Oleg Deripaska



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Oleg Deripaska
Deripaska is the owner of the automobile manufacturer GAZ, aircraft manufacturer Aviacor, insurance company Ingosstrakh and the investment firm Basic Element. He also is CEO of RusAl, the biggest aluminum company in Russia and one of the largest in the world. GAZ has partnered with the Canadian auto parts manufacturer Magna, and Basic Element is active all over the globe, including East Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. Deripaska’s goal was to become one of the most powerful oligarchs in the world—not only in Russia. Twenty-two years old when the Soviet Union collapsed, Deripaska may be younger than most of the metals oligarchs in Russia, but he survived the metals wars because he was just as tough and ruthless as the others. He is married to Boris Yeltsin’s granddaughter, which until recent years gave him an edge in his business and political dealings. In 2006, Deripaska grew close to Vladimir Putin, and the former president (now premier) has called Deripaska one of his “sons.” Deripaska counts among his closest friends the oligarch Roman Abramovich, and the two used to compete over who could amass the largest fortune and who had the better players on the soccer teams they owned.
 
Roman Abramovich
One of the best known of the Russian oligarchs, Abramovich is a Russian Jew, college dropout and former soldier who has interests in a variety of companies over the years. Rumor has it that Abramovich started off as a black market toy trader before teaming up with the so-called “robber of capitalism,” Boris Berezovsky. Together they took over the Russian oil giant Sibneft and a slew of pig farms for a fraction of their market values in the controversial “loans-for-shares” program after the fall of the Soviet Union. Berezovsky is now in exile in the United Kingdom after Abramovich betrayed him to the Kremlin. Abramovich also lives in the UK, although he remains close to the Kremlin, which bought Sibneft for its state energy champion Gazprom, Russia’s largest natural gas company. Abramovich sold a chunk of aluminum giant Rusal to his friend Deripaska. He has also dabbled in Russia’s gold industry. He is currently part owner of Russia’s second largest steel company, Evraz, and one of the owners investment firm Millhouse. He also has been involved in Russian politics, appointed by Putin—who also calls Abramovich one of his “sons”—to two terms as governor of Chukotka, a federal district in far east Russia. Abramovich is well known as the owner of the Chelsea Football Club, a popular British soccer team.

Alexei Mordashov
Mordashov is the principal shareholder of Severstal, Russia’s biggest steel and iron company. Mordashov lucked out in his schooling by having as the dean of his school Anatoli Chubais, who ended up being one of Yeltsin’s right hands and the so-called creator of the controversial “shock therapy” performed on the post-Soviet economy. He was one of the oligarchs who emerged triumphant from the brutal “metals wars,” in which entrepreneurs challenged each other, often violently, for primacy in the steel sector in the 1990s and early 2000s. Mordashov has sought to expand Severstal in the international arena, with notable acquisitions of assets in the United States and Europe, especially Italy. Mordashov has a tough reputation as a boss and is more dedicated to his company than to his idea of being an oligarch, which is one reason he has earned a curious respect in the Kremlin. He has good personal relations with Putin, whom he has known since both worked in St. Petersburg. There are questions about whether his relationships with powerful Kremlin insiders like Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller are keeping him from being targeted by the government.

Mikhail Fridman
Fridman, a Russian Jew, started off as a ticket scalper and eventually became the co-founder and chairman of the Alfa Group, a holding company with a diversified range of assets. These include Alfa Bank, one of the largest and most influential banks in Russia; oil major TNK; and Perekriostok, a large supermarket chain. He has also had numerous dealings with BP, overseeing the TNK-BP joint venture and other acquisitions. After the Yukos affair, many in Russia assumed Fridman would be the next Khordokovsky because of his overconfident way of doing business. But his status as an oligarch is due to his devotion to the Kremlin and its tactics and his ability to shift from being simply an oligarch to becoming a tool of the state. He has also become one of the largest contributors to Putin’s United Russia political party. Also fortifying his protection is Fridman’s partner in Alfa, Pyotr Aven, who is Putin’s personal economic advisor. Fridman also is involved in Russian politics, serving as a member of Russia’s Public Chamber, since 2005. Fridman has had ongoing and dangerous feuds with other oligarchs, especial Vladimir Potanin, with the two sabotaging each other’s businesses for years.
 
