QUICK ANSWER: Ion Tiriac sits at #2 in the all time richest athletes in the world list with a net worth of $1.2 billion.
Ion Tiriac is an example of how a man who started in poverty and became wealthy due to the changing circumstances in his own country.
Opportunities to make the best of yourself didn’t exist in Romania when he was a young man, so he concentrated on sports. It is through this avenue that he became famous, but the cash had yet to roll in. Over the last 40 years, he has made up for the lost time, and now he is the richest person in Romania. Here’s how he did it.
Ion Tiriac’s Early Years
Having become an older man who is widely respected, Ion Tiriac is seen as a successful businessman who has made the most out of his life. His story is not widely known outside of Romania because although he was a successful tennis player, his name wasn’t famous outside the world of tennis.
Romanians know him as a businessman because his time on the court ended over four decades ago, and there aren’t that many people who can remember him playing at the highest level. He was born and raised in Romania during the socialist era when accumulating personal wealth was strictly forbidden, and it is remarkable how well he has adapted to the new era of capitalism.
Known as the ‘Brasov Bulldozer’ due to his personality and his personality, it is well known that he has a forceful personality that manages to get things done in his own way. This gradually earnt the respect of all who either worked for him or have competed against him. He had no desire to become famous, but the desire to become rich has always been present, and his famous work ethic sets him apart because he has never allowed himself to be content or relaxed to this day. A solid work ethic has always been a feature of his personality.
Having been born just before the start of W.W.2. on the 9th of May 1939, it could be said the Tiriac was born in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he didn’t let this hold him back. He started as a table tennis prodigy as a child and then moved into ice hockey, and by all accounts had a happy childhood in the 1950s, which had a huge emphasis on playing sports in order to keep the youth occupied and to raise the level of national prestige.
A Change in Tennis
By the time he switched to playing tennis, the game had just turned professional in 1968, and an extraordinary transformation was about to take place. But that didn’t mean big money had yet to arrive in the game at that stage. The era of wall-to-wall coverage of every single tennis tournament had yet to arrive.
T.V. networks would only cover a few local tournaments and the Grand Slams every year or even a Davis Cup tie. The unbelievable riches that today’s tennis players enjoy were but a dream to this who played in the 1970s. Ion Tiriac played and enjoyed his career, but he didn’t become rich by playing tennis alone.
His Tennis Game
There are many highlights to his tennis career, among them is the fact he was the 19th best player in the world at one stage and that he won a Grand Slam men’s doubles title. He also played in three Davis Cup finals as well.
Through the course of his career, he won 23 titles in all, and he retired in 1979 as a respected player who gave his all despite his lack of natural talent and a relatively late start to his career. More importantly, he forged a life long friendship with Illie ”Nasty” Nastase, who was a better and more famous player than he was.
Because he was born in Transylvania, he was given a second nickname which was ”Count Dracula” on the professional tennis circuit by his fellow players. He also avoided a shock upset when he easily defeated a woman in straight sets, thus avoiding the fate of Bobby Riggs when Billie-Jean King defeated him.
But it is small incidents like this that shaped his flair for promotions and marketing, which would come in handy in the years to come. This was at a time when professional tennis was promoting itself heavily in ways that are simply not done today, but Tiriac’s ”out of the box” thinking is what has set him apart in the world of business was shaped during the 1970s.
Where Did His Money Come From?
When he retired, he started managing tennis players. Mary Joe Fernandez, Boris Becker, Marat Safin, and Goran Ivanisevic are among his ex-clients, and they dominated tennis in the last 20 years of the 20th century.
He was often a fixture in the stands at the big tournaments, but there was a lot more going on his life at this stage. From his retirement in 1979 all the way until the mid-’90s, this was his primary focus, and it allowed him to become a fixture in the stands at the major tournaments. This allowed the pair of them to earn $1 million USD in total, but this isn’t his only interest in tennis.
The Madrid Open is an almost unique tournament in that it is played both by men and women, which is rare for a tournament that is not a Grand Slam. Ion Tiriac owns and manages the tournament, and he is often seen giving the trophies out to the winning players. This has allowed it to garner a high reputation in the tennis world.
Another interesting highlight was the T.V. advertisement he made with Bob Uecker for a beer company in the 1980s, which made him well known in America for a short period of time. In the advertisement, Ion Tiriac plays a stone-faced man who doesn’t say a word but is seated next to a very annoying man. It is mildly amusing, but it showed that he was starting to make his money outside of tennis.
A serious side was shown he started his own bank in Romania just after the fall of communism in 1989, which is known as Banca Tiriac. He now has money in airlines, real estate, and retail, and it is estimated that he is now worth more than $1 billion USD.
This means that he belongs in the top 1% of 1% of people on the planet in terms of net worth. Michael Jordan is now richer than Ion Tiriac, so the claim that he is the richest sportsperson might no longer be true. Then again, Michael Jordan made a lot more through his basketball career than Ion Tiriac did throughout his tennis career.
Ion Tiriac has an extensive list of business interests, which means he has to divide his attention between his extensive portfolio all the time. Among these is Tiriac Holdings, which is an investment firm, and Tiriac A.I.R., which is an airline. H.V.B, Tiriac Bank, the bank he started 30 years ago.
He also owns Allianz-Tiriac Asigurari Romania, which is a real estate company, Tiriac Auto, which sells cars, Tiriac Leasing, which is a leading money leasing service for cars in Romania and finally Tir Travel which is a travel agency. In Romania, you’re more than likely to hear his name all over the place
Putting His Money in Cars, Planes, and Charity
Tiriac has a car collection called Tirac Collection, and among the most notables vehicles in the collection are some Dusenbergs, a Hutu Quadricycle dating back to 1899, and a few very expensive Rolls Royce Phantoms.
There are more than 300 cars on display in his collection, and they’re certainly worth a look. Such car collections make you realize that you love cars but that you didn’t even realize it. You can see these cars in Bucharest because they’re just 5 minutes from the airport and it is a great way to spend an afternoon.
Tiriac is also an accomplished pilot, and there is a recent photo of him in the cockpit with Simona Halep, the tennis champion, seated right behind him, so obviously he loves to fly his own planes even now.
Perhaps he likes to fly to Panama because that is where his entire wealth is kept due to the relaxed laws in that country. This was learned when the Mossack-Fonseca papers were dropped on the world’s press a few years ago. Given the corruption and chaos of Romania, then this should come as no surprise.
An organization called the Puma Foundation will execute his will after his death. His charitable work includes a 100,000 Euro donation that was raised through a telethon that his own television station hosted. This includes 40,000 baskets of food that will be directed to pensioners. Usually, he gives charitably through the various tennis tournaments that he runs or attends.
Ion Tiriac’s Legacy
He’s a man who enjoys material things – judging by the way he likes to collect cars. He also doesn’t need to feel popular but respected, and he also believes in tennis that some tennis players can’t become worse if too much information is stuffed into their heads all at once.
It’s very difficult to play effectively if this happens, and Ion Tiriac would know this based on his long career as a professional tennis player. He also doesn’t care how his eating habits are perceived either.
The fact that a man who grew up in a socialist country became a symbol of capitalist prosperity is a sign of the times. Such a transformation couldn’t have been predicted 50 years ago.
Ultimately we’ll all be remembered by our legacy, not just our power and net worth. Ion Tiriac is a man of his time and someone who excelled at everything he set out to do. He has left a legacy of success and determination.