Anil Dhirubhai Ambani (born 4 June 1959) is an Indian businessman. He was the chairman of Reliance Group (also known as Reliance ADA Group), which was created in July 2006 following a demerger from Reliance Industries Limited. He leads a number of stocks listed corporations including Reliance Capital, Reliance Infrastructure, Reliance Power and Reliance Communications. Ambani, once the sixth richest person in the world, declared before a UK court in February 2020 that his net worth is zero and he is bankrupt, although the veracity of that claim is in question. He served in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament of India from Uttar Pradesh as an Independent MP between 2004 and 2006.
Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Early life and education
Anil Ambani is the younger son of the founder of Reliance Industries, Dhirubhai Ambani and his wife Kokilaben. Ambani has said that his father would lead the brothers on “incentive-oriented outings” where they would be rewarded a box of mangoes for a 10-km hike, but also punished them for acting out in front of guests He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Kishinchand Chellaram College and received a Master in Business Administration at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.
Ambani’s father Dhirubhai died in 2002 without leaving a clear succession plan. After bickering between Anil and his brother Mukesh, their mother Kokilaben mediated and split the family owned businesses between the two brothers.
Anil Ambani received parts of Reliance Group with interests in telecom, entertainment, financial services, power and infrastructure. Ambani is also credited with India’s largest IPO, that of Reliance Power, which in 2008 was subscribed in less than 60 seconds, the fastest in the history of Indian capital markets to date.
In 2005 Ambani made his debut in the entertainment industry with an acquisition of a majority stake in Adlabs Films, a company with interests in film processing, production, exhibition and digital cinema. The company was renamed Reliance MediaWorks in 2009. In 2008 a joint venture worth US$1.2 billion with Steven Spielberg’s production company DreamWorks cast Ambani’s entertainment business on to a global platform. He has contributed to the production of several Spielberg films, including the Academy Award-winning Lincoln.
Ambani gained notoriety as one of the fastest destroyers of shareholder wealth in the last 100 years with the combined group market cap declining by 90% since the formation of the Reliance ADA Group.
In early 2019, a court in Mumbai held Ambani in criminal contempt for non-payment of personally guaranteed debt Reliance Communications owed to Swedish gear maker Ericsson. Instead of jail time, the court gave him a month to come up with the funds. At the end of the month, Ambani was bailed out by his elder brother, Mukesh Ambani.
In April 2019, three ADAG Companies reached standstill agreement with Franklin Templeton after secured NCD default. This led to SEBI changing mutual fund regulation of reducing unlisted NCDs exposure to 10% and making standstill agreement void. In aftermath, FT India didn’t sell the pledged securities and wound 6 debt funds affecting 300,000 investors.
In February 2020, Anil Ambani was locked in a legal battle with 3 Chinese banks. He was asked to set aside US$100 million by the court which led him to make the statement that his net worth is currently zero after considering his liabilities. The dispute still rages on with the UK court ordering him to pay the 3 Chinese banks to the tune of US$716 million.
In October 2021, Anil Ambani was named in the Pandora Papers along with his brother Mukesh.
Ambani belongs to the Gujarati community. He is married to Indian actress Tina Munim and they have two sons, Jai Anmol Ambani and Jai Anshul Ambani. Ambani is the younger brother to Mukesh Ambani and has two sisters, Nina Ambani Kothari and Dipti Ambani Salgaocar.
Awards and recognition
- Conferred the ‘Businessman of the Year 1997’ award by India’s leading business magazine Business India, December 1998.
- Voted ‘the Businessman of the Year’ in a poll conducted by The Times of India – TNS, December 2006.
- Voted the ‘Best role model’ among business leaders in the biannual Mood of the Nation poll conducted by India Today magazine, August 2006.
- Conferred ‘the CEO of the Year 2004’ in the Platts Global Energy Awards.
- Conferred ‘The Entrepreneur of the Decade Award’ by the Bombay Management Association, October 2002.
- Awarded the First Wharton Indian Alumni Award by the Wharton India Economic Forum (WIEF) in recognition of his contribution to the establishment of Reliance as a global leader in many of its business areas, December 2001.
- Selected by Asiaweek magazine for its list of ‘Leaders of the Millennium in Business and Finance’ and was introduced as the only ‘new hero’ in Business and Finance from India, June 1999.
Allegations of political connections
In 2018, India’s principal opposition party, Indian National Congress, accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of favouring Anil Ambani’s defence manufacturing company over HAL, a public sector enterprise, in a fighter aircraft deal worth ₹58,000 crore (equivalent to ₹660 billion or US$8.7 billion in 2020) with French manufacturing firm Dassault. Ambani, several of whose companies are debt-ridden, has denied all charges of benefiting from crony capitalism. In factual terms, Reliance Defence stood to get just over 3 per cent of the ₹30,000 crore (equivalent to ₹340 billion or US$4.5 billion in 2020) Dassault Aviation offsets contract, contrary to the impression that it was to be the biggest beneficiary of the Rafale fighter jet deal.
In a possibly related controversy, one of his businesses partly financed a French film in which former French president Francois Hollande‘s then-partner had acted around the same time the aircraft deal was being negotiated.
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