The Rise of Lakshmi Mittal: A Tale of Ambition and Achievement

Executive Chairman of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel and mining company by output, Lakshmi Mittal is recognised for restructuring the steel industry into a consolidated and globalised model.

By Nichola Marie

Named after the Hindu goddess of wealth, it’s entirely appropriate that Lakshmi N Mittal would go on to become the Chairman of the $80 billion (revenue) ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel and mining company by output. A citizen of India residing in the United Kingdom, he is among the world’s prominent billionaires and a global businessman, also serving on the boards of various advisory councils. As a philanthropist, he is engaged in the fields of children’s health and education. 

Mittal For Gujarat

Recently, the steel baron became the darling of the land of his birth all over again, when he announced, at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit (VGGS) 2024, that the corporation would build the world’s single largest steel manufacturing site at Gujarat’s Hazira by 2029. He revealed that the first phase of the steel manufacturing site would be completed by 2026, while the second phase, marked by a memorandum of understanding, would be completed by 2029. Once operational, the expanded manufacturing facility is touted to produce around 24 million tonnes (MT) of steel, making it the world’s largest steel manufacturing site.

In October 2022, ArcelorMittal arm ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel (AMNS) India had announced an investment of around ₹60,000 crore to scale up the capacity of the steel plant to 15 MT. The announcement had come days after AMNS received environmental clearance for the expansion of the plant, which had been inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2021. 

Winning Strategy

This is, after all, the man who has achieved worldwide fame for turning sick steel companies into profitable ventures. Focusing on global consolidation, he has acquired and integrated steel companies globally, growing his company through a series of strategic mergers and acquisitions.

Born June 15, 1950 into a Marwari business family in Sadulpur, Rajasthan, his family moved to Kolkata in the 1960s, where his father Mohanlal Mittal operated a steel mill. While studying at the city’s St Xavier’s College, young Lakshmi also worked at the mill. He would go on to serve as a trainee at the mill, after graduating in 1970. Barely six years later, he opened his own steel mill in Indonesia in 1976 called PT Ispat Indo, operating a greenfield steel manufacturing plant. He would spend more than a decade learning how to run it efficiently.

In 1989, he purchased the beleaguered state-owned steel works in Trinidad and Tobago, which had been losing huge sums of money. A year later, the man with the Midas touch had it doubling its output, and rendering it profitable. This was to become his leitmotif: Purchasing failing, mostly state-run facilities across the world and then sending in special management teams to reorganise the business. 

In an industry that had become weak and fragmented, his business philosophy focused on consolidation. Even though the demand for steel stayed high, smaller steel companies had failed to strike competitive deals with major clients, mostly automakers and appliance manufacturers. This didn’t apply to Mittal. With his giant steelmaker controlling around 40% of the American market for the flat-rolled steel used to make cars, he was able to negotiate more favourable prices. Growth was a constant. 

In 2004, he merged his companies, Ispat International and LNM Holdings, also acquiring the Ohio-based International Steel Group. The result was a newly created company, Mittal Steel Co. NV, which emerged as the world’s largest steelmaker. 

In 2006, his attempts at a takeover of Arcelor were initially blocked by the Luxembourgian Government. However, it relented, allowing the merger of the two companies as ArcelorMittal, headquartered in Luxembourg city. The Government divested itself of much of its ownership of the company, but maintained a small interest in ArcelorMittal, of which Mittal became Chief Executive Officer. 

In 2019, Arcelor and Nippon Steel completed their $5.9 billion acquisition of Essar Steel, once controlled by billionaires Shashi and Ravi Ruia.

Mittal would serve as CEO of the joint company until 2021, post which he stepped down, ceding the CEO’s position to his son, Aditya Mittal. Mittal retains the title of Executive Chairman of ArcelorMittal.

The Steel Giant
ArcelorMittal is one of the world’s largest steel companies. It has steel making facilities in 16 countries and customers in 155 countries. The company has operations across the globe, spanning Africa, Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Australia.

In 2022, ArcelorMittal reported a net income of $9.3 billion.  The company maintains operations that produce a wide range of steel for the mobility, construction, infrastructure, industrial, and energy sectors. New steel products, processes, and solutions are envisioned, tested, improved, and deployed at its research centres stationed around the world. Recognising that steel can make a significant contribution toward net-zero emissions, the company is also intensifying its commitment to decarbonise.

