Billionaires: Moderna's vaccine-driven stock surge nets fortunes for early investors

In our fortnightly roundup, an MIT professor is set to become the biotech firm's third billionaire shareholder and the Reuben brothers invest in Madrid real estate

Bob Langer, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), sits for a photo at his office in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., on Monday, Oct. 31, 2011. Langer, whose work has created two dozen biotech startups, is developing a gel that can vibrate up to 200 times a second -- replicating the action of human vocal cords -- to rejuvenate the damaged voices of singers such as The Who's Roger Daltrey and Aerosmith's Stephen Tyler, both of whom have contributed funding for the project, along with actress Julie Andrews. Photographer: Kelvin Ma/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Bob Langer
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Bob Langer

An early investor of Moderna has come close to owning a stake worth at least $1 billion (Dh3.67bn) after the biotech firm reported encouraging early trial results for an experimental Covid-19 vaccine.

The value of board member Bob Langer’s 3.2 per cent holding, including stock options, rose to $934.3 million on May 18, as the shares surged 20 per cent to a record $80 each.

Mr Langer, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is set to be at least the third individual with Moderna holdings topping $1bn, joining chief executive Stephane Bancel and Harvard University professor Timothy Springer.

Moderna, whose shares have more than quadrupled this year, released interim data from a small phase 1 trial showing positive early signs that the vaccine can create an immune system response to the virus in humans.

Mr Langer, 71, has licensed or sub-licensed patents to more than 400 biotech, pharmaceutical, chemical and medical companies, according to his biography at MIT’s Langer Lab.

Mr Bancel and Mr Springer are worth $1.8bn and $1bn, respectively, according to Forbes.

Mr Springer was a founding investor of Moderna in 2010, when he put about $5m into the company.

Mr Bancel, who became Moderna’s chief executive in 2011, owns a roughly 9 per cent stake in the company. Before joining Moderna, he was the chief executive of French diagnostics company BioMerieux, founded by fellow French billionaire Alain Merieux.

Mr Bancel and other Moderna executives, including outgoing chief financial officer Lorence Kim and president Stephen Hoge, have been selling shares, some through prearranged trading plans.

Moderna’s share price has since declined as more companies join the race for a vaccine. It closed at $57.71 on Tuesday.

LONDON, ENGLAND  - MAY 09:  Simon Reuben and David Reuben attend a private view of "Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition" at The Design Museum on May 9, 2019 in London, England.  (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
The coronavirus crisis has done little to deter the Reuben siblings, who are estimated to have a combined net worth of $11.7bn, from expanding their real estate empire. Getty Images

David and Simon Reuben

Billionaire real estate investors David and Simon Reuben have made a push into Madrid’s residential market, buying a 250-hectare parcel of land in an exclusive neighbourhood one hour from Spain’s capital.

About a third of the land, which borders the San Juan reservoir, will be used to build 650 homes and a hotel. Located about 74 kilometres west of Madrid, the area is a popular venue for second residences for the capital’s celebrities including Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane.

The coronavirus crisis has done little to deter the Reuben siblings, who are estimated to have a combined net worth of $11.7bn, from expanding their real estate empire. The British pair’s private equity firm, Reuben Brothers, is buying a $170m retail condo in Manhattan. They are also involved in a consortium with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and English businesswoman Amanda Staveley that wants to buy Newcastle United, one of England’s Premier League football clubs.

In Spain, the brothers have previously focused on the Balearic Islands, acquiring the Hotel Pacha in Ibiza and 364 hectares of land in Mallorca.

“We are confident that the Canto Redondo development will be another success to complement our portfolio while we continue to explore further opportunities in the Spanish market,” a Reuben Brothers spokesperson said. They gave no information on the purchase price.

LVMH Chairman and Chief Executive, Bernard Arnault, addresses the presentation of the group's 2019 results at LVMH headquarters in Paris, on January 28, 2020. - French luxury goods giant LVMH posted record 2019 sales of more than 50 billion euros on January 28, 2020, and said it would strive to stretch its lead in the global market this year. (Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP)
Bernard Arnault, head of luxury giant LVMH, is the third French billionaire to take a stake in media conglomerate Lagardere. Photo: AFP

Bernard Arnault

Bernard Arnault is the latest billionaire to invest in French media company Lagardere, backing the indebted heir of founder Jean-Luc Lagardere and taking a stake in the company, which also has interests in retail and publishing.

The mogul announced on Monday that he agreed to acquire the equivalent of one-quarter of Lagardere Capital and Management, the holding of Arnaud Lagardere overseeing his stake within the eponymous group. Les Echos reported the acquisition was worth less than €100m (Dh402m). The stock rose as much as 15 per cent after the sale.

Mr Arnault, head of luxury giant LVMH, is the third French billionaire to take a stake in Lagardere after activist fund Amber Capital UK demanded major changes at the conglomerate. Vincent Bollore and Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere recently injected funds into the embattled company.

Lagardere was a sprawling group spanning aerospace, cars and media until its controlling shareholder Jean-Luc Lagardere died in 2003. Arnaud, his son, jettisoned much of the business to shift away from manufacturing. He’s now focused on two units: book publishing houses, such as Hachette and Grasset, and travel retail, with stores in airports and train stations.

Lagardere controls some of France's major news outlets including the Journal du Dimanche, radio station Europe1 and the iconic magazine Paris Match. This latest investment will allow Mr Arnault to increase his outreach. The billionaire owns Radio Classique and two national newspapers, Le Parisien and Les Echos.

The Arnault acquisition was completed at the same time as Mr Bollore’s media company, Vivendi, increased its stake to more than 16 per cent from 11 per cent. Last month, Vivendi became the third-biggest shareholder after Amber and the Qatar Investment Authority.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, SEPTEMBER 21, 2014.  Rizwan Sajan, Chairman of Danube at the Danube Properties stand in CityScape 2014 at the World Trade Center. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Lucy Barnard Section: Business.
Danube Group founder and chairman Rizwan Sajan warned friends that a Facebook account in his name asking for donations was fake. Antonie Robertson / The National

Rizwan Sajan

Rizwan Sajan, the founder and chairman of UAE-based Danube Group, said a fraudster created a fake Facebook account in his name and sent messages to friends seeking donations.

In a Facebook post on May 23, the prominent Indian businessman warned friends: “Please note that someone has again created a fake account under my name and [is] sending random messages to many of my friends. If you get a friend request or any such random message asking for contributions or donations, please DO NOT FRIEND THEM or revert to any messages.”

One of Mr Sajan’s friends said he was contacted through the cloned account and asked to donate to an online crowdfunding platform based out of India, claiming to support a child suffering from a blood disorder.

Mr Sajan said he alerted the e-crime department of Dubai Police and lodged a complaint with Facebook. The account has since been removed.

Mr Sajan was one of the first people to be granted a 10-year residence visa in the UAE a year ago.