By Ayo Akinfe
(1) Andrew Mellon was born into the right era for a steel industrialist like him – the mid 19th century. His father was a successful banker who introduced him to the world of business. It wasn’t long before he got into business in banking, before building on his own success by branching into the steel industry.
(2) Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach is not just remembered for his incredibly German name. He’s remembered for something much much worse. He was the head of the famous Krupp company, which was founded by his family 400 years ago. The company specialises in heavy industry, especially steel. In the early 20th century, the Krupp family had a huge monopoly on manufacturing tanks and U-boats and by the second world war they were still in that business. They supported the Nazi war machine by providing such weapons and vehicles through the war.
(3) William Henry Moore was a judge and financier in the late 19th and early 20th century. He also held an important role in the Steel industry, as director of several companies. Along with JP Morgan, he took over the famous Carnegie Steel Company and merged it into the much larger US Steel Company that’s still in operation today. He also held controlling shares in the American Bridge Company, American Wire & Steel Company, Federal Steel Company, Lake Superior Consolidated Iron Mines and the National Tube Company.
(4) JP Morgan is a fairly recognisable name today and for good reason. He had complete dominance over corporate acquisitions around the year 1900. He was heavily involved in the steel industry, as he seemingly was in every other industry. If there was money to be made, JP Morgan knew something about it. He was an important player in the founding of the US Steel company. He loved heavy industries.
(5) Sanjeev Gupta is one o the most gifted steel tycoons alive today. He founded his steel company Liberty House, which has revenue in the billions each year. He founded it while he was a student at the University of Cambridge and it rapidly grew. He made headlines in the UK when it was revealed he is considering buying out a significant chunk of the British steel industry. He is known for purchasing smaller steel companies all over the world.
(6) Lakshmi Mittal is also among the Indian steel tycoons based in Great Britain. He’s the chief executive of the world’s biggest steel company, with a net worth of about $8.8bn.
(7) Henry Clay Frick rode the wave of American industrialisation to become strikingly wealthy by the end of the Victorian era. Andrew Mellon was a long-time friend of the Frick family, so Henry Frick went into business with him. He owned 80% of the business even know Mellon initially funded the company.
(8) Jamsetji Tata founded Tata Steel, which is now the biggest Indian corporation and an international force. He is seen as the father of all Indian heavy industries which have seen it become the most rapidly growing economy in the world right now. He was born in 1839 to a family of humble priests. He purchased a bankrupt oil mill when he was an adult and brought it back to profitability. From there, he expanded into steel. By the time of his death in 1904, he had a net worth of £1m, which is close to £100m in today’s money.
(9) JRD Tata became India’s first ever licenced pilot. He founded Air India, Tata Tea, Tata Motors, Titan industries and several other companies. He died with a fortune of $100m in the 1990s.
(10) Born in Scotland, Andrew Carnegie was one of a handful of industrialists who shaped modern America. He spent the first half of his life gaining great wealth and the second half giving the vast majority of it away. He was behind the growth of American steel companies more than anyone else. He built Carnegie Steel Company, which he sold in 1901 for $480m. That’s not even inflation adjusted. No one before him had ever given so much to charity or inspired so many more to do so.
What point am I trying to make here? The economies of countries are founded on the growth of heavy industry and manufacturing.
Worldwide, every industrialised country has a Mr Steel, a Mr Coal, a Mr Railway, a Mr Cereal, a Mr Bus, a Mr Shipping, etc. In Nigeria, the only person I would rate this highly is Alhassan Dantata, Mr Groundnuts, the man who came up with the idea of the Kano groundnut pyramids.
Louis Ojukwu was great too but he did not manufacture his products. Maybe Aliko Dangote might end up becoming one of the world’s greatest industrialist as his cement business expands.
We are a nation of consumers and then naively expect the government to solve all our problems. Very few wealthy Nigerians manufacture anything and then we wonder why we do not generate enough wealth to fund a reasonable annual budget.