Wealth & Philanthropy
One of the richest individuals in the world, according to ‘Forbes’, Mittal had an estimated net worth of $16.4 billion as of June 2023. In 2005, ‘Forbes’ ranked Mittal as the third-richest person in the world, making him the first Indian citizen to be ranked in the Top 10 in the publication’s annual list of the world’s richest. As a result of the credit crunch and a fall in demand for steel from China, his fortunes took a hit of an estimated £2.7 billion in 2012, resulting in him being deposed as the richest man in Britain. Currently, Mittal is reportedly the 93rd richest person in the world and the 15th wealthiest person in India to date. 

His philanthropic contributions include significant donations to Harvard University, where he is a member of the Global Advisory Council. He has also given money to UNICEF to address child malnutrition in India. In 2008, the Mittal family also contributed £15 million — the largest private contribution the hospital had ever received — to the Great Ormond Street Hospital in the United Kingdom, supporting the Mittal Children’s Medical Centre which formally opened in January 2018. 

Awards & Honours
Mittal has received the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honour, and a Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1996, he was awarded Steelmaker of the Year by New Steel in the United States. He was named ‘Fortune’ magazine’s European Businessman of the Year in 2004, and Person of the Year by the ‘Financial Times’ in 2006.

In October 2010, Mittal received the World Steel Association’s medal in recognition of his contribution to the sustainable development of the global steel industry. In January 2013, he received a Doctor Honoris Causa from the AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow, Poland.

Legacy
Mittal has held a board seat at Goldman Sachs since 2008. He serves on advisory councils around the world. He is a member of the Foreign Investment Council in Kazakhstan, the National Investment Council of Ukraine, the Global CEO Council of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, and the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council.

He is also on the executive committee of the World Steel Association, the European Round Table of Industrialists, and the Indian School of Business. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Cleveland Clinic.

Lifestyle
Sometimes described as being media-shy, Mittal often makes headlines for his notable expenditure. These include splashing out a record £70 million ($128 million) for a 12-bedroom home in London’s billionaire row, Kensington Palace Gardens. He also owns a £70 million former Philippine embassy in London, which was intended as a home for his daughter Vanisha. In 2013, he put on sale a neo-Georgian mansion at Palace Green, Kensington, which he had purchased for £117 million in 2008; it had been intended for his son Aditya who had, however, never moved into the new mansion. Mittal also owns a multi-crore mansion in the upscale Lutyens’ Delhi neighbourhood in picturesque Rashtrapati Bhawan park.

In 2004, Mittal had spent an estimated $60 million for his daughter’s wedding in Paris, said to be the second-most expensive in recorded history. 

Family Ties
Mittal wed Usha Dalmia in an arranged marriage, barely meeting twice before being engaged. Usha revealed that while she found him interesting when they met for tea at the Calcutta Club, she fell in love with him on their first telephone conversation, where they ended up talking for hours and never ran short of words. They describe their marriage as “a building of relations, and love.” Usha supports women’s education in India and is the inspiration behind the Usha Mittal Institute of Technology. 

The couple has two children, son Aditya and daughter Vanisha. Aditya Mittal is CEO of ArcelorMittal since February 2021; he was previously President and Chief Financial Officer of the company. Aditya holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics with concentrations in Strategic Management and Corporate Finance from the Wharton School in Pennsylvania, United States. Aditya’s wife Megha Mittal is the daughter of Mahendra Kumar Patodia of Hyderabad, of the cotton yarn company GTN Industries. Megha, a graduate in finance and management from the Wharton School of Business, as well as a postgraduate degree holder in Architectural Interior Design at the Inchbald School of Design in London, is a fashion entrepreneur. The couple has three children.

Mittal’s daughter, Vanisha Mittal Bhatia, is a non-independent director of the company. A Bachelor of Sciences from the European Business School, she was appointed as a member of the LNM Holdings board of directors in June 2004. Her husband, Amit Bhatia, studied Economics at Cornell University, and is the founding partner of Swordfish Investments and Chairman of Queens Park Rangers football club. The couple has three children.

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