Walking the Floor

Getting to Know Classic Russian Oligarchs

"Beginning at the end of 1995, [Russian Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly] Chubais and co. had masterminded a series of auctions of state properties which had resulted in the instant state-funded creation of an oligarchical billionaire class. In just a few years, virtually all the wealth of communist Russia had been turned over to a pocket-sized group of bankers and tycoons - seven men, nearly all bald and with shady if not overtly criminal pasts." - Mark Ames, from The Exile - Sex Drugs and Libel in the New Russia


Berezovsky - Right.

  • Former professional mathematician, Erdos Number = 4.
  • Married at least four times.
  • Net Worth - $620 million
  • Funded the publication of Boris Yeltsin’s memoirs
  • Pioneer of “Robber Capitalism”
  • Survived a bomb attack that decapitated his chauffeur.
  • Jewish; allegedly funded Muslim separatist armies in Chechnya for political - rather than ideological - purposes; allegedly encouraged Chechen military leaders to commit kidnappings so he could support them through bribe payments; said to be directly responsible for second Chechen War.
  • Found guilty - in absentia - of massive embezzlement in 2007. Sentenced - in absentia - to six years in jail and fined $9 million. Currently enjoying status as political refugee in the UK
  • Shares a name with a virtuoso pianist

Alexander Smolensky

  • Smoker
  • Though born in Russia, claims Austrian nationality to honor his mother, an Austrian who fled TO Moscow as a political refugee during the Stalin-era and then faced persecution in her new home.
  • While serving two years in the Red Army, illegally produced and sold business cards made on a military printing press.
  • Illegally printed Bibles using Soviet-owned printing presses; when caught, was only charged with the theft of printer’s ink, rather than the more serious crime of subversion.
  • Exploited a legal loophole to found Stolichny Bank in the early 1990’s, under Soviet Rule. Following the collapse of the Soviet system, Stolichny grew to be Russia’s largest retail bank by 1998. The bank crumbled that year amid currency devaluations, owing about $1 billion to investors. When Smolensky started a new financial enterprise in 2004, he named it Stolichny Credit Company.
  • Personal friend of Boris Yeltsin.
  • Net Worth - $230 million

Vladimir Potanin

  • Born into a high-ranking Communist Party family, served in the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Trade; using connections he forged there, he established the eventual-conglomerate Interros under Soviet rule with $10,000 in start-up funds. Since then, Interros variably has accounted for 2-4% of the entire Russian economy.
  • Net Worth -$13.5 billion
  • Convinced Anatoly Chubais to enact the “Loans for Shares” privatization system, in which the meagerly-financed Russian government sold valuable state assets and the rights to natural resources to the highest domestic bidder. Outmaneuvering former soviet bureaucrats, this practice opened the floodgates for those who already had resources accumulated during Soviet rule and led to the concentration of massive amounts of Russian wealth into the hands of a few.
  • "We played under their rules, and we won at their home. And now what we say is we are trying to invite everybody to play on our field, and now we are ready to respond to all kinds of criticism. But what we’re doing now is not what we were forced to do before." - Potanin
  • Named Deputy Prime Minister under Yeltsin associate.
  • Once paid $4 million to have George Michael perform at a private party.
  • Former business partner of George Soros, who described his investment with Potanin as the worst in his career.
  • Host of Russian Version of the Apprentice
  • Owner of Ford Modeling Agency
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