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Bank of Americahas added a billionaire heavy hitter to its board. Meet Mukesh Ambani, the head ofReliance Industrieswho, with a net worth of $27 billion, is India’s richest resident and the 9th richest person on the planet.

Today, Bank of America announced:

“Bank of America’s shareholders will benefit from the global perspective Mr. Ambani brings to our board,” said Charles O. Holliday, Jr., Bank of America chairman. “He has demonstrated expertise in risk management and strategic planning across a diverse range of businesses, including energy, information and communications technology, and retail networks.”

Ambani must indeed have great management and planning skills–after-all his oil & gas conglomerate, Reliance Industries, has a market cap of $70 billion and is India’s wealthiest company. But his greatest asset to Bank of America is his rock star image; especially in India. He’s the son of the great Indian industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani, his lives in a 27 story house (the world’s most expensive home) and his business feuds with brother Anil dominated Indian media for years.

By adding Ambani, Bank of America has found a powerful insider and dominant spokesman for further Asian expansion. It’s like an Indian bank getting the backing of Warren Buffett. It’s a smart move for B of A, which (like Citigorup, Goldman Sachs, General Motors and many others) took major government bailouts during the credit crisis. B of A has also seen its reputation and balance sheet battered by a controversial Merrill Lynch acquisition and damaging  Wikileaks rumors. Securing a strong foothold in an influential BRIC nation could be an important step in digging their way out of a deep hole.

Here’s a snapshot of Mushesh Ambani:

His oil and gas conglomerate Reliance Industries, India’s most valuable company, just forged a partnership with BP, selling 30% stake in 23 oil blocks in India for $7.2 billion and forming a marketing joint venture. The deal is being touted as one of biggest foreign investments in India. He’s also betting on shale gas, having bought stakes in three American energy firms for $3.3 billion last year. He and wife Nita host parties at their recently completed 27-story sky palace in Mumbai, but have still to move in permanently.

Note: I once worked at Merrill Lynch and (unfortunately) own some shares of BAC