After the dissolution of the Soviet Union of the 1990s, a large number of Russian oligarchs emerged with the privatisation of Russia. Savvy businessmen seized the moment and acquired huge fortunes fast at the time, and remain at the height of the Russian market today. Many of these people occupy positions that blend business with the political, often to the scepticism of the Western world. This has become particularly apparent in recent months, as the world’s eyes have been drawn on Russia with the intensification of the Russia-Ukraine crisis: the U.S. and the E.U. have placed strict restrictions on oligarchs close to the Kremlin, particularly those in Vladimir Putin’s close inner circle.
The richest man in Russia is the 48th richest man worldwide, and the 9 richest Russians have made their way onto the world’s top 100 billionaires list. According to research carried out by Crédit Suisse in 2013, Russia has the highest level of wealth inequality in the world, with just 110 people holding a massive 35% of the country’s overall riches. That figure is particularly striking when you consider that according to the world average, 4 billionaires hold around 1-2% of wealth.
This rich list has been drawn up as per the latest figures from the Bloomberg Billionaires list. It’s worth noting that only male billionaires make the top ten – revealing that Russia’s inequality problem extends past income to gender, too. There’s still plenty of variation among the entrants on this list, though, with billionaires from areas like business, politics, innovation and investment.
10. Mikhail Prokhorov – $11.4 billion
Mikhail Prokhorov founded Onexim Group, a Russian holding company involved in banking, insurance, sports and energy. The group holds a 17% stake in the world’s biggest aluminum producer United Co. Rusal, and a 27% stake in Uralkali, Russia’s largest potash producer.
In 2011 Prokhorov ran as an independent candidate in the 2012 Russian presidential elections. He was unsuccessful, coming in third with just over 7% of votes. In 2012 he established a new Russian political party, the ‘Party of Civic Platform’. Prokhorov also owns 80% of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets as well as Barclay’s Center arena.
9. Alexey Mordashov – $12.1 billion
Russian businessman and oligarch Alexey Mordashov is the head of steelmaker Severstal, a Russian conglomerate with interests in energy, metal and mining companies. He acquired the company, at first, by buying shares from factory workers. Mordashov also holds stakes in the gold producer Nordgold, in the power generation equipment maker Power Machines, and in Europe’s largest tour operator, TUI. He holds shares in Bank Rossiya, and National Media Group.
In late 2013, Mordashov joined forces with a friend of Putin’s, Yuri Kovalchuk, to buy 50% of the shares in Tele2 Russia, one of the country’s largest cellular operators.
8. Sergey Galitskiy – $12.7 billion
Sergey Galitskiy is the founder and CEO of Magnit, Russia’s biggest retailer. Over the past two years, his fortune has increased by approximately $5 billion thanks to Magnit’s surging profits. He was inspired by Wal-Mart when creating his retail empire.
Galitskiy also presides over a hotel, several regional food production businesses, and FC Krasnodar, a Russian football team. At the moment, he controls the biggest fortune in Russia that isn’t derived from natural resources.
7. Mikhail Fridman – $13.6 billion
50 year-old Mikhail Fridman is currently the biggest shareholder of investment company Alfa Group. The group control Russia’s largest closely held bank, Alfa Bank, as well as the mobile phone operator VimpelCom. Fridman also own around 22% of the second biggest food retailer in Russia, X5.
Of Ukrainian Jewish descent, Fridman is an important figure in the Jewish community, having helped set up a million dollar fund to reward and promote Jewish achievements. He’s an arts enthusiast and a frequent patron of theatres around Moscow.
6. Roman Abramovich – $13.7 billion
Roman Abramovich is a highly successful Russian businessman, investor and politician. He is the ex-governor of Chukotka and the largest shareholder of Russia’s biggest steelmaker by output, Evraz, and holds shares in Norilsk Nickel. The businessman also has numerous investments in companies such as Sibneft and Aeroflot, holdings which he accumulated thanks to a series of dividends and proceeds that he collected by selling formerly state-owned assets which he acquired after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Abramovich is part British and has close ties with the UK: he holds shares in London’s Chelsea Football Club and funded the development of Weedingtech, a UK company that produces herbicide-free weed killers. The 47 year-old has seven children and his girlfriend, Daria Zhukova, is a well-known Russian designer and art collector.
