Islands, castles, stud farm, vintage cars: How rich is Vijay Mallya?
Mallya’s personal wealth, like most high net worth individuals is a subject for speculation – for most part at least. What is known for sure is that his holdings in the United Breweries (UB) Group, of which he is still the chairman, is now valued in the region of Rs 1750 crore.business Updated: Mar 04, 2016 12:50 IST
In his life as a businessman that has spanned nearly four decades, two things were never in short supply for Vijay Mallya – money and drama, mostly in equal measure. But lately, the 60-year old former Forbes billionaire seems to have attracted more of the latter.
Earlier this week, the State Bank of India (SBI), principal lender to the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines, approached the Debt Recovery Tribunal for the arrest of Mallya and seizure of his passport. Along with SBI, 17 state-owned banks are owed a sum in excess of Rs 7000 crore by the grounded airlines.
As pressure is mounting on the Modi-government to clean up banks’ balance sheets carrying bad assets, estimated to be around Rs 3.5 lakh crore, large banks like SBI are left with little choice but to train their guns on big borrowers like Mallya.
So how much is the man really worth?
This is truly a billion dollar question and answers are not easy to come by.
Mallya’s personal wealth, like most high net worth individuals is a subject for speculation – for most part at least. What is known for sure is that his holdings in the United Breweries (UB) Group, of which he is still the chairman, is now valued in the region of Rs 1750 crore, which is mostly his 8 per cent holding in beer maker United Breweries Ltd.
Shares in listed companies in India are only a part of the man’s earthly possessions. During his heydays, he collected properties across the world including private islands, prime real estate in Europe and US aside from in India, over 250 luxury and vintage cars, and articles of historical significance like the Sword of Tipu Sultan (£175,000 in 2004) and Mahatma Gandhi’s spectacles ($1.8 million in 2009).
The most reliable data on Mallya’s wealth is the annual list of the super rich collected by Forbes magazine. This data though is available only up to 2012; Mallya was dropped off the list that year onwards as his personal wealth fell below the mandatory billion dollar threshold. From his peak in 2007, when Forbes estimated Mallya’s personal worth at $1.6 billion, it dropped to less than $800 million in 2012. This was also the year when Kingfisher Airlines was grounded due to mounting financial pressure.
At the time, Mallya was reported to have said, “Thanks to the Almighty that Forbes has removed me from the so-called billionaires list... less jealousy, less frenzy and wrongful attacks.” But while his wealth may have eroded significantly, his defiance remains intact. In a recent interview with PTI, he said: “I have no regrets as such. Perhaps the only regret is that Kingfisher Airlines is not flying today when the oil price is so low.”
Mallya’s strongest assets remain to be his real estate holdings across the world. He has bought and continues to own properties in Europe, US and across India, including castles, private islands and luxury properties (see table).
His most recent deal, the UK liquor company Diageo’s buyout of the crown jewel of UB Group – United Spirits, will make Mallya Rs 515 crore richer ($75 million) over the next five years. The deal is now being challenged by banks and other investors, who believe they have the right of first claim on this for the money owed to them by Mallya.
Though not in his personal capacity, Mallya also counted Indian Premier League cricket team Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and a substantial stake in Sahara Force One F1 team among his prized processions. But since the Diageo deal with United Spirits, he has lost control over both these teams. RCB is controlled by USL (in which Diageo holds controlling interest) and the control over Watson Ltd, the UK-based company that owns the F1 team has also shifted to Diageo. The loss of control over Watson was a result of a $135 million loan deal with Standard Chartered Bank for which Diageo stood as a guarantor, which was subsequently defaulted in May 2015 after the loan matured.