The song ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ was written in 1956 by Cole Porter and sung by Frank Sinatra in the movie ‘High Society’.

In those days, millionaires were few and far between, rarely seen by the common class, unless they happened to work in a posh hotel or on a cruise liner.

In 1961, the two original brothers who set up McDonalds were approached to be bought out. Their price was US$1 million net to each of them, after all taxes were paid.

They wanted to see all those noughts in their bank statements, having created this wealth by selling hamburgers in an efficient and convenient way.

When we went to school, there was only really one fat kid in each class and maybe one millionaire’s child, whose dad wanted to teach them to “stay grounded”. In our school, the millionaire’s child was Samantha Speight, whose father was the TV writer Johnny Speight. He was famous for inventing the politically incorrect character Alf Garnett for the TV show, ‘Till Death do us Part’ and would occasionally pick her up in his brown and gold Rolls Royce.

She was a few years below us, so we never got invited to any of her birthday parties, which was like getting a Willy Wonka golden ticket.

It didn’t really matter to us that much, as we weren’t old enough to watch his show and as he drove the Roller himself, we deemed him not to be a real millionaire, as he couldn’t afford a chauffeur.

Millionaires. So 1960

Fast forward to 2020 and now there is only one skinny kid in a class and everyone’s father is a millionaire because of his McMansion valuation. Eddie’s going to have to up the title by a few noughts for his TV show that borrows the Sinatra song title as now no one needs to aspire to reach this social status.

Becoming a billionaire, now that’s the real aspiration today. Oh, to sit on a $300m superyacht, dressed up in a suit and tie and giving evidence via a Zoom link whilst moored in the Med. That’s a billionaire!

And now we have two brothers coming out of the UK who have managed to become billionaires, having started out like us, going to a normal non-posh school.

You may not have heard of them directly but they recently made a bid for the ASX-listed mung bean and tofu vegetarian’s answer to McDonalds, Oliver’s Real Foods. They actually go a bit deeper than this as they also own all of the Caltex service stations where you redeem your Woolworths 4c off vouchers when tapping your card or phone.

The two brothers – Mohsin and Zuber Issa – started out their business life in 2001, with one service station in Manchester, for which they had to borrow $300,000 to buy.

Fast-forward to 2020, where they globally own 5,886 service stations, employ 44,000 people, have annual sales of €20bn and are the largest private company in the UK.

The Queen recently honoured them in her latest ceremonial gong-handing-out garden party, so now Mohsin and Zuber can add the initials ‘CBE’ after their names.

Both are under 50, their billions are not in Australian dollars but in English pounds, and they’ve been honoured at Buck House for putting their UK hometown of Burnley on the ‘home to billionaires’ list.

Now, for all of you Covid-restrained international travellers, Burnley is the type of place where you lock your doors when driving through and never stop the hire car at a set of lights, as they will jack you up and nick your wheels, all whilst waiting for a green light.

I don’t know what cars they would hoon around town in but if it’s a couple of Rollers they would need more trained personnel than Trump visiting a Covid sick ward, just to go and fill up at one of their own garages.

In all of this acquiring, they also managed to set up the UK’s first Starbucks drive-through coffee shop and now have over 100 of them. Oh, and they’re also the most prolific KFC franchise owners in the UK, with 125 stores.

That’ll do? Well…

As we all know, one (or two) is never content just being a billionaire and kicking back on the superyacht, so the Issa brothers have now gone out and bought the UK supermarket chain ASDA from Walmart who, after 19 years struggling to make a profit, finally ran up the white flag.

This will cost them an eye-watering $13bn, as it is the third largest supermarket in the UK. But what is more astonishing is that Walmart paid that same price in 2001, which was the year the brothers started their very first service station.

Amazing stuff!

Mohsin and Zuber Issa
Billionaire brothers Mohsin and Zuber Issa.

Of course, they are highly geared up, as was Andrew Forrest when he set up Fortescue, though they don’t have the same income longtail that he had to manage to keep his 30% plus shareholding, as their group serves over 23 million customers a week.

The Issa’s bid for Oliver’s Real Foods hit a bit of a Covid barrier (on Oliver’s side) and has resulted in them signing a 10-year licence to roll out 100 ‘Oliver’s to go’ offerings within the next 12 months.

If only the founder of Oliver’s had started out 15 years ago with a service station before coming up with the world’s first certified organic fast-food chain. Then he could now be a billionaire instead of a just a paper millionaire.

As I always tell Mrs Broker, I’ve never met a healthy vegetarian and now I can truly say, I have never met a wealthy vegetarian but as she pointed out to me they look more like vegetarian billionaires than an ex-broker ever will.

Ouch!

The Secret Broker can be found on Twitter here @SecretBrokerAU or on email at thesecretbroker@stockhead.com.au.

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