09. NAGUIB SAWIRIS
net worth: 3.9 billion dollars
Naguib Sawiris captured world headlines in 2015, when he offered to buy an island from Greece or Italy to settle refugees fleeing the war in Syria. “I am serious with my intentions,” he told FORBES. Neither country took up his offer. Sawiris, who built his fortune in telecom, announced in December 2016 he was stepping down as CEO of Cairo-based Orascom Telecom Media & Technology (OTMT).
The company’s efforts to acquire an investment bank in March 2016 were stymied by Egypt’s financial regulators, who accused OTMT of breaches pertaining to a five-year-old demerger of telecom assets. OTMT claims that the government has as a result hampered its ability to grow. In 2015, it exited the cell phone business in Egypt when it sold its stake in Mobinil to France’s Orange.
In North Korea, OTMT operates Koryolink, the country’s only 3G mobile telecom firm, but lost financial control over the operator due to the government’s maneuvers. Since 2013, Sawiris has built major stakes in gold mining companies that operate in Canada, Australia and Africa.