Dollars

May 2011


Europe’s 25 Richest

Europe now has 248 billionaires with a total wealth of $1 trillion. More than one-third of that wealth is held by the region’s 25 richest. Among them are the people behind some of our favorite brands and stores, like Louis Vuitton, Ikea, H&M, Nutella and Trader Joe’s. Russia takes the lead with nine of the top 25, followed by Germany and Sweden with four apiece.

Bernard Arnault

France
$27.5 billion
Source: LVMH

Bling is back, helping fashion icon grab title of richest European for first time as shares of his luxury goods outfit LVMH, maker of Louis Vuitton, Moet & Chandon, surge 57%. Renaissance man owns French tour operator Go Voyages, yacht builder Royal Van Lent; has a stake in French retailer Carrefour.

Amancio Ortega

Spain
$25 billion
Source: Zara

Style maven lords over Inditex. Fashion firm, which operates under several brand names, including Zara, Massimo Dutti and Stradivarius, has 4,500 stores in 73 countries, including new spots in Mexico and Syria. Set up joint venture with Tata Group subsidiary to enter India in 2010.

Karl Albrecht

Germany
$23.5 billion
Souce: Aldi

Owns discount supermarket giant Aldi Sud, one of Germany’s (and Europe’s) dominant grocers. Has 1,000 stores in U.S. across 29 states. Estimated sales: $37 billion. Plans to open New York store this year. With younger brother, Theo, transformed mother’s corner grocery store into Aldi after World War II

Ingvar Kamprad & family

Sweden
$23 billion
Source: Ikea

Ikea’s reputation under fire. In Russia company fired two top managers for allowing bribes to a power supplier. In France firm is facing an extended workers’ strike. A former managing director has published a book exposing questionable ethics.

Stefan Persson

Sweden
$22.4 billion
Source: Hennes & Mauritz

“Cheap chic” mogul is chairman of Hennes & Mauritz (H&M); promoted son, Karl-Johan, 34, to chief executive in July. Retailer is known for bringing on big names, like Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, to design affordable collections for its 1,900 stores.

Liliane Bettencourt

France
$20 billion
Source: L’Oreal

Makeup heiress’ fortune rebounding with L’Oreal shares. Company, founded by her father, celebrated its 100th birthday in 2009. Last year only daughter and heir, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, petitioned courts to investigate reported $1.4 billion worth of cash and gifts her mother allegedly gave to Francois-Marie Banier, 61, a well-known photographer, writer and painter she befriended. Daughter claims Banier took advantage of her mother, who became a widow in 2007. Liliane denies it.

Michael Otto & family

Germany
$18.7 billion
Source: retail

Father Werner Otto, who turned 100 last August, started out with a 14-page shoe catalog in 1949. Michael joined in 1971, expanded operations overseas and moved company into Internet sales; now world’s second biggest Internet retailer after Amazon.

Michele Ferrero & family

Italy
$17 billion
Source: chocolates

Secretive chocolate chief mulled bidding for British rival Cadbury; backed off this January. Richest man in Italy owns privately held Ferrero, chocolatier that makes such brands as Ferrero Rocher, Nutella, Tic Tac and Kinder Eggs. 2008 Sales: $8.4 billion.

Theo Albrecht

Germany
$16.7 billion
Source: Aldi, Trader Joe’s

Owns discount supermarket group Aldi Nord. With estimated sales of $34 billion, still a sector leader, but lost ground this year as flat sales and strong rivals in some of its European markets pushed down profits. Has been more successful with his U.S. holding: discount food chain Trader Joe’s 340 stores have attracted cost-conscious customers during the recession.

Vladimir Lisin

Russia
$15.8 billion
Source: steel

Russia’s richest is a proletarian success story. First job was as a mechanic in a coal mine. After college in Siberia got job as steelworker. In 1991, when his boss was appointed minister of metallurgy, Lisin came with him to Moscow.

Mikhail Prokhorov

Russian
$13.4 billion
Source: cash, investments

Bachelor billionaire making moves in the U.S. Last fall his Onexim signed an agreement to buy 45% of the Atlantic Yards development project, a stadium and apartment complex in New York, for $200 million; he will also get an 80% stake in the New Jersey Nets basketball team.

Birgit Rausing & family

Sweden
$13 billion
Source: packaging

After death of her husband Gad Rausing in 2000, she and her three children inherited packaging giant Tetra Laval. It was her father-in-law who founded the company, which revolutionized the packaging of liquids such as juices and milk, in 1944. Today sales are $15.3 billion.

