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Asia’s richest man throws star-studded bash for son’s prenuptials

RELIANCE GROUP VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                From right to left: Billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani, Anant Ambani, Paula Hurd, and Bill Gates posing for a photograph at a pre-wedding bash of Mukesh Ambani’s son Anant in Jamnagar, India, Saturday.
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RELIANCE GROUP VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

From right to left: Billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani, Anant Ambani, Paula Hurd, and Bill Gates posing for a photograph at a pre-wedding bash of Mukesh Ambani’s son Anant in Jamnagar, India, Saturday.

RELIANCE GROUP VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan posing for a photograph at a pre-wedding bash of Mukesh Ambani’s son Anant Ambani in Jamnagar, India, Saturday.
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RELIANCE GROUP VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan posing for a photograph at a pre-wedding bash of Mukesh Ambani’s son Anant Ambani in Jamnagar, India, Saturday.

RELIANCE GROUP VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                From right to left: Billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani, Anant Ambani, Paula Hurd, and Bill Gates posing for a photograph at a pre-wedding bash of Mukesh Ambani’s son Anant in Jamnagar, India, Saturday.
RELIANCE GROUP VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan posing for a photograph at a pre-wedding bash of Mukesh Ambani’s son Anant Ambani in Jamnagar, India, Saturday.

NEW DELHI >> What happens when the son of Asia’s richest man is about to get married?

His father throws a three-day prenuptial bash four months before the actual ceremony.

Tycoons from around the world, heads of state, as well as Hollywood and Bollywood stars descended on the small western Indian city of Jamnagar on Friday where billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani is kickstarting a big fat wedding celebration for his youngest son.

The nearly 1,200-person guest list includes pop superstar Rihanna, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Sunder Pichai, Ivanka Trump and Bollywood celebrity Shah Rukh Khan.

All eyes are on Anant Ambani, 28, and his long-time girlfriend Radhika Merchant, 29, who will tie the knot in July. Radhika is the daughter of Viren Merchant, CEO of Encore Healthcare Pvt. Ltd., and entrepreneur Shaila Merchant.

Such festivities keep up with the Ambani family’s tradition of lavish and over-the-top parties while displaying the Indian billionaire’s economic and political clout

Here is everything you need to know about the family and the bash that captivated the country.

WHO IS MUKESH AMBANI?

Mukesh Ambani, 66, is currently the world’s 10th richest man with a net worth of $115bn, according to Forbes. He is also the richest person in Asia.

His Reliance Industries is a massive conglomerate, reporting over $100 billion in annual revenue, with interests ranging from petrochemicals, and oil and gas to telecoms and retail.

Under Ambani’s leadership, Reliance — founded by his father in 1966 — sparked a telecom price war with the launch of the 4G phone and broadband service Jio in 2016. Today, it has more than 420 million subscribers and offers 5G services. Earlier this week, Disney struck an $8.5bn deal to merge its India business with Ambani’s Reliance Industries, forming a new media giant.

The Ambani family owns, among other assets, a 27-story private apartment building, named Antila, worth $1 billion in Mumbai. It has three helipads, a 160-car garage, a private movie theater, a swimming pool, and a fitness center.

Ambani’s critics say his company has flourished mainly because of political connections during the Congress governments in the 1970s and 80s and subsequently under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule after 2014. They say “crony capitalism” in India has helped certain corporations, such as Ambani’s, thrive.

Mukesh Ambani, 66, has started passing the torch to his two sons and daughter. The oldest son, Akash Ambani, is now chairperson of Reliance Jio; his daughter, Isha, oversees retail; and the youngest, Anant — who will wed in July— has been inducted into the new energy business.

DO YOU WANT A PARTY LIKE NO OTHER? THE AMBANIS HAVE YOUR BACK

Extravagant parties are the Ambanis’ specialty.

In 2018, when his daughter married, Ambani made the headlines because of the grand celebrations, with pop sensation Beyoncé performing at the pre-wedding festivities. At the time, Former U.S. Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were among those who rubbed shoulders with Indian celebrities and Bollywood stars in the western Indian city of Udaipur.

Later that year, the happy couple, Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal, officially celebrated their engagement overlooking the picturesque Lake Como in Italy. In December 2018, they got married at the Ambani residence in Mumbai.

WHAT IS SO FASCINATING ABOUT THE PRE-WEDDING SHINDIG?

The three-day pre-wedding bash offers a glimpse of the opulence expected at the July wedding.

The Ambanis are celebrating it at the family’s hometown of Jamnagar — a city of around 600,000 in a near-desert part of Gujarat state — where they also have the business’ main oil refinery.

Guests will don jungle-themed outfits to visit an animal rescue center run by the groom-to-be, Anant. Known as “Vantara,” or “Star Of The Forest,” the 3,000-acre (about 1,200-hectare) center houses abused, injured and endangered animals, particularly elephants.

The invitation also says guests will start each day with a new dress code, mood boards and an army of hair stylists, makeup artists and Indian wear designers at their hotel to help them prepare.

There will also be traditional Hindu ceremonies in a temple complex.

The guests, many arriving by chartered planes, will be served 500 dishes created by around 100 chefs.

The guest list also includes Mohammed Bin Jassim al Thani, the prime minister of Qatar; Stephen Harper, former Canadian prime minister; and Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema.

On Wednesday, the Ambani family organized a community food service for 51,000 people living in nearby villages.

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