FORGET Roger Federer, Lionel Messi and even Cristiano Ronaldo, it is Ion Tiriac who is the most deserved sports star today.
The Romanian tennis legend, now 82, started his tennis career in singles in the 1960s until he switched to men’s doubles and joined forces with Ilie Nastase.
They won the French Open together in 1970, the pinnacle of the Brașov bulldozer’s playing days, before retiring in 1979.
Tiriac walked away with around £150,000 in prize money during his career, but the most amazing thing is what he earned from the court.
It was in business that he would generate a fortune believed to be in the region of £1.2 billion.
Through smart licensing, the creation of Romania’s first private bank to establish retail, insurance, car leasing and airline companies, the money started pouring in.
This Is How Tiriac Became The Richest Sportsman In The World – Worth An Estimated FOUR TIMES more than Federer’s £330 million, and more than Lionel Messi (£310 million) and Cristiano Ronaldo (£370 million) combined.
THE BORIS BECKER EFFECT
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After hanging up his racket, Tiriac turned his attention to coaching.
He took under his wing friend Nastase, Manuel Orantes, Adriano Panatta, Guillermo Vilas, Henri Leconte and a young Boris Becker.
But Tiriac had bigger plans for tennis. With the rise of a rage of new stars, he believed that the game would only become more popular.
So he bought licenses for many professional tournaments and then auctioned them to the municipalities of cities like Stuttgart, Hanover and Madrid.
He would later develop the Mutua Madrid Open ATP Masters tennis tournament, which he still owns today.
BANKING ON SUCCESS
Romania left communism in 1990, when the collapse of the Berlin Wall in East Germany began to affect neighboring countries.
Tiriac saw it as the perfect opportunity to invest some capital in his home country and founded the Tiriac Bank – the first private bank in the country.
More money was poured into other businesses including retail, insurance, car leasing, airlines and more, all under the umbrella of Tiriac Holdings Ltd. Company.
By 2005 it was estimated that his fortune had grown to around £650 million.
Two years later, he was the first Romanian to be ranked number 840 in the world on the Forbes list of billionaires.
Tiriac’s idea has always been: “it does not matter how much money a businessman has, but the access he has to money”.
REAL ESTATE AND MANY CARS
Real estate has always been a money guzzler for the rich to get richer, and Tiriac has also invested in real estate.
He owns a huge residential complex in Bucharest with luxury houses that have been sold to the richest in Romania.
The exquisite Stejarii country club can be found indoors and is of course for members only and has a number of sporting facilities.
Tiriac is also a huge petrolhead. When not being driven in an expensive car, he travels by plane and can drive himself.
But it is his engines that seem to be his pride and joy. An avid car collector, Tiriac is said to have as many as 500 different vehicles that he houses in his own museum.
The Tiriac collection includes historic vehicles produced since 1899 as well as modern exotics.
It is the only collection in the world to claim two Rolls-Royce Phantoms IV, as well as exhibits that previously belonged to the likes of Sir Elton John, Sammy Davis Jr and Bernie Ecclestone.
The BMW Museum of Munich even borrowed one of the Rolls-Royces, worth an estimated £1.2 million, for their own exhibition.
Before he made it, Tiriac was married to handball player Erika Braedt from 1963-65.
A self-admitted playboy, he also has a son, Ion Țiriac Jr with fashion model Miette von Issenberg, and two more children, Karim Mihai and Ioana Natalia, with Sophie Ayad, an Egyptian journalist.
He has caused controversy over the years with his love of hunting, especially boar, attracting negative press.
But humble Tiriac is grateful for the life he has built for himself.
“With any luck, I touched a tennis racket five days before I was 15 years old.
“It was the moment that changed my life. I started playing tennis, I was a good sportsman, but I lacked talent.
“So I worked like a dog, like I did for the rest of my life.”