Mikhail Fridman

Russia
$12.7 billion
Source: oil, banking, telecom

His Alfa Group, which he shares with fellow billionaires German Khan and Alexei Kuzmichev, buoyed by rising oil prices; stake in TNK-BP doubled over the past year. Interest in Alfa Bank also up; the bank recovered most of its money from borrowers like fellow billionaire Oleg Deripaska.

Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor

& family

U.K.
$12 billion
Source: real estate

The sixth Duke of Westminster is the U.K.’s wealthiest land owner. His Grosvenor property group has valuable holdings on 5 continents: posh Mayfair and Belgravia neighborhoods of London; additional land in London via private family trusts; farmland in northern England and Scotland.

Roman Abramovich

Russia
$11.2 billion
Source: steel, investments

Fortune up on steel price recovery; value of stake in steel giant Evraz increased nearly threefold. Celebrating birth of son with girlfriend and art enthusiast Dasha Zhukova. Threw New Year’s bash for his friends and partners on St. Barts, which cost a reported $5 million; Beyoncé, Prince and Gwen Stefani performed.

Susanne Klatten

Gemany
$11.1 billion
Source: BMW, drugs

Inherited stake in automaker BMW from late father Herbert Quandt, who rescued it from bankruptcy decades ago. A trained economist with an MBA also inherited a 50% stake in chemical manufacturer Altana and sits on supervisory board. Now controls over 95% of Altana; seeking to acquire remaining shares and delist the firm.

Oleg Deripaska

Russia
$10.7 billion
Source: aluminum

Metals magnate back from the brink. Facing margin calls and $20 billion in total debt, he removed the heads of his two largest companies and personally negotiated with the Russian government, banks and other creditors to restructure his loan obligations. This year his Rusal, the world’s largest aluminum producer, raised $2.2 billion in an initial public offering in Hong Kong.

Vagit Alekperov

Russia
$10.6 billion
Source: Lukoil

Former Caspian Sea oil rig worker later became a deputy minister in the Soviet oil industry. In 1991 took three large ministry-controlled oil fields and set up Lukoil. Now president of Lukoil, Russia’s largest independent energy company, with a 20% stake. The firm’s reserves are second only to ExxonMobil

Leonardo Del Vecchio

Italy
$10.5 billion
Source: eyewear

Sent to an orphanage at age 7. Worked as an apprentice at a factory that made molds for auto parts, eyeglass frames. Founded Luxottica in 1961 and started making his own eyeglasses. Still chairs Luxottica, ($6.8 billion fiscal year 2008 sales) world’s largest manufacturer of sunglasses and prescription eyewear and also largest eyewear retailer.

Vladimir Potanin

Russia
$10.3 billion
Source: metals

In January became the first Russian billionaire to announce he would transfer his fortune to charity and not his children. Plans to list Russia’s largest media group, Prof-Media, which owns magazines, radio stations, movie theaters and broadcasts Russian versions of MTV and VH-1, this year.

Ernesto Bertarelli & family

Italy
$10 billion
Source: biotech

Inherited biotech firm Serono when father died in 1998. Ran for years; grew revenues to $2.4 billion in 2006. Blockbuster drug: $1.4 billion (annual sales) multiple sclerosis therapy Rebif. Sold company to Germany’s Merck 2007. With his sister, took home $9 billion. Lost America’s Cup to yachting rival Larry Ellison in February.

Hans Rausing

Sweden
$10 billion
Source: packaging

Father founded packaging giant Tetra Laval in 1944. Hans and brother Gad inherited the business. Hans sold his share to Gad for estimated $7 billion in 1995. Moved to U.K. in early 1980s to avoid punitive Swedish taxes. Resides on a 900-acre estate in village of Wadhurst in East Sussex.

Alexei Mordashov

Russia
$9.9 billion
Souce: steel

Chief executive and controlling shareholder of steelmaker Severstal relieved by steel price recovery; stock price up nearly threefold from last year’s lows. Recently announced the company’s gold unit will buy up foreign assets to expand production of the high-flying metal.

Viktor Rashnikov

Russia
$9.8 billion
Source: steel

In January reaffirmed partnership with billionaire Dmitry Pumpyansky’s TMK, one of the largest customers of his iron and steel producer, MMK. Began career at Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel mill (MMK) in 1967 as a mechanic, becoming its general director.