Vladimir Lisin
One of the lesser known oligarchs, Lisin is chairman of Novolipetsk Steel, one of Russia’s biggest steel companies. Starting off as a coal mechanic, he fell in with the right people during the rise of the metals industry, which took him to Moscow where he threw himself into the metals arena. Lisin oversaw Novolipestk as it has become the third largest steel maker in terms of production and acquired a number of assets in raw materials, such as iron ore and coal. Lisin never paid much attention to the government’s rules—a problem that is coming back to haunt him as his company is hit hard by the global financial crisis. Lisin is now turning to the government for a bailout. He claims to have approximately $5 billion in net worth, although some sources in Moscow say he is more than $1 billion in debt and will not survive unless the Kremlin shines its benevolence on the typically aloof oligarch.
 
Mikhail Prokhorov
Most likely the current title-holder for richest Russian, Prokhorov made his mark as co-owner of the holding giant Interros, which oversaw Norilsk, the largest nickel producer in the world. Prokhorov and his Interros partner, Potanin, aquired their wealth through the loans-for-shares program. Prokhorov went through a very nasty and public divorce with Potanin in which the two divvied up the assets; Prokhorov then unloaded his Norilsk holding on Deripaska. Prokhorov has a background in finance and served as CEO of Unexim Bank, which was later swallowed by pro-Kremlin Rosbank. Prokhorov has been keeping his head down as he serves as chairman of Polyus Gold, the largest gold producer in Russia, a company that the Kremlin and many others have their sights on in a situation that could become one of the next big battles in Russian business.  Prokhorov also has tried to tie himself to certain Kremlin figures, like former Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, although he does not have any real protection from the government. An infamous bachelor, Prokhorov was one of two prominent Russians held by authorities for allegedly running a prostitution ring, although the charges were suspiciously dropped.

Vladimir Potanin
Potanin was the co-owner of the large holding company Interros, nickel giant Norilsk and oil company Sidanco, all of which he obtained through loans-for-shares with his former partner Prokhorov. Potanin also served as president of the United Export-Import Bank and was first deputy prime minister under Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin in 1997. In a bitter divorce within Interros, Prokhorov took Potanin’s shares in Polyus Gold and Potanin received Prokhorov’s shares in Norilsk, an exchange that has since been complicated by Prokhorov’s sneakily selling his shares to fellow oligarch Deripaska. Rumors have circulated in Russia for the past year that the Kremlin could be building a large case against Potanin to finally take down the oligarch who currently has no political ties to any power players.

Suleiman Kerimov
Kerimov is from the Russian Muslim republic of Dagestan, one of the few real businessmen in Russia from the tumultuous Caucasus. He started off with his investment firm Nafta-Moscva, co-owned by politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Nafta- Moskva and its two owners are on the U.S. Department of Justice’s list of companies involved in the “oil-for-food” scandal. He currently owns 4.5 percent of Gazprom and, as such, is the largest individual shareholder of the state-owned energy giant. His Gazprom holding skyrocketed in value in recent years with high energy prices and company’s rapid expansion. Kerimov also owns stakes in Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, and gold giant Polyus. In short, Kerimov owns stakes in some of Russia’s most critical and strategic firms, making him central to the Kremlin. He is known as “Russia’s richest public servant.” One unconfirmed rumor in Moscow is that Kerimov helped bring down former oligarch and Russneft owner Mikhail Gutseriev using inside information for the Kremlin. Kerimov also helps the Kremlin deal with Muslim-issues as a leader within the Russian Arab Council and holds deep relationships with many top leaders and figures in all the Caucasus republics, especially Chechnya, Daghestan and Ingushetia. The Kremlin pushed him in 2007 to become a member of the Federation Council, or upper house of Parliament.

