Billionaires: Citadel founder Ken Griffin pays $8m for Blue Origin rocket ride

In our fortnightly round-up, Gautam Adani seeks to boost his media investments while Australia's Andrew Forrest considers building a green hydrogen plant in the US

William Shatner prepares to cross the final frontier

FILE PHOTO: William Shatner who plays Captain James T.  Kirk in the original version of Star Trek arrives at the Destination Star Trek London event October 19, 2012.  REUTERS / Suzanne Plunkett / File Photo
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Ken Griffin

For those in cryptocurrency and stock markets who have been feeling some pain, the Robin Hood Foundation benefit event held last Monday offered a few hours of respite. And the chance at a real picker-upper: a rocket to space.

Ken Griffin, the billionaire founder of hedge fund Citadel, made the winning $8 million bid in absentia, but does not plan to take the flight. Instead, he is giving his seat on Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin New Shepard rocket to a New York City public school teacher, who will join another educator already scheduled to be on-board.

“I hope this moment will ignite the imagination of our students and inspire the next generation to push the boundaries of what humanity can achieve, while underscoring the extraordinary role our teachers play in the lives of our children,” said Mr Griffin, who has a net worth of $29.5 billion and is the 39th-richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Citadel's chief technology officer Umesh Subramanian made the final bid on behalf of Mr Griffin. Billionaire cryptocurrency investor Mike Novogratz also raised his hand at $4m.

The live auction, conducted by Lydia Fenet of Christie’s, was brief but it drove home the big idea of the night: those with money, power, privilege and access are in a position to lift up those with less of it.

The event brought in $126m, all for Robin Hood’s poverty-fighting initiatives in New York. A big chunk of that — $100m — will fund a new initiative to expand childcare programmes. The goal is not only to nurture children, but to provide support to working parents.

Gautam Adani

Indian billionaire Gautam Adani is seeking to boost his media investments in an ambitious expansion plan, sources said, as he diversifies his conglomerate from its shipping and coal-mining roots.

The Adani group is exploring buying stakes in some local television and print news outlets while a few media outlets have approached the conglomerate to study potential deals, the sources said.

Deliberations are preliminary and there is no certainty they will result in a transaction, they said.

A representative for the Adani group declined to comment.

Media is the latest frontier for Mr Adani, 59, in a simmering rivalry with compatriot Mukesh Ambani, 65, as the two compete to dominate India’s $2.7 trillion economy.

In February, Mr Adani dethroned Mr Ambani as Asia’s richest man.

Like Mr Ambani, who expanded from oil refining and petrochemicals into telecoms, retail, technology and media, Mr Adani is also widening his footprint by adding airports, data centres and other businesses to his empire.

Both have unveiled a combined investment of about $146bn in green energy over the next few decades.

Last month, Adani Enterprises established AMG Media Networks, an arm it said would be in the business of “publishing, advertising, broadcasting, distribution of content over different types of media networks”.

The Adani Group will focus on acquisitions to expand rapidly, rather than starting outlets from the ground up, the sources said.

While approaching prospective targets, it has offered to remain as a financial investor and refrain from interfering in the editorial decisions of the organisations. The conglomerate hired Sanjay Pugalia last year to head Adani Media Ventures as it sharpened the focus on the sector.

Scaling up the business will give Mr Adani a meaningful presence in an industry where Mr Ambani has already made his mark through his Network18 Media & Investments company.

The Adani conglomerate is interested in media assets with the right fit, no matter the size.

Mr Adani’s foray into the nation’s media space also heats up the race for a market of about 1.4 billion people, which is already crowded with domestic and global companies ranging from Sony to Netflix and a venture by James Murdoch, the billionaire son of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

The net worth of Mr Adani, a first-generation entrepreneur, is about $102bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, while Mr Ambani’s fortune is pegged at $87.7bn.

Andrew Forrest

The clean energy unit of Australia’s Fortescue Metals Group is considering building a green hydrogen plant near Washington state’s last operating coal-fired power station.

Fortescue Future Industries entered into a binding exclusivity agreement with an industrial park near TransAlta’s Centralia plant, which is scheduled to close in 2025, the Perth-based company said on Friday.

FFI said it intends to seek to employ the existing coal workforce for the proposed project.

Metals miner Fortescue and its biggest shareholder, billionaire Andrew Forrest, have announced several potential investments in an effort to become one of the world’s biggest clean energy producers over the next decade.

The world’s fourth-biggest iron ore exporter has a line-up of multibillion-dollar projects to reach that goal, ranging from a plan to supply Europe together with German energy company EON to buying Williams Advanced Engineering.

“FFI’s goal is to turn North America into a leading global green energy heartland and create thousands of green jobs now and more in the future,” Mr Forrest said.

“Repurposing existing fossil-fuel infrastructure to create green hydrogen to power the world is part of the solution to saving the planet.”


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Updated: May 17, 2022, 1:33 PM