Russian billionaires club sheds two thirds of its members

Russia’s economic slowdown has shredded the net worth of its richest people by more than 70% in the last year and slashed membership of its billionaires club by two thirds.

Mikhail Prokhorov, despite losing $13,1-billion, topped the annual rich list published on Friday by the Russian edition of Forbes magazine. The mining tycoon’s $9,5-billion fortune made him $1 billion richer than second-placed Roman Abramovich.

”The crisis has affected everyone: financiers and developers, metallurgists and oil men, consumer goods producers and sellers and the owners of diversified holdings,” Forbes said in an editorial accompanying the list.

”Not a single entrepreneur is in a better position than a year ago.”

Russia is facing its first recession in a decade after growing accustomed to commodity-fuelled growth. Stock markets have tumbled by more than two thirds since peaking last May and the rouble has lost a third of its value against the dollar.

Russian businessmen who borrowed heavily when money was cheap are battling to restructure their share of the $130-billion in corporate debt due to mature this year, a task made harder when the state halted bailouts to plug a budget deficit. Hardest hit has been Oleg Deripaska, whose $25,1-billion loss was equivalent to about a quarter of the cumulative losses of Russia’s 10 richest men. The aluminium tycoon dropped to 10th on the Forbes list after topping last year’s rankings.

Alexei Mordashov, owner of steel maker Severstal, also lost more than $20-billion to drop to seventh from second.

The net worth of Russia’s 100 richest people is $142-billion, down from $520-billion a year ago, Forbes said. The number of billionaires dropped to 32 from 110.

And while a billion-dollar fortune was not enough to guarantee a place in last year’s top 100, a net worth of $400-million would secure a position in the latest rankings.

Sold before the crisis
Prokhorov (43) is unique among Russia’s super-rich in having sold key assets prior to the market’s collapse. Now unencumbered by the debts that plague his peers, he told Reuters in November that he saw the crisis coming.

”Who has suffered least from the crisis? He who has succeeded in selling his business before the crisis and tackled it with all guns blazing — that is, with cash,” Forbes said.

Prokhorov, a kickboxing enthusiast who stands two metres tall, may not be so impressed by his new ranking. ”I never think about this bullshit,” he told Reuters in the interview.

Oil and steel company owners, despite a collapse in commodity prices in the second half of the year, retained their grip on the top end of the Forbes rankings. Vagit Alekperov, the 58-year-old president of Russia’s largest private oil company, LUKOIL, rose to third on the list with a fortune of $7,8-billion, only $6,5-billion less than a year ago.

His vice-president, Leonid Fedun, joined him in the top 10 after limiting losses to $2,7-billion. TNK-BP shareholders Mikhail Fridman and German Khan also featured.

From the steel sector, in addition to Mordashov, Novolipetsk Steel owner Vladimir Lisin and Evraz Group shareholder Alexander Abramov were among the top 10.

The only woman on the list is Yelena Baturina, wife of Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who was ranked 34th after her fortune — acquired largely in the construction business — fell to $900-million from $4,2-billion a year ago. — Reuters

Keep the powerful accountable

Subscribe for R30/mth for the first three months. Cancel anytime.

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Eye health initiative helps 1.7-million South Africans

OneSight is fulfilling the UN goal to accelerate eye health to achieve Sustainable Development Goals

Zondo dismisses Fraser’s application to cross-examine witnesses

The former head of the State Security Agency and Zuma ally did not come close to complying with the state capture inquiry’s rules for cross-examination, Zondo said

Hawks head testifies before SAHRC: Intelligence would have been ‘ideal’

No members of the police, defence force or state security have been implicated ‘at this stage’ in ongoing investigations into the July unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng

A to Z guide on HIV: The top 10 things...

The HIV pandemic isn’t going anywhere until a cure is found. In the meantime, HIV clinicians say South Africa should protect its victories

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…