On 2 February, BBC World News launches a new six-part series, Changing Fortunes, which explores the new patterns of wealth that have emerged over the last two decades. The fall of the Soviet Union, the liberalization of India and the opening of China have brought vast new markets into the global economy. The resulting commodities boom has created an explosion of wealth from Brazil to Africa and the rapid development of the internet continues to generate new fortunes.
Wealth is changing hands and crossing continents. As a result, the rich are becoming younger, more female and less Western.
From the United States, to Brazil, Europe, Africa, India and China – the series meets some of the innovators, entrepreneurs and business success stories whose fortunes offer a window into our rapidly changing world.
In the series premiere, we explore how the world’s economic centre of gravity is moving inexorably from West to East. But, despite phenomenal growth in China and India, when it comes to creating businesses and brands with global scale, the United States remains supreme.
The first episode profiles Bobbi Brown, Founder and CEO of cosmetic brand Bobbi Brown; Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, an Indian investor and trader; and Zhang Yue, CEO and founder of sustainable air conditioning manufacturer, Broad Group.
A Chicago native, Brown personifies the American Dream. She decided to pursue her passion for make-up after dropping out of University. In the 1980’s, she spotted a niche in the market for a more natural colour palette and one that accommodated the increasing number of black actors that were beginning to land more roles in the film industry. Over twenty years later, Bobbi Brown is an international brand, owned by Estée Lauder, and worth almost $1 billion.
Brown says: “The American Dream to me is certainly alive even though there are people thinking that, you know, this is a very hard financial time. Those times are the times when you press the reset button and say, now what?”
Chinese entrepreneur Zhang Yue founded the Broad Group in 1988, a world leader in the manufacture of air conditioning systems that use diesel or natural gas instead of electricity to cool office buildings. His personal fortune is estimated at $850 million.
Zhang Yue has embraced environmentalism and is using his wealth to build his own town, Broad Town, a monument to his idealism and Utopian outlook. It has its own pyramid, a replica French chateau and grounds filled with statues of inspirational figures from history. He says: “If you live and work in a moral way, it’ll make you happy and at peace. If you have the noblest morality, the comfort you get is also the noblest and you have a kind of deep satisfaction which is hard to describe. Maybe you could call it happiness.”
Rakesh Jhunjhunwala has been dubbed India’s Warren Buffet. Born in Mumbai, to a lower middle class family, he has made a series of canny investments that mirror the growth of the Indian economy over the last twenty years. He predicted that rising incomes would drive up demand for luxury goods. It did. Jhunjhunwala’s $10 million investment into an Indian owned watch and jewellery manufacturer, Titan, is now worth approximately $500 million.
Jhunjhunwala says: “The wealth doesn’t really make much difference. I wear the same shirts, drink the same whiskies, smoke the same cigarettes and I don’t have any rich friends, at least comparably rich. But it is the process – I would say the hunt is more interesting than the kill.”
Changing Fortunes, broadcast in association with Coutts, will TX weekly on BBC World News from 2 Feb on Saturdays at 07.00am; 09:00pm, and Sundays at 03:00pm