Malone has a reputation for tough negotiating. File photo: Jim Urquhart / Reuters

New York - John Malone, the billionaire set to snap up Formula One, is known in the finance world as the Darth Vader of Wall Street due to his cut-throat tactics.

The entrepreneur who built a fortune snapping up different cable television channels in America was born in 1941 in Milford, New England. The son of an engineer, he studied at Yale before starting his career at telecoms giant AT&T.

His first deal was to buy a small cable firm and then, through a series of other ambitious takeovers, amass a $5.6 billion (R80 billion) fortune.

He is now the largest private landowner in America with 890 000 hectares - and also owns Humewood Castle in Ireland.

The 75-year-old, who is married with two children, owns an empire including the Discovery and Eurosport channels, Virgin Media and baseball’s Atlanta Braves.

Fiercely private, the gruff tycoon has a fear of flying which means when he is not hatching his latest takeover he is found holidaying in an enlarged motor home.

Rupert Murdoch felt threatened

It was the former American Vice-President Al Gore who coined the nickname Darth Vader after a run-in.

Malone has a reputation for tough negotiating and is one of the few captains of industry who has taken on rival billionaire Rupert Murdoch. Malone had built up an 18 percent stake in News Corporation in 2005, growing to become its second largest shareholder.

Murdoch was in the unusual position of feeling threatened - concerned his hold on his business had been weakened by Malone’s stake-building.

Malone is also a philanthropist, donating $42.5 million (R595 million) to Colorado State University for research into stem cell treatment.

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