenon, to create the continent’s largest oil company. Deal has stalled in the face of government concerns about a monopoly, with his assets temporarily frozen last year. Nigerian regulators lifted the ban in January. Conflict abounds in Otedola’s life: he claims his friend and fellow billionaire, Aliko Dangote, broke a gentleman’s agreement when he thwarted Zenon’s bid to buy Chevron’s local subsidiary in September. In retaliation, starting buying shares in Dangote’s publicly traded sugar company.
Education:University of Stellenbosch, Bachelor of Arts / Science,
Marital Status:married, 3 children
Head of publicly traded Swiss luxury group Richemont, which owns Cartier, Dunhill and other premium brands. Stock down 70% since last February. His South African holding company, Remgro, is listing its stake in British American Tobacco on the Johannesberg exchange. But unbundling of the BAT stake will create pressure to find investments to replace the asset, say analysts. His private South African investment outfit, VenFin, finalized a much-anticipated deal to acquire British rugby club Saracens. With family relatives, owns two of South Africa’s best-known vineyards, Rupert & Rothschild and L’Ormarins; also owns one of the country’s most exclusive golf clubs.