Silvio Berlusconi & family

Italy
$9 billion
Source: media

Suffering from more than just a bruised reputation; in December 2009, man broke the billionaire’s nose and teeth with a statue of Milan’s cathedral. Politico with 9 lives became Italy’s prime minister for a third time in April 2008 after his predecessor lost a confidence vote and new elections were held

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Asia’s 25 Richest

China may have passed India in its number of billionaires, but India still has bragging rights as home of the region’s richest. Ten of Asia’s top 25 are Indian. Hong Kong and Japan each have five. Mainland China has just one.

Mukesh Ambani

$29 billion

India

Global ambitions: His Reliance Industries, already India’s most valuable company, recently bid $2 billion for 65% stake in troubled Canadian oil sands outfit Value Creation. Firm’s $14.5 billion offer to buy bankrupt petrochemicals maker LyondellBasell was rejected.

Lakshmi Mittal

$28.7 billion

India

London’s richest resident oversees ArcelorMittal, world’s largest steel maker. Net profits fell 75% in 2009. Mittal took 12% pay cut but improved outlook pushed stock up one-third in past year. Looking to expand in his native India; wants to build steel mills in Jharkhad and Orissa but has not received government approval.

Li Ka-shing

$21 billion

Hong Kong

Betting on recovery, upped stakes in publicly traded conglomerates Cheung Kong and Hutchison Whampoa. Through HW, Li is world’s largest operator of container terminals, world’s largest health and beauty retailer by number of outlets, a major supplier of electricity to Hong Kong and a real estate developer. Has a large holding in Canadian oil firm Husky Energy, which recently announced its third discovery in South China Sea.

Lee Shau Kee

$18. 5 billion

Hong Kong

Lee’s wealth rebounded, thanks in part to doubling of share price of Henderson Land Development, the property firm he founded and still heads. Active investor in China, has stakes in such outperfomers as PetroChina, China Shenhua Energy and China Life. Chairman of Hong Kong & China Gas, which distributes gas in more than 90 cities

Kwok family

$17 billion

Hong Kong

Family behind one of Hong Kong’s most storied real estate firms has benefited from rebound in property prices. Eldest brother Walter, who stepped down from 18-year chairmanship of Sun Hung Kai Properties in May 2008 after disputing with his 2 younger siblings, Raymond and Thomas, dropped his lawsuit alleging improper dismissal; he is now a nonexecutive director

Azim Premji

$17 billion

India

Software czar chairs $5.5 billion (revenues) Wipro, country’s third-largest software exporter. Reported jump in net profits in last 2 quarters, signaling a rebound for U.S.-dependent outsourcing giant.

Robert Kuok

$14.5 billion

Malaysia

Onetime rice and sugar trader heads multinational Kuok Group, with interests ranging from shipping to real estate to media. In 2007 merged extensive Malaysian, Indonesian palm oil interests with Singapore’s Wilmar International, run by his nephew; now his most valuable holding.

Anil Ambani

$13.7 billion

India

Estranged brother of Asia’s richest person, Mukesh Ambani, oversees Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, which has interests in telecom, infrastructure and entertainment. His Reliance Power plans to build 13 power plants for $25 billion by 2014. Infrastructure arm is investing $5 billion in new roads and metro systems to be completed by 2012. His entertainment unit has committed $825 million to Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studios to co-produce films.

Shashi & Ravi Ruia

$13 billion

India

Brothers’ $15 billion (revenues) Essar Group has weathered downturn and embarked on an expansion drive in all its businesses, including steel, oil and power. As part of global push, refiner Essar Oil bought 50% in Kenya Petroleum Refineries and is negotiating with Royal Dutch Shell to acquire 3 refineries with a total capacity of 25 million tons.

Savitri Jindal

$12.2 billion

India

Nonexecutive chair of the O.P. Jindal Group, a steel and power conglomerate founded by her late husband, Om Prakash Jindal, in 1952. Took over as group head after he died in a helicopter crash in 2005. In his lifetime, patriarch had handed down operations to their 4 sons, Prithviraj, Sajjan, Ratan and Naveen, who today run their independent units

Kushal Pal Singh

$9 billion

India

Chairman of DLF, India’s most valuable property company; its stock rebounded in 2009, reflecting the revival in the real estate market but still lagging the Sensex’s 76% rise. Run by his son Rajiv, who is DLF’s vice chairman. To lure buyers the developer cut prices at some projects.

Kumar Birla

$7.9 billion

India

Head of $29 billion (revenues) commodities conglomerate Aditya Birla Group restructuring group’s cement business, which is to be spun off from flagship Grasim Industries and merged into subsidiary UltraTech Cement.

