People

Ion Tiriac and his Wealth

5 min read
Image Credits – unsplash.com

Ion Tiriac has had a remarkable life. Having grown up under the most authoritarian country of the Soviet bloc, he became a professional tennis player and was a very famous person in his own country. However, extreme wealth accumulation would have to wait until the end of communism in Romania in 1989. This is a breakdown of Ion Tiriac’s wealth and the story of how he ended in the position he is in today.

Having reached the age of 81 he is now the president of the Romanian Tennis Federation. He also played ice hockey for Romania before turning to tennis. Of course, in those days it was illegal for any Romanian to play in the N.H.L. in northern America so tennis became a way of earning a decent living. At the time he turned professional in the 1960s,  Australia was the most dominant nation in tennis but Tiriac was the first to challenge this domination from behind the Iron Curtain. In 1970 he won the French Open men’s doubles title so obviously he could play at the highest level. He won 22 professional tournaments and reached the highest rank of 19 in 1979 which is respectable but it should be remembered he was overshadowed by Illie ‘’Nasty’’ Nastase.

Having been born in Transylvania not surprisingly he was given the nickname ‘’Count Dracula’’. He started his sporting life as a table tennis player before switching to ice hockey. He was also the first man to play tennis in a professional tournament against a woman. He defeated Abigail Maynard 6-0 6-0 in what has become a long forgotten footnote. Another thing that is forgotten about him is that he represented Romania in ice hockey at the Winter Olympics in 1964.

An underestimated aspect of his personality is his charisma and with his drooping mustache, he always had the air of a man who was keen to make a deal. So these factors drew him into the world of business and from there his career has followed a very successful path. It is remarkable that someone who grew up under a staunchly communist regime adapted so well to succeed in a capitalist economy.

Of course the traditional route for a lot of ex-tennis professionals is to become a manager and a coach to the best players. This is what Ion Tiriac did, becoming involved in the careers of Mary Joe Fernandez, Marat Safin, Goran Ivanisevic, and Boris Becker. This period ran from his retirement in 1979 until the mid-’90s and he could always be seen at the big tournaments. From 1998 to 2004 he was president of Romania’s Olympic and Sports Committee.

The big step into the world of business began when he started to organize tennis tournaments. The most notable of these is a tournament he organized in Germany which no longer takes place but more interestingly he hosts a tournament called the Madrid Open which is co-ed. This is one of the few non-Grand Slam tournaments that have men and women playing in the same tournament. Tennis now only occupies 5% of his portfolio. It was in West Germany in the 1980’s where he got his start and one of the first ventures was in a T.V. advertisement that he appeared in with Bob Uecker at that time for Miller Lite.

Ion Tiriac has the distinction of starting the first private bank in Romania in 1990. This was straight after the fall of Nicolae Ceaușescu în 1989 and the bank is called Banca Tiriac. With his various interests in airlines, car dealerships, retail, and insurance he is now reckoned to be worth $1.2 billion USD. He is now regarded as the richest person in Romania. Since his wealth was reckoned to stand at $1 billion USD ten years ago, he has grown his net worth by 20% over the last 10 years. This means he is still actively involved as a businessman and he is still intent on building his wealth. It is surprising to note that he was counted as the richest sportsperson in the world for this reason, even though he made most of his money outside of tennis. Michael Jordan has taken over this spot but whether Ion Tiriac cares about this point is mute. At one stage his net worth was reckoned to be around $2 billion USD but those days are over.

The list of his businesses is extensive and covers a broad range. Having played in an era where huge riches were not yet possible to acquire, it is remarkable how much money he has acquired. The list is as follows: Tiriac Holdings, Tiriac AIR, HVB Tiriac Bank, Allianz-Tiriac Asigurari Romania, Tiriac Auto, Tiriac Leasing, Tir Travel and as well as that he owns the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open. So his name is extremely well-known and carries huge value in itself which leads to even greater success.

It is well known that he loves buying cars and two of his known possessions are the two Rolls-Royce Phantom IV cars that are available to be viewed by the public. About 350 cars are on permanent display and they have been on display since 2015. Some of the cars on display were previously owned by Sir Elton John, Al Capone, Bernie Ecclestone, and Sammy Davis Jr. It is a good thing that these cars are being looked after and are on display to the public and they are a constant source of interest to the general public and if you do get the opportunity to visit his collection then you should do so.

Being such a busy man means he hasn’t much spare time. But he does have 2 sons and a daughter who is also successful. They are in a prime position to expand their father’s business empire and they should be able to come out of this current recession in a good position. He was recently in a relationship with Sophie Ayad, an Egyptian journalist.

Like a lot of other rich people, he has a license to pilot his own plane but it is doubtful whether aviation authorities would allow this to continue at his age. What sets him apart is his love of boar hunting and this garnered some controversy over the years. The good news is that his charity hunting event allows for the donation of the meat to a local orphanage so at least there is a point to the exercise. Obviously, if you want to become a millionaire then you’ll have to have a strong personality and it is for this reason he was called the Brasov Tractor.

He owns a large residential area called the Stejarii and this includes a country club. Tiriac Bank merged with HVB bank to create HVB-Tiriac and he has shares in it that are worth around $438 million USD. So obviously his timing in getting into the business at just the right time was a major boost to his career. But there was something else that helped him on his way.

One aspect that he has become renowned for is his shrewdness. One quote that sticks out is this; ‘’It doesn’t matter how much money a businessman has, it is whether he has access to it or not’’. That is an issue that affects all business people but it is an example of his acumen that he is able to recognize the problem and be able to deal with it.

He stated that he touched a tennis racket for the first time in his life 5 days before his 15th birthday and it changed his life forever. He said he was a good sportsman but that he lacked natural talent. ‘’So I worked like a dog, just like I did for the rest of my life’’. This sums up his winning attitude and which has all but guaranteed his success.

As Romania transitioned from communism to capitalism it needed role models to show how money could be made there. Ion Tiriac has boosted the confidence of Romanians and it is important to remember that he is inspiring people to go into business and produce wealth for his country. The wealth of course is not everything but it is an important aspect of life if you wish to live in good circumstances. Romania’s GDP per capita is now $12,301 per capita which is a huge improvement from 1990 when it stood at $1,680 per capita. Ion Tiriac is responsible for a big part of that change in Romania’s fortunes.

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Nick Hanlon

I'm an Aussie interested in topical issues.

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