German Khan
Originally from Ukraine, Khan is an oligarch who derived his wealth from the oil and gas industry. Khan was chosen to lead the operation when Alfa Group took over Russian oil company TNK. Khan got involved with Alfa with his former classmate and fellow oligarch Mikhail Fridman. TNK is now partially owned by British energy firm BP, but Khan still serves as director in the TNK-BP joint venture. Khan and Fridman have been central to the Kremlin’s plan to target BP’s operations inside Russia, allowing the Russian government to target their own company in the process in order to keep some scraps of their oil company, TNK. Khan has aggressively countered BP’s moves in order to maintain some control of TNK-BP.


Vagit Alekperov
Alekperov is the president of Lukoil, the largest oil company in Russia that is not owned by the state. Lukoil was once the country’s largest oil firm (after the fall of Yukos), a title now held by the state company Rosneft. He also is a member of the De Beers Group, which puts him in a difficult position in Russia, which wants to remain independent from the global diamond monopoly. Alekperov has been disliked for years by the siloviki because he has kept his companies away from the Kremlin and helped Western groups enter Russia’s energy and diamond sectors. Although he has been morally unfettered in his efforts to secure his empire, just like all the other oligarchs, he has not simply milked his assets for cash. Alekperov has actually built something. Much of Lukoil’s profits are reinvested into the firm’s long-term expansion plans. Alekperov is the only Russian energy man that Westerners like to do business with, which has reinforced his independence form the Kremlin. U.S. oil firm ConocoPhillips owns a 7.6 percent stake in Lukoil and has signed an agreement that could have it owning as much as 20 percent. In the past year, Putin has seen Alekperov and Lukoil as a vehicle for striking deals in Russia and around the world without scaring partners away with a state company. This has given Alekperov and Lukoil the status of a “gray” oligarch and “gray” company since they work for the Kremlin but are not part of the Kremlin.  
 
Dmitri Rybolovlev
Rybolovlev is chairman of the board of Uralkali, Russia’s largest potassium fertilizer producer. In 1992, he took advantage of the fractured economy by purchasing a slew of companies in the Perm region. Rybolovlev has kept on the Kremlin’s good side for the most part by paying for the gubernatorial campaigns of whomever the government has told him to support in the region, an arrangement made by his close friend Yuri Trutnev, the natural resources minister. Rybolovlev also has business ties with Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko. According to STRATFOR sources, Rybolovlev has been targeted by the Kremlin because he holds most of his wealth in offshore accounts in Cyprus, something the Kremlin is cracking down on.
 
Iskander Makhmudov
Makhmudov, originally from Uzbekistan, is the principle shareholder of UGMK-Holding, Russia’s second largest copper company, and the engineering giant Transmashholding. Makhmudov also has stakes in several coal companies and transport machinery producers. Although one of the least public of the oligarchs, he is still one of the more influential businessmen in Russia. He is considered an oligarch, although some observers believe he may actually be a “silovarch” in disguise because of the elite university he attended, the University of Tashkent. The faculty of oriental studies at the University of Tashkent is the breeding ground for Soviet and now Russian Central Asian intelligence. Fluent in Arabic, Makhumudov worked in Libya in the 1980s as an interpreter for the Soviet Union’s military industrial center. He then worked as an interpreter for a group of Soviet military advisers who worked with the Iraqi military staff. He returned to Uzbekistan in 1988 where he was in charge of the state company Uzbekintorg, which ran the country’s international trade, a job that allowed him to snatch up key pieces of state-owned companies once privatization began a few years later. He was quoted in a rare interview in 2003 saying that oligarchs have mixed fortunes and that they would all end up being “soldiers of Putin” one day.