Sunil Mittal

$7.8 billion

India

His flagship Bharti Airtel, India’s largest mobile operator with 120 million customers, is looking to establish global footprint. After two failed attempts to buy Africa’s MTN, is negotiating a $10.7 billion deal to buy the African assets of Kuwait’s Zain Group, partly owned by billionaire Nasser Al-Kharafi’s Kharafi Group.

Ananda Krishnan

$7.6 billion

Malaysia

A Tamil Malaysian of Sri Lankan Tamil origin, also referred to as TAK, he graduated from Harvard Business School and started his career as an oil trader. His biggest holding is Maxis Communications, Malaysia’s largest cellphone service provider, with over 11 million subscribers, which went public in November in Malaysia’s largest ever IPO, raising $3.4 billion.

Tadashi Yanai & family

$7.6 billion

Japan

Has vowed to turn his discount clothing chain, Fast Retailing, into world’s leading apparel retailer. Already has stores in New York, Paris; opening in Shanghai and Moscow this year. Hired renowned German minimalist designer Jil Sander to come up with new clothes for his utilitarian brand

Nobutada Saji & family

$7.5 billion

Japan

Plans to merge his family’s drink firm, Suntory, with rival Kirin Holdings fell apart in February, 7 months after discussions began, apparently over valuation. The deal would have created one of the world’s largest food makers and helped the Japanese firms to better compete with internationally

Lee Kun-Hee

$7.2 billion

South Korea

Stepped down as chairman of Samsung Group in April 2008 after 2 decades at helm amid allegations of tax evasion. The group’s biggest company, Samsung Electronics, has seen its stock price soar in last 12 months, boosting Lee’s wealth. South Korea’s largest insurer, Samsung Life Insurance, in which Lee holds 20% stake, expected to go public this year.

Zong Qinghou

$7 billion

China

Mainland China’s richest person. Started a beverage business in a mini-grocery in a school in Hangzhou in 1986; now China’s biggest beverage maker selling bottled water, tea drinks, juice and coffee. Wahaha’s 2009 revenues are estimated to be $6.3 billion

Cheng Yu-tung

$6.8 billion

Hong Kong

Heads conglomerate New World Development, with interests in property, infrastructure, transport, retail, hotel, casino, brokerage and telecom across China and Hong Kong. Wealth has rebounded along with property markets.

Anil Agarwal

$6.4 billion

India

Metals, mining magnate, is facing flak over his business practices. The Church of England recently sold its holding in his London-listed Vedanta Resources on grounds that it wasn’t satisfied by company’s level of respect for human rights, specifically its treatment of tribal people in Eastern India who would be displaced by a proposed mining project.

Akira Mori & family

$6.3 billion

Japan

He and brother Minoru, also a billionaire, inherited initial fortune from father but went their separate ways unable to agree on a business strategy. With his part has continued to build his Mori Trust, owner of office buildings, apartment blocks and hotels in high-rent districts of Tokyo.

Masayoshi Son

$5.9 billion

Japan

Controls Internet and telecom firm SoftBank. Its mobile phone unit, which sells popular iPhones in Japan, outpacing rivals for new subscribers. Sold $2 billion worth of bonds to pay off some of its $21 billion in debt

Joseph Lau

$5.8 billion

Hong Kong

One of Hong Kong’s biggest landlords kept occupancy rates above 90% at his Chinese Estates despite downturn; doing even better amid property rebound. Launched first development in Chengdu.

Terry Gou

$5.5 billion

Taiwan

Chairman of Hon Hai Precision Industry, one of world’s largest contract electronics manufacturers. Started company with $7,500 in 1974

Kunio Busujima & family

$5.4 billion

Japan

Founder of Sankyo, the pachinko gambling-machine maker, now run by his son Hideyuki. Newest units feature comic book characters and pop diva Kumi Koda.

How To Sniff Out A Liar

Melanie Lindner, 05.13.09, 04:40 PM EDT

Everyone stretches the truth a little.

Here’s what to look for

(and how not to get found out).

There are plenty of dangerously skilled liars–and not just the Bernie Madoffs and Jeffrey Skillings of the world. Indeed, under the right (or wrong) circumstances, we’re all guilty fibbers.

