Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, enterprising Russian businessmen has been able to take advantage of the new found freedom in their country and the general confusion brought about by the fall of the communist regime. Some immediately invested in potentially huge industries, while others sold off unclaimed state assets and properties and used the proceeds as their capital. Regardless of the money’s source, in such a short period of time, Russia has been able to produce a number of billionaires already. Here is a list of the top ten richest men in Russia.
1. Alisher Usmanov – $18.1 billion
He got his money from mining and lumber. He is the majority shareholder of Metalloinvest, an industrial conglomerate that manages his metals interests. Usmanov has since diversified his investments. He now co-owns two federal television channels and 33 regional stations. He also owns a couple of publishing houses. He has online interests, with one of his companies controlling Livejournal.com and another having significant stakes in Facebook. He owns the second largest mobile phone operator in Russia. In England, he is considered a major shareholder of the Arsenal Football Club in London.
2. Vladimir Lisin – $15.9 billion
Lisin is a steel tycoon who began his career as a welder. He holds patents for various processes in metallurgy and has written numerous articles on the subject. He has investments in the logistics business and the energy sector. He also controls Fletcher Group Holdings, a group that has stakes in Russia’s utility sector, namely the grid companies Federal Grid Company and Distribution Grid Company of Center.
3. Alexei Mordashov – $15.3 billion
Mordashov is the main shareholder and chief executive officer of Severstal, one of the leading steel and mining companies in Russia. He started out as an ordinary employee in a steel mill. Barely four years later, he had moved up to become the finance director. The collapse of the Soviet Union meant the steel mill was to be privatized. He took advantage of it by forming two investment funds that bought the shares of the workers, earning him a major stake in the company. After another four years, he was able to establish Severstal, which went on to buy different steel, mining and coal companies.
4. Vladimir Potanin – $14.5 billion
Potanin built his wealth through the controversial loans-for-shares program in Russia. He is the president and chairman of Interros Company, a private organization he created in 1991 that used the knowledge he garnered while working for the Foreign Trade Ministry. Interros now holds almost one third of the shares of Norilsk Nickel, a Russian nickel company. He is now an advocate of corporate good governance, as he is in charge of the National Council on Corporate Governance.
5. Vagit Alekperov – $13.5 billion
Alekperov was actively engaged in the establishment of Langepas Uray Kogalymneft in 1991 before the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was then the deputy minister of the oil and gas ministry of the communist state. He advocated complete vertical integration for state-owned energy companies. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Langepas Uray Kogalymneft became LUKOil Oil Company, with Alekperov himself as the president. It has since become one of the most powerful oil companies in the world. It has reserves second only to Exxon. It also has the distinction of being the first Russian company to buy an American company, when LUKOil bought Getty Petroleum in 2000.
6. Mikhail Fridman – $13.4 billion
Fridman started out as a ticket scalper. He put his practical knowledge to good use by establishing the Alfa Group consortium. The Alfa Group is now one of the largest privately owned investment houses in Russia, with substantial investments in the oil, banking and telecommunications sectors.
7. Mikhail Prokhorov – $13.2 billion
Prokhorov made his name in the financial sector and earned his wealth in the metals industry. It was under his guidance that Norilsk Nickel became the largest producer of nickel and palladium in the world. He also headed the Polyus Gold, the largest producer of gold in the country. He was also president of the Onexim Group. He had to resign the latter two positions, however, after he decided to enter politics. Prokhorov is known in the United States as the ambitious owner of the Brooklyn Nets, which he aims to transform into a powerhouse by offering top dollar to the best players available.
8. Viktor Vekselberg – $12.4 billion
Vekselberg was the co-owner of Tyumen Oil, or TNK, one of the largest oil and gas companies in Russia. It has since developed a joint venture with British Petroleum, with Vekselberg sitting as the vice president. He later founded Rusal Company, which controls the country’s aluminum business. All his assets were eventually merged into the Renova Group, one of the most progressive investment houses and business development companies in Russia.
9. Roman Abramovich – $12.1 billion
Abramovich is the owner of the private investment company called Millhouse LLC, which has a controlling interest in Sibneft, a huge oil company based in Russia. His share was bought as part of the controversial loans-for-shares program, which provided him a discount as he only shelled out $100 million for 50 percent the company that was worth $300 million in all. These days, however, Abramovich is more known in the football world as the proud owner of the Chelsea Football Club of London. Ever since taking over ownership, he has not spared any expense to buy the best possible players and managers for the team. Abramovich is also actively involved in the Russian football national team.
10. Leonid Mikhelson – $11.9 billion
Mikhelson is the chairman and chief executive officer of Novatek, a gas company that is considered as the largest independent producer of natural gas in Russia. It is also the second largest producer of gas in the country after the state-owned Gazprom. The company is based in Western Siberia, though it maintains a sales office in Moscow.