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Vijay Mallya: A billion dreams

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From San Francisco Bay to the Monte Carlo harbor, Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya travels in style to preside over his far flung empire-extending from northern California to Europe and all the way to home base in India. He is the force behind ...

From San Francisco Bay to the Monte Carlo harbor, Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya travels in style to preside over his far flung empire-extending from northern California to Europe and all the way to home base in India.

He is the force behind Force India Formula One team, an ambitious undertaking to put the second most populous nation on earth on the face of international motor racing.

Mallya is no stranger to Formula One. In the 90s he sponsored the Benetton team through his Kingfisher beer brand, and that name is now flying high as a new Indian airline.

Mallya's interest in motor racing took off at an old airfield in Calcutta where he would watch British expatriates indulge in their passion for motor racing.

Family's fortune was fermented by Vittal Mallya's investment in United Breweries. But it was his son who re-launched the Kingfisher brand after stumbling upon a label of Kingfisher Beer, a century old name but no longer in production.

The son, Mallya, at age 27, took control of the business when his father, son of an Indian Army doctor, passed away in 1983. The young California educated Chairman let the good times roll, but worked equally hard to make United Breweries one of the largest liquor companies in the world. Last year Forbes magazine ranked him 664th on the list of world's billionaires with estimated net worth of $1.5b.

His business interests range from Kingfisher Airlines, a new venture into commercial aviation with big plans as the company has placed orders for the A380 -- new bigger than Boeing 747 Airbus model, information technology and real estate to ownership of football, cricket and Formula 1 teams. Speaking of horsepower he also owns a stud farm in his native land.

One of his proudest possessions is the sword which once belonged to Indian Emperor Tipu Sultan. This was brought back to India after Mallya paid close to $300,000 for it at an auction in England.

After enduring a tough "welcome to Formula One" maiden season, Mallya has made major changes to his team. First casualties were the designer, the never-at-home-anywhere, Mike Gascoyne and whom the team principal referred to in the pit lane as Chavsky, Colin Kolles, the Romanian-born German based dentist who first appeared in F1 when the Jordan team was morphed into Midland, courtesy of Russian-born Canadian high roller Alex Schnaider.

Second was the termination of deal with Ferrari for the supply of engines. New technical partner is McLaren and will provide, in addition to the new Force India CEO Simon Roberts, more than motors. The five-deal also calls for supply of McLaren KERS system and transmission.

Mallya is also a member of the Indian parliament and a major mover and shaker in Indian motorsports. He was involved in the merging of two separate motorsport federations and the Indian Grand Prix which is scheduled for 2011 in the capital city, Delhi.

From the land of Taj Mahal and Sitar, his goal is to find among his billion countrymen the next Schumacher or Senna. His lavish parties on the "Empress of India" luxury yacht are what Bernie Ecclestone calls the "new standard".

As the world financial and motorsport landscape changes, Vijay Mallya moves ahead with an ever-expanding empire. A true Maharajah of Motorsports.

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