According to an oft-cited 1996 University of Virginia study led by psychologist Bella DePaulo, lying is part of the human condition. Over the course of one week, DePaulo and her colleagues asked 147 participants, aged 18 to 71, to record in a diary all of their social interactions and all of the lies they told during them. On average, each person lied just over 10 times, and only seven participants claimed to have been completely honest

To be fair, most of the time we’re just trying to be nice. (When your wife asks if you enjoyed the dinner she cooked, most husbands who know what’s good for them say, “It was delicious.”) Such “false positive” lies are delivered 10 to 20 times more often than spurious denials of culpability, according to DePaulo’s research. Other studies show that men and women lie with equal frequency, though women are more likely to lie to make other people feel good, while men tend to lie to make themselves look better. As for who we hoodwink, “we lie less frequently to our significant others because we’re more invested in those relationships,” says Jeffrey Hancock, associate professor of communication at Cornell University.

The question is: How to know when someone’s selling you swampland in Florida?

Traditional polygraph tests, around in some form or fashion since the early 1900s, use sensors to detect fluctuations in blood pressure, pulse, respiration and sweat in response to probing questions. Two problems with polygraphs: First, they only work about 80% of the time, according to the American Polygraph Association. Second, it’s not like we are going to carry all that hardware to a business meeting or a bar. And that means relying on our own very limited vigilance.

“Although there are some ways in which liars behave differently from truth-tellers, there are no perfectly reliable cues to deception,” admits DePaulo, author of more than a dozen deception studies. “Cues to deception differ according to factors such as the type of lie and the motivation for getting away with it.”

While there is no surefire on-the-spot way to sniff out dissemblers, there are some helpful tactics for uncovering untruths.

Liars often give short or one-word responses to questions, while truth tellers are more likely to flesh out their answers. According to a 2003 study by DePaulo, a liar provides fewer details and uses fewer words than an honest person, and talks for a smaller percentage of the conversation.

Skilled liars don’t break a sweat, but the rest of us get a little fidgety. Four possible giveaways: shifty eyes, higher vocal pitch, perspiration and heavier breathing. Of course, not everyone who doesn’t meet your gaze is a liar.

“Certain behavioral traits, like averting eye contact, could be cultural and not indicative of a liar,” says Joseph Buckley, president of John E. Reid & Associates, which has provided interview and interrogation training to more than 500,000 law enforcement agents to date. The company is also the creator of the Reid Technique, a nine-step interrogation process employed by many U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Liars are often reluctant to admit ordinary storytelling mistakes. When honest people tell stories, they may realize partway through that they left out some details and would unselfconsciously backtrack to fill in holes. They also may realize a previous statement wasn’t quite right, and go back and explain further. Liars, on the other hand, “are worried that someone might catch them in a lie and are reluctant to admit to such ordinary imperfections,” says DePaulo.

Yet another clue: imprecise pronouns. To psychologically distance themselves from a lie, people often pepper their tales with second- and third-person pronouns like “you,” “we” and “they,” says Hancock. Liars are also more likely to ask that questions be repeated and begin responses with phrases like, “to tell you the truth,” and “to be perfectly honest,” says Reid.

When telling the truth, people often make hand gestures to the rhythm of their speech. Hands emphasize points or phrases–a natural and compelling technique when they actually believe the points they’re making. The less certain will keep gesticulations in check, says Hancock.

The mode of communication matters too. Studies show that we are less likely to lie face-to-face than over the phone or the Web. In one week-long study of 30 college students, Hancock observed that the phone was the weapon of choice, enabling 37% of all the lies, versus 27% during face-to-face exchanges, 21% using Instant Messaging and just 14% via e-mail.

Will we ever come clean? Not likely. Guilty stomach knots aside, the subjects in DePaulo’s study confessed that they would tell 75% of the lies again if given the opportunity. Chances are, they’d get away with it.

US posts online tips on how

to be prepared in case

of a zombie apocalypse

May 20, 2011 – 11:12AM

A blog post by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that mentions a “zombie apocalypse” as a lighthearted way to get Americans to read about preparing for hurricanes drove so much traffic that it crashed the website, the agency said.

The Zombie Apocalypse campaign is a social media effort by the CDC’s Public Health and Preparedness center to spread the word about the June 1 start of hurricane season.

The CDC is a U.S. federal government health agency based in Atlanta.

“There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for,” the blog post begins. “Take a zombie apocalypse for example. … You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.”

The blog appeared just days before May 21, when an evangelical broadcaster in California has predicted “Judgment Day” will mark the end of the world.

“If you prepare for the zombie apocalypse, you’ll be prepared for all hazards,” CDC spokesman Dave Daigle told Reuters.

The word zombie comes from voodoo practice of spirit possession in which victims are stripped of consciousness.

Zombies became popular culture references after the success of George Romero’s 1968 horror film “Night of the Living Dead” where flesh-eating zombies roam the eastern seaboard in the aftermath of radioactive contamination.

