Sunday 18th August 2019

The Tamil business tycoon behind historic 1985 Live Aid Concerts

The Live Aid concerts in 1985 would not have been possible without the contribution of Tamil businessman Tan Sri Ananda Krishnan.

American newspaper Newsweek credits Ananda as providing the brainpower and seed-funding for the historic events.

Held in London’s Wembley Arena (attended by 72,000) & Philadelphia’s John. F. Kennedy stadium (attended by 100,000), along with smaller concerts across the globe all on the same day, it was one of world’s most viewed events, broadcasted to 1.9 billion viewers across 150 nations – at the time, 40% of the world’s population.

The concerts featured Queen, Dire Straits, U2, David Bowie, Elton John, Sade, Phill Collins, Eric Clapton, Led Zepplin, Paul Young, to name but a few of the famous artistes.

Live aid 1985 artist roster

Born in Brickfields in Malaysia to Sri Lankan Tamil parents, Ananda Krishnan is Malaysia’s 3rd richest man with an estimated net worth of $7 billion according to Forbes. The philanthropist is Well known for shying away from the public eye.

In 1984 Bob Geldof was looking to rope in artistes to record ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas/Feed the World’ to gather funds to assist victims of famine in Ethiopia.

Under British charity regulations, The trust was barred from using the monies collected from the hit single to pay for overhead expenses.

After reading about Bob’s efforts, the Malaysian Tamil business tycoon got in touch with Bob to offer his assistance to his organisation, The Band Aid Trust.

From his own pockets, Ananda was reported to have had offered to cover the expenses to disburse the proceeds gained from the record.

“Instead of simply giving money to a charity, I wanted to invest it in someone who could raise large amounts of money,” Ananda was quoted in the Newsweek article titled ‘Live Aid’s Shy Tycoon’ from 29th July 1985 as saying.

Newsweek article about ananda Krishnan

Bored of the oil business where he made his money, Ananda wanted to move into broadcasting sports & entertainment. Teaming up Michael Mitchell, an executive who helped stage the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, went on to form Worldwide Sports and Entertainment.

In 1985, Ananda pumped in US$750,000 along with a US$1mil letter of credit to bring the legendary Live Aid concert to reality.

The day after the concerts, news reports stated that between £40 and £50 million had been raised. It is now estimated that around £150 million in total has been raised for famine relief as a direct result of the concerts.

Inspired by the Live Aid concerts, Ananda went on to build a multi-media & communications empire with stakes in many ventures including Malaysia’s broadcasting giant Astro, which operate South east Asia’s popular Tamil station’s Raaga (Radio) & Vaanavil (TV).

A special thank you to Malaysian writer and festival director Bernice Chauly, who tweeted the link to the Newsweek article after watching the biopic of Queen’s frontman Freddie Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody. The film features Queen’s performance at Live Aid.