5. Vladimir Potanin – $13.8 billion
Vladimir Potanin acquired his fortune principally as a result of the controversial Russian loans-for-shares program. Potanin proposed the flawed scheme to the government in 1995 when Russia was facing a serious fiscal deficit; the process was rigged and corrupt and led to the rise of a class of Russian business oligarchs of which Potanin is a member. At the moment he is the CEO of the world’s biggest nickel producer, Norilsk Nickel. He owns 30.4% of the publicly traded company, and also controls ProfEstate, a property and land enterprise in Moscow and central Russia.
Potanin’s development company built some of the facilities for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. He is one of the most philanthropic Russian billionaires on this list, having promised to donate most of his fortune to charity.
4. . Leonid Mikhelson – $14.3 billion
A long time ago, Leonid Mikhelson resorted to selling his car so he could buy his first stake in a pipeline construction company. He has continued to seek increasing his wealth ever since, building up his fortune during the post-Soviet privatisation of Russia’s energy industry. At present, he is the chairman of Russia’s second biggest natural gas producer, Novatek, of which he owns a quarter. Novatek has been sanctioned by the U.S. since the Russian annexation of Crimea this year. Mikhelson also owns 51.2% the petrochemical producer Sibur, and a 64.1% interest in Pervobank, a financial-services company.
Mikhelson has put some of his billionaire’s fortune towards contemporary art by creating his own foundation, ‘Victoria – the Art of Being Contemporary’ in 2009. The foundation funds the promotion of post-avant-garde Russian art abroad, hoping to broaden the domestic audience’s access to Western theory.
3. Viktor Vekselberg – $14.4 billion
Born in Western Ukraine, Viktor Vekselberg made his first fortune by selling copper collected from used industrial power cables. He has come a long way since, and today he is one of the biggest Russian businessmen. Vekselberg is the chairman of Russian conglomerate Renova Group. The Bahamas-based investment company controls stakes in Swiss equipment makers and the biggest aluminium producer in the world, United Co. Rusal. Vekselberg also controls the largest private power supplier in Russia, Integrated Energy Systems.
Although he refutes accusations of being a Kremlin puppet, Vekselberg certainly seems to be close to the Kremlin: he oversees projects to modernise the Russian economy. The businessman attracts mixed opinions: he owns Mussolini’s former estate and currently has $3.2 billion in various liabilities.
2. Alisher Usmanov – $16.1 billion
Alisher Usmanov is Russia’s richest man. Having built his wealth from metal and mining projects and investments, today he owns 48% of USM Holdings. This entity controls Russia’s biggest iron ore producer, Metalloinvest.
Usmanov’s reach goes well beyond the industrial however: he co owns MegaFon, Russia’s second-largest phone company, as well as the Mail.ru group, which is the largest Internet company in the Russian-speaking world. He also owns the Kommersant publishing houses and co-controls 30% of the Arsenal football team. Usmanov lives a luxurious life and even boasts his own Airbus A340 – the biggest private jet in Russia.
1. Vladimir Putin – est. $70 billion
Russian President Vladimir Putin, named the single most powerful person in the world by Forbes’ 2013 Power list, makes his way to the top of the list of richest Russians – an unusual position for the leader of a nation.
Although Putin’s finances are shrouded in a significant degree of mystery, political analyst and Putin critic Stanislav Belkovsky has estimated the president’s net worth to be around $70 billion. This has been accepted as an educated estimate: A report drawn up by Boris Nemtsov, former Russian Deputy Prime Minister, reveals that Putin has access to 58 aircrafts, four yachts and more than twenty homes. Moreover, numerous accusations of corruption have surrounded the world’s most powerful man.