Daigle said that a typical CDC blog post might get between 1,000 and 3,000 hits. The most traffic on record had been a post that saw around 10,000 visits.

By the end of Wednesday, with servers down, the page had 60,000. By Thursday, it was a trending topic on Twitter.

The campaign was designed to reach a young, media-savvy demographic that the CDC had not been able to capture previously, Daigle said.

Increased traffic did not affect the main CDC website.

Reuters

Sourced & publishd by Henry Sapiecha


Newest Aussie high-tech

tycoon’s multimillion-dollar deal

Firemint founder Rob Murray.Firemint founder Rob Murray.

Asher Moses

May 4, 2011 – 5:52PM

Robert Murray made his popular Flight Control game for the iPhone and iPad in three weeks at a cost of $50,000. He’s now Australia’s newest high-tech millionaire after selling his company to US game giant Electronic Arts for an estimated $20-$40 million.

Separately, an Australian surfer living in London, Phillip McGriskin, 37, sold his online payments company Envoy Services for £70 million ($107 million) to WorldPay this week, netting himself £7 million on his personal stake.

Murray’s Melbourne-based Firemint, which now has about 60 employees, produces some of the most popular mobile games including Flight Control, Real Racing and Puzzle Quest. In announcing its acquisition, Electronic Arts said the Firemint team was “remarkable for its critical and commercial success”.

Advertisement: Story continues below

A screenshot of Firemint's flagship game, Flight Control.A screenshot of Firemint’s flagship game, Flight Control.

Electronic Arts and Firemint have so far refused to disclose the financial terms of the deal, which is expected to close in four weeks. Murray, 37, was unavailable for an interview today.

But in a blog posted late Wednesday evening, Murray said it was “business as usual” and that the team of 60 would remain in Australia and that he would continue to run the company. “We reckon that we make some pretty awesome games at Firemint and we reckon we know how to continue making them,” Murray said.

A source with knowledge of Firemint’s sales said the company garnered $10 million in revenue a year and, based on this, tech industry investors believe the sale price would have been between $20 and $40 million.

For Flight Control alone, in January last year Firemint announced it had sold 2 million copies at $1.19 a piece.

A separate source with links to a major venture capital firm that invests in technology companies estimated the company sold for between $25 and $100 million.

“They’ve got 60 people so they’d be costing at least $150,000 a head for sure. If there’s 60 of them, that probably means they’re spending $9 million a year at least in costs; if you assume that they’re making at least $9 million a year in revenue, even just on a revenue multiple of four or five times you imagine it’s somewhere between $25 and $100 million, depending on how crazy Electronic Arts were for it,” the source said.

“Even if you’re making $5 million a year in revenue you’re going to get $25 million.”

Murray started Firemint in 1999 after he graduated from the University of Queensland with an engineering degree. He initially did programming work for other firms until he discovered the iPhone and its lucrative app store.

The Firemint acquisition caps off a stellar 12 months for Australian technology entrepreneurs.

In July last year, Australian tech whiz Andrew Lacy made millions after selling his game app start-up Tapulous – responsible for the hit Tap Tap Revenges series – to Disney. He had previously been sleeping on the couch of another Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

The same month, Australian enterprise software makers Atlassian, whose founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquahar met at the University of New South Wales, raised $US60 million after selling a minority stake to a large US venture capital firm. They started the company in a Sydney garage on a $10,000 credit card debt.

The same US venture capital firm, Accel, invested between $70 and $110 million in the Australian online foreign exchange payments service OzForex in November.

Last month, Accel also invested $35 million in the Australian crowdsourced design site 99designs.

This month, it was revealed that online discounts giant Groupon acquired Melbourne-based group buying site Crowdmass for an undisclosed sum. It comes after Yahoo7 in January acquired group buying site Spreets.

“It’s awesome for the Australian industry – it’s a great validation of the technology we’ve built. If you look at the five or six major deals over the last 12 months, they’re all at least eight figures, probably some of them into the nine figures,” Cannon-Brookes said.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

The 5 cheekiest Con Artists

of All Time

By: Kristi Harrison

February 13, 2008 567,830 views

Let’s give the devils their due. Yeah, they’ve screwed over thousands of innocent people. But some of them had balls the size of hot air balloons and for that, we must salute them.

#5.
Charles Ponzi

Charles ‘The Ponz’ Ponzi is, quite simply, one of the greatest swindlers in American history. The originator and copyright holder of the piece de resistance of his career, the “Ponzi Scheme,” Ponzi also boasted old-timey movie star looks and a smirk that could charm the pants off of the Pope.

