Who's this Lakshmi Mittal bloke?

Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal isn’t one to shirk a challenge, and why should he be? After all, he’s gone from sleeping on the floor of his cramped family home to owning what was, for a time, the most expensive house in the world.

Born in 1950 in the small town of Sadulpur into a family that wasn’t particularly well-to-do, Lakshmi Mittal spent his formative years living with an extended family of 20, spending the nights sleeping on bare floors. At that point, being named after the Hindu goddess of wealth may have felt like a sick joke.

However, his father Mohan worked for one of India’s top pre-independence industrial houses, before moving to Calcutta and becoming a partner in a steel company. In 1976, the Mittal family struck out alone, founding the Mittal Steel Company, with Lakshmi in charge of establishing its international arm.

He had a knack for taking run-down and loss-making units and converting them into flourishing, profitable businesses. By 1994 he had become extremely successful in his own right, so after an argument with the family, he split from them, moved to London and took exclusive charge of the international wing of Mittal Steel.

Ever since, there’s been no looking back for Lakshmi. Today, his ArcelorMittal company is the single largest steel producer in the world, with a presence in 60 countries. Its total assets were valued at $133.1 billion in 2008, and even after the impact of the global economic crisis it remains one of the richest companies in the world – with profits for 2008 approaching $10 billion.

Despite falling from third down to eighth in Forbes Magzine’s list of the richest people on earth, being overtaken by retail kingpins such as Ingvar Kamprad (IKEA) and Karl Albrecht (Aldi), Mittal is still the darling of India, where he is heralded as a national hero.

Although he is a keen philanthropist, he doesn't feel guilt about spending money on himself. Renowned for his displays of opulence, he decorated his Kensington home, which nestles between the Palace and the Sultan of Brunei’s pad, with marble from the same quarry that supplied the Taj Mahal.

That Kensington home, by the way, didn't come cheap. In fact, it came very uncheap indeed, its reputed £70m pricetag making it the most expensive house sale in history. 

Then there's the wedding of his daughter, a special and proud day for any father. Especially one who can afford to foot the bill to the tune of £30m.

It was in December 2007 that Mittal first dipped his toe into the sometimes murky waters of professional football, buying a 20 percent shareholding in QPR and joining friend Bernie Ecclestone, as well as Ecclestone’s Formula 1 chum Flavio Briatore among the super-rich owners of the West London club.

By Mittal's standards, the £200,000 investment was meagre, and to date he has taken a back seat at Loftus Road, with his son-in-law Amit Bhatia taking a place on the board and acting as his eye and ears inside the club.

But with the club’s share price steadily rising and, perhaps more importantly, with Briatore facing the boot thanks to his motorsport misdemeanours, now could be the time for Mittal to cut himself a bigger slice of the pie. 

If the 59-year-old was to up his investment in QPR and start throwing more of his hard-earned at the club, then the Hoops would certainly have the resources to scale a Manchester City style assault on the established top table of English and European football

They could even go on to surpass their neighbors Chelsea (Roman Abramovich’s fortune is a measly £7.8 billion) to become the kings of West London.

That is if Ingvar Kamprad doesn’t buy Brentford...

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