Alexander Abramov
Abramov started a metals trading company that would go on to become Evraz Group, one of the largest steel makers in the world. Abramov is in a different category than many of the oligarchs in that his wealth was acquired after the 1998 economic collapse in Russia instead of during the privatizations that occurred in the early 1990s. He started off doing research for the Russian space and defense programs, and when those sectors were crushed in the post-Soviet collapse he was forced to look for a new career. Abramov bought up stakes in a number of steel companies and coal mines on the cheap and ended up in a nasty competition with Alfa’s owners over buying up factories steel plants, a competition that continues today. Evraz Group went public in 2005 and Abramov stepped down as chairman, although he remained its controlling shareholder. Abramov and Putin had a very public spat in March 2009 in which Putin accused Abramov and Evraz of gouging the Russian people over steel prices, and many oligarchs consider Abramov to be next in line at the chopping bloc.
 
Victor Vekselberg
Originally from Ukraine, Vekselberg is co-owner of the oil giant TNK, aluminum giant Siberian Urals Aluminum and Swiss electronics maker Oerlicon. He acquired these through the holding company he established, Renova, in 1991. Vekselberg was tightly involved in the Yeltsin machine in the 1990s, which garnered him the TNK shares. Although he largely stayed out of the public eye for many years, Vekselberg sold his shares in the controversial TNK-BP deal and is in the thick of the tussle between the Kremlin, TNK and BP. A side note: he is the largest owner of Fabergé eggs—the precious trinkets from the jewel-to-the-tsars between 1885-1917-- in the world, possessing 15 of the 69 surviving eggs made of precious metals and gemstones
Alexei Kuzmichev
Kuzmichev is involved in Alfa Group and therefore is closely linked with former school friends and fellow oligarchs German Khan and Mikhail Fridman. Kuzmichev holds shares in TNK-BP, although their value has recently been reduced. Kuzmichev is currently involved in the telecom industry with Fridman’s controversial Vimpelcom, a company that has legal and personal disputes in Russia, Norway, Ukraine and other countries. Like many Russian oligarchs, Kuzmichev lives in the United Kingdom.
 
Viktor Rashnikov
Rashnikov is chairman of the board of directors of Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works, one of Russia’s large steel companies. Rashnikov served three terms in the regional legislature in Magnitogorsk and has strong political ties to the Kremlin. Rashnikov is a member of the Management Bureau of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. In recent years, his company has been barraged with competition problems in the metals sector, with sources for his ore being bought up by the bigger steel companies in Russia. There also have been cases where fellow oligarchs have tried to blackmail Rashinikov in order to gain control of Magnitigorsk.
 
Igor Zyuzin
Zyuzin is the principle shareholder of Mechel Metals, one of Russia’s largest steel- and coal-products companies. Zyuzin’s business and coal mining interests are active mostly in the Yakutia distrist in northeastern Siberia, assets he inherited from infamous U.S. billionaire Marc Rich, who was indicted in United States for illegally trading with Iran. There was a clear sign that Mechel would likely be the next in line for Kremlin attention in mid-2008, when Russia’s environmental watchdog said the company was unlawfully mining in Russia and “harming” the environment. But the real dispute was between Mechel and Novolipetsk over coal supplies, a battle that ended in the two companies sabotaging each other, though the latter was better politically connected. The attack on Mechel came to a head after Putin publicly railed against the company for “deceiving the Kremlin and swindling the Russian people.” Thus began the rumor that Mechel would be the next Yukos case.
 
Vladimir Yevtushenkov
Yevtushenkov found his way onto the oligarch path by through the Moscow political scene, which gave him access to lucrative government contracts. He founded Sistema, which has grown into a conglomerate of over 200 companies with assets in telecommunications, oil and financial services. Chief among his assets is a majority shareholding in Mobile Telesystems, Eastern Europe’s largest mobile operator. Yevtushenkov took Sistema public in 2005.Yevtushenkov is a quiet but hard-hitting oligarch who married well—the sister of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s wife (Elena, see below) -- and is thereby protected against any hostile moves. Luzhkov has political clout as mayor, but he is also allegedly a kingpin of the “Moscow Mob,” one of the world’s largest organized crime groups and a staunch defender of its allies’ assets as well as its own. 
 