Much like Vito Corleone, Ponzi came to America as an impoverished Italian immigrant. Also like Vito Corleone, Ponzi decided early in the game that his many talents should not be squandered working in a opium pipe-making factory, or wherever they sent the Italians to work back then. Keep in mind that the man had already served time in Canada, hiding it from his family by telling them he had gotten a job there. Once he was out and in the states, he created his own little plan for living the good life.

The deal was, back then you could get these coupons that could be redeemed for stamps in other countries. Ponzi noticed that back in Italy these coupons cost way less than the stamps in America. So, he figured it was still 1918 and there were a lot of retarded people around, and that he could buy like a billion of those coupons in Italy and then redeem them for the stamps here. He made 400 percent profit on each transaction, and didn’t produce a damned thing.

Ponzi thought, well, shit, why isn’t everybody doing this? So this smooth operator convinced thousands of people to invest in his totally legit business, the Securities Exchange Company, and by 1920 was making $250,000 a day.

Audacity Factor:
Remember those coupons Ponzi was supposed to be buying with all this investor money? Yeah, he wasn’t. There wasn’t even a thousandth as many of the coupons in existence as the investors had given him the money to buy. He was basically just taking the investor’s money, piling it up and swimming around in it like Scrooge McDuck. It was estimated that millions of dollars had passed through his hands and he had nothing to show for them but his awesome mustache.

Still, when an angry crowd of investors gathered outside his office, he walked right out there, smiled, gave them some money and offered coffee. That’s the kind of guy he was.

He was eventually sentenced to prison, at which point he jumped bail, moved to Florida and went right back to scamming. When the cops came for him, he changed his appearance, stowed away on a boat and tried to leave the country. Finally, he got caught and went to jail.

The thing is, before that whole mess, Ponzi had come up with another idea. Back in 1918 he had tried to publish this book of business listings, where the businesses would pay to get listed and then people would use the listing to decide where to shop. Everyone told him the idea was retarded and he dropped it, plunging into a life of fraud instead. Later, somebody else would get rich on a thing called “The Yellow Pages.”

#4.
Benny Hinn

For you poor unfortunates uneducated in the ways of evangelical fundamentalism, Benny Hinn may be off your radar. Which is too bad. Because Benny Hinn is king of the Muppet-Showesque monstrosities known as faith healers. He’s so good, that he makes you forget about their supposed real king, What’s His Name of Nazareth. “So what?,” you may ask. “So he’s a faith-healing evangelical–I’ve got dozens of those under my bed. What’s the big deal?”

Mr. Hinn has built his ministry on a few tenets. One is his gift of prophecy. Here are just a few of his better known predictions:

God will kill all the homosexuals by fire;
Castro will die in the 1990s;
An earthquake would destroy the American east coast, also in the 1990s;
JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF was going to make a personal appearance at Hinn’s African crusade.

Needless to say, Jesus had a great deal going on that day and couldn’t make it. Followers have still donated millions to Hinn, who lives in a $10 million house and drives a Mercedes SUV. Apparently there’s, like, some kind of law against asking people to donate money to God and then buying bling with it instead, because the Senate Committee on Finance launched an investigation late last year. If they have hearings it’ll be interesting to see if Jesus makes an appearance.

It takes a special kind of guy to make this list. False prophesies and wicked combovers just aren’t going to cut it. But Hinn is no ordinary minion of Satan. Observe:

As you can see, Hinn performs his miracles by slapping old people to the ground, and then apparently doing a Jedi force-push against those who come to their aid. Fat people, tiny deaf orphan children, epileptic mulleted types, anyone is fair game for the wrath of Hinn, who then swaggers around those passed out fools like Ali demanding a rematch.

Audacity Factor:
In 2006 this pimp sent out this letter to his followers:

… we have recently taken delivery on our Gulfstream G4SP plane, which we call Dove One. I have enclosed a beautiful photo-filled brochure to explain more about this incredible ministry tool that will increase the scope of our abilities to preach the Gospel around the globe. Now we must pay the remainder of the down payment, and I am asking the Lord Jesus to speak to 6,000 of my precious partners to sow a seed of $1,000 in the next ninety days. And I am praying, even as I write this letter, that you will be one of them!

Walking may have been good enough for Jesus Christ, but it’s not good enough for Benny Hinn. Somebody, please, buy this man a Dove One. Better yet, go ahead and purchase him a yacht, a subway line, the Orient Express, some rickshaws and a few of those elephants domesticated for human transportation. ANYTHING to get his egregious face-slapping ministry to the people.

