While Bill Gates needs no introduction, lesser known names in the wealth stakes include a Japanese mobile game pioneer, the family behind Red Bull and Miami’s condominium kingpin. Our biweekly look at the world of billionaires is here.
Naruatsu Baba, the 38-year-old founder of mobile game developer Colopl, is completely immodest about his success.
“Professionally, I’ve never really made any mistakes,” Mr Baba said in an interview at his Tokyo office, which features a life-size R2-D2 and a football jersey signed by the Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda. “No matter how small a matter, I’ve always delivered something decent regardless of the deadline or the circumstances.”
Those words are backed by the company’s valuation of US$1.9 billion on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Mr Baba still owns half of Colopl and wrote most of the early code for games himself, including one that had players earning points by walking around with their phones, an early precursor of Pokemon Go’s signature egg-hatching feature.
For Mr Baba, detecting opportunities as they come along is a skill he has honed through years of experience. One of his earlier hits came after he noticed Japanese carriers began introducing location tracking for mobile phones. As smartphones took off, he pivoted to making games designed for touchscreens.
Now Mr Baba is setting his sights on what is considered to be the next big leap in computing: virtual reality. He is already one of Japan’s biggest investors in the technology through his $50 million Colopl VR Fund, which has taken stakes in about 30 start-ups this year.
Mr Baba says virtual reality’s most significant feature is its ability to trick users into thinking others are physically present. That will soon let humans communicate in a way that approximates face-to-face conversations, he says. “That’s probably the real essence of what VR is all about,” he says.
Forbes estimates his net worth at $1.13bn.
Bill Gates has urged the British government to step up investment in science and research as it prepares to leave the European Union.
“The world needs innovative leadership now more than ever,” the Microsoft co-founder and richest man alive told the Grand Challenges conference in London on October 26, attended by more than 1,000 scientists from around the world.
“The complexity of our most urgent global problems – extreme poverty, the persistence and spread of disease, feeding a growing world – requires that we invest in science and put our best minds to work on finding solutions.”
Mr Gates pledged to continue his own investment in British research and innovation, despite economic uncertainties surrounding Brexit, but said government support was vital to fight global pandemics such as the Zika virus.
His comments come amid fears that British science may suffer if projects lose funding after Britain leaves the European Union. Mr Gates’s calls were met with a pledge by Britain’s international development minister Priti Patel to increase spending on research into global challenges such as infectious diseases and climate change.
Mr Gates was also doing good a day earlier, when the foundation that bears his and his wife’s name donated $210m to a project at the University of Washington in Seattle aimed at improving people’s health around the world. The gift from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is to be used to construct a building at the university to house its Population Health Initiative.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the largest private charities in the world. In June, Mr Gates announced a donation of 100,000 chickens to sub-Saharan Africans living in extreme poverty.
The Yoovidhya family
The 11 surviving members of the Thai family behind Red Bull have a collection wealth of $22 billion, according to research by Bloomberg.
The world’s largest fortune from energy drinks owes its start to the family’s late patriarch, the reclusive entrepreneur and sometime duck farmer Chaleo Yoovidhya.
The bulk of the fortune sits in Red Bull GmbH, the Fuschl, Austria-based business that owns rights to distribute a carbonated version of Yoovidhya’s original recipe, as well as sports and adventure assets that include an airborne stunt team, “The Flying Bulls,” four professional football teams, two Formula One race teams and units that organise and promote events such as the space jump four years ago by daredevil Felix Baumgartner.
Chaleo Yoovidhya, who died in 2012, established closely held TC Pharmaceutical Industries in 1956 to sell antibiotics. He later pivoted to energy tonics and in 1975 invented a drink made with caffeine, sugar and the amino acid taurine. He called it Krating Daeng, or “red bull” in Thai. It was sold as an inexpensive energy drink in Asia until 1987, when he teamed up with Austrian marketing whizz Dietrich Mateschitz, who discovered the drink while seeking to counteract jet lag on a business trip.
Together, they built fortunes by modifying the recipe and creating a global brand around an adrenalin-fuelled culture of extreme sport. Mr Mateschitz, 72, controls a $12.3bn fortune, ranking him as the 80th-richest person on the Bloom–berg index.
Ten Yoovidhya family members share 49 per cent of Red Bull, while Chalerm Yoovidhya, the patriarch’s eldest son, owns another 2 per cent, according to Orbis, a database of closely held companies published by Bureau van Dijk and corporate filings from the Hong Kong Companies Registry. The remaining 49 per cent is held by Mr Mateschitz.
A company backed by the Texas billionaire Robert Bass has hit a snag in a plan to build the first business jet able to fly faster than the speed of sound.
The selection of an engine supplier for the Aerion Corp plane, which Mr Bass once said would occur in the first half of this year, is now expected to come in 2017.
Falling short of the engine goal underscores the difficulty of Aerion’s challenge. The aircraft, known as the AS2, would be the first supersonic civilian plane since Concorde flights were halted in 2003. Aerion’s efforts gained momentum when Airbus agreed in 2014 to help design and produce the plane. Aerion has considered two dozen engines from manufacturers.
In 2000 Mr Bass, heir of his family’s oil empire, came across a theory of supersonic speed and aircraft wing technology. First, he bought five textbooks used in Stanford University aeronautics classes to bone up on the subject. Then as he delved into the physics of planes, he became convinced that a profitable supersonic business jet was viable.
Forbes estimates Mr Bass’s net worth at $2.8bn.
As the billionaire Miami real estate developer Jorge Perez tells it, the city is the closest thing the US has to a modern-day Phoenicia: a hub community perfectly situated between New York and Latin America, sustained above all by a heavy flow of goods and people. Mr Perez – who is supporting Hillary Clinton in the presidential campaign but has called Donald Trump a friend for years – said the latter’s vision on trade and immigration would be a disaster for Miami. That is a big reason he said he thinks Mr Trump will lose the state and, as a result, the election.
“We trade, and that’s what we do,” Mr Perez, 67, said as he gestured from his bay-front office to the city that sprawls before him, much of it built on commerce and immigration from Latin America. “We want a president that is pro-opening up those relations more and more.”
Mr Trump’s campaign has a lot riding on the Sunshine State, where a Bloomberg Politics poll showed the Republican nominee with a 46 per cent to 45 per cent lead over Mrs Clinton. The poll shows Mrs Clinton winning handily in the Miami area.
South Florida exported some $10bn more than it imported last year, and it is on pace for another surplus in 2016, according to US Census Bureau data. Even by conservative estimates, trade in Florida supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, from the computer hardware and software that gets exported en masse, to the bundles of flowers that arrive regularly at Miami
Mr Perez has a lot riding on Miami’s success. He has built many of the soaring condominium towers that have transformed the city’s skyline, and he estimates most of them were sold to immigrants. His largesse has fuelled Miami’s cultural boom. A new art museum bears his name, and its halls are, in part, filled with works from his personal collection.
Forbes estimates Mr Perez’s net worth at $2.8bn.
Palantir Technologies is a data
analytics company that compiles disparate data streams and displays the information graphically for non-technical consumers. Its major clients and patrons have included the CIA, the FBI and the US air force, marines and navy – but notably, not the army.
So Palantir is suing.
Palantir was founded and is chaired by the litigious billionaire Peter Thiel, who remains its main investor. Mr Thiel was a PayPal co-founder and an early investor in Facebook. More recently he is known for having secretly spent tens of millions to bankroll lawsuits against Gawker Media, a process which ended with Gawker declaring bankruptcy.
In August 2009, Palantir executives were at the Pentagon to pitch their data-parsing technology to the military brass. It did not go well. One theory is that the army types were not impressed at the California-causal dress code of the tech types.
The lawsuit says it went downhill from there, and that the army has neglected its duty to choose a commercially available product over a custom-built one. The suit alleges that army officials cancelled tests of Palantir’s technology then lied about it.
Much is at stake for Palantir It wants a piece of the army’s Distributed Common Ground System, a $6bn hardware and software system that aims to compile intelligence from all over the world.
On Monday, a verdict in the lawsuit came down. A federal judge ruled in favour of Palantir, ordering the army to restart the bidding process and include commercial offerings in its evaluation, which puts Palantir back in the running
Bloomberg estimates Mr Thiel’s net worth at $2.9bn.
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