Alisher Usmanov
Usmanov, originally from Uzbekistan, is the principal shareholder of Metalloinvest, one of Russia’s largest metals companies, and also has investments in the mining and lumber sectors as well as a number of holding companies. Usmanov has a shady past that includes six years in jail in the 1980s for extortion and bribery. Unlike many of the other oligarchs, Usmanov did not have close ties to the Yeltsin administration but has been linked to Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller. Mettaloinvest was founded in order to manage Gazprom’s indusrial assets and eventually became a metals company on its own. Today, Usmanov still hold shares in GazpromInvestHolding as well as media giant Kommersant. Usmanov also has a stake in Russian mobile phone operator Megafon—a disputed stake that involves other players like former Telecommunications Minister Leonid Reiman and shareholder Leonid Rozhetskin. In March 2008, Rozhetskin disappeared from his home, where police said bloodstains were found, and rumor has it that he is in U.S. protective custody or perhaps was a casualty in the dispute with Usmanov. As he has pursued energy contracts on behalf of Gazprom, Usmanov also has battled with Russian clan leader and Putin right-hand man Igor Sechin, who has pursued the same contracts on behalf of Rosneft. Usmanov also owns Arsenal Football Club in the United Kingdom and is the chief sponsor of Russia’s Dinamo football team, which is linked to Russian secret services.
 
Nikolai Tsvetkov
A former air force lieutenant colonel and Afghan war veteran, Tsvetkov is the founder and president of Nikoil Financial, a leading financial services firm. Although his company was relatively small and obscure, Tsvetkov’s ties to Lukoil President Vagit Alekperov propelled him to the top of the oligarch list when the two took part in the voucher privatization scheme in the 1990s that was of great benefit to Lukoil. Tsvetkov served as a financial advisor to Alekperov and profited greatly from his connection to Russia’s biggest private oil company. Tsvetkov now sits on Lukoil’s board and is chairman of the financial services firm Ursalib.
 
Sergei Popov
Popov is a college dropout and the principle shareholder of MDM Bank, with major holdings also in SUEK (coal), Evrokhim (bulk chemicals) and TMK (pipe manufacturing). Popov was part of the frantic metals dealings in the 1990s, trading pipes and cables, but he began buying cheap pieces of companies during the 1998 financial crisis. He did this by befriending Andrei Melnichenko, once Yeltsin’s favorite oligarch, who ran MDM Bank at the time. Popov and Melnichenko have swapped shares in multiple companies and currently share ownership of SUEK. Although MDM Bank was originally overshadowed by financial institutions belonging to other oligarchs, most of them collapsed after the 1998 crisis and MDM emerged even stronger. MDM currently has ties to Gazprom (which translates to Kremlin connections) and Popov has personal relationships with oligarchs Deripaska and Abramovich. Popov was named “most dynamic businessman” in the Kremlin’s “Person of the Year” program in 2005.
 
Leonid Mikhelson
Mikhelson is the CEO of Novatek, one of the few independent energy companies in Russia. A former pipeline specialist, Mikhelson moved to the production side of the energy industry in the 1990s when he began picking up companies that had exploration licenses. He operated his new company, Novatek, under the nose of Gazprom but kept his head low in order not to draw the wrath of the state behemoth. Currently, Novatek works on many contracts with Gazprom, selling it gas for export and allowing the Kremlin company to name the price in order to avoid becoming the next Yukos.
 
Elena Baturina/Luzhkov
Baturina is the only female oligarch, although it is said the real money is not in her massive construction monopoly but in her husband Yuri Luzhkov’s side businesses (Luzhkov the Moscow mayor and alleged mob kingpin). Baturina’s construction company Inteco controls all construction, cement and other building materials and supplies in Moscow, a turf reportedly well guarded by virtue of her husband’s alleged mob activities. Her husband has long held political aspirations. In 1999, Luzhkov was one of the frontrunners to succeed Yeltsin, although Putin took the spot. Since then, Luzhkov has given up his own political party in order to merge it with Putin’s United Russia. According to STRATFOR sources in the Kremlin, Putin is not too fond of Luzhkov and has been looking for a way to squeeze him out of the mayoral position and politics altogether without starting a feud with the Moscow Mob.

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