Hell, maybe he’s not a con man after all. Watch that video, the man’s worth every penny.

#3.
The Fox Sisters

Don’t let the sexy name fool you. Kate, Margaret and Leah Fox were leading proponents of the Spiritualist Movement of the 19th Century, their primary qualification for that job being that they were completely full of shit.

The younger two, Kate and Margaret, were only 10 and 12 when they convinced their idiot parents they could talk with a household ghost through a system of knocks and raps. The girls would snap their fingers and the ghosts would respond, much to the amazement of all the dumbasses who populated the world in the 19th century.

By the time big sister Leah got in the act, the three tricky Foxs had earned an international reputation as ghost-talkers and were making epic amounts of bucks with their other-worldly seances. Unfortunately, the sisters also gained a thirst for the hooch in their old age and were eventually exposed as fraudulent drunks who were using their toes to simulate the sounds from the great beyond, a trick that, in retrospect, doesn’t seem it should have fooled the family dog.

Audacity Factor:
Knuckle cracking? Really? Anyone who makes their living by popping appendages and is not a prostitute, side-show freak or chiropractor, deserves some mad props. And they didn’t just say, “Hey y’all? You hear that? I bet the house is settling or something.” No. These girls went through the trouble of creating a systematic knuckle cracking language to communicate with their pretend spirits … and kept it up for almost 40 freaking years. A scientist (William Crookes) studied the sisters and declared them to be the real deal.

Well, we at Cracked have studied the people in the 19th century and declared them all to be mildly retarded.

One of the sisters eventually came clean when a reporter offered them $1,500 in beer money to spill the secret. The money was quickly pissed away and all three of the sisters died in poverty and were buried in pauper’s graves. Even Charles Dickens couldn’t have imagined a better ending for the Fox Sisters.

#2.
Gregor MacGregor

Gregor MacGregor made his fortune and reputation in the early 1800s when he convinced hundreds of investors that he was the prince of the fictional country of Poyois. Not only did Gregor MacGregor gain the trust and hard-earned pounds of his eager would-be colonists, he also created a guidebook detailing the geography and abundant natural resources of his island off the coast of Honduras.

By the time his 250 investors had sailed to the vacant patch of water where their island should have been, MacGregor was already rounding up his next group of colonists, this time from France. Undeterred by the eventual deaths of 200 of his first settlers, MacGregor went through the trouble of drafting a Poyois constitution naming himself as head of the republic. Even after his trial and conviction for fraud, this magnificent man continued selling non-existent land and stock to European nobility.

Audacity Factor:
The real downfall of Jim Jones and Koresh and those Heaven’s Gate fools was that they believed what they were peddling. Not Prince Gregor MacRadical. After the few survivors made it back from their boat trip to nowhere, most still couldn’t believe MacGregor had lied to them, standing up for him in the papers and basically blaming the island for not being there. They simply could not comprehend that any one man could have balls that huge. They were wrong.

#1.
Frank Abagnale

By the age today’s emo kids are tripping over their first curbs on account of the hair in their eyes and the loss of circulation from their too-tight pants, Mr. Abagnale had collected over $40,000 from various banks across New York City. By the time some of you were hoping to unlatch your first bra, and for most of you, much much sooner, the man had faked his way as a university professor, lawyer, pilot and doctor. Pretty much all the occupations Cracked writers and readers are barred from entering.

By the time you and I were sleeping through our summers at home from college, whining about how boring our hometowns were and “Why can’t you stay off my case, I’M ON VACATION,” Frank Abagnale had already been caught by French police, served jail time in France and Sweden, was extradited to the United States, escaped from a moving damned airplane and nearly orchestrated a perfect getaway.

That’s the sort of thing that inspires Hollywood to make movies about you, starring Leo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.

Audacity Factor:
Once Abagnale was imprisoned, he convinced his guards that he was actually an undercover prison inspector and that he needed the privilege of having an unsupervised meeting with his FBI agent contact. Yeah, they bought it.

After finally serving five years in prison, Abagnale was released if he cooperated with the government in detecting fraud. Not one to miss a golden opportunity, he turned his specialized knowledge into a legitimate money-making machine, opening a wildly successful fraud consultation business.

This one has a happy ending, as once his businesses took off, he used his honestly-earned millions to repay those he defrauded over the years. Of course, there’s always the chance that this whole phase of his life is also a scam somehow, one so convoluted that the world won’t figure it out until Abagnale is leaving orbit in a spaceship full of all of the world’s gold.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha