Lakshmi Mittal

Maybe it's a sign that our obsession with real estate is getting out of control when a man leaps into the public consciousness by purchasing an enormous house. But that's exactly what happened to Indian-born Lakshmi Mittal when, in 2004, he bought 18/19 Kensington Palace Gardens in London from Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone. Mittal, 56, paid $128 million for the 6,400-square-meter, 12-bedroom mansion, a world-record sales price for a house at the time. Overnight, the publicity transformed Mittal from little-known industrialist to a symbol of India's emergence as a global economic power.

Yet what really cements Mittal's...

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