Published in Nacional number 619, 2007-09-25

Autor: Mislav Šimatović


100 richest Eastern Europeans

NACIONAL BRINGS a list of the richest people in Eastern Europe, which was compiled by Poland’s Wprost magazine in cooperation with our editorial office

Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich, mostly known by the general public as the owner of England’s Chelsea football club, is no longer the richest man in Eastern Europe. His wealth was surpassed by Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to President Vladimir Putin and the majority owner of the powerful aluminium manufacturer Rusal. This was proven by the latest research conducted by Polish Wprost magazine, who have compiled a unique list of the richest tycoons of the former Eastern Block and the former Yugoslavia since 2002 with the assistance of editorial offices from other countries, including Nacional.

According to Wprost, the wealth of Oleg Deripaska totals billion; if you consider the Forbes list of The World’s Billionaires, only five people in the world are richer. It is interesting that Oleg Deripaska ranked 13th on the first Wprost list compiled five years ago with total assets valued at .1 billion. He has ascended several places each year and, according to Polish estimates, his wealth has increased 30 times today, mainly because of his loyalty to Vladimir Putin’s regime.

While several Russian oligarchs, mainly from the petroleum and natural gas industries, were forced to leave Russia or were convicted such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Deripaska expanded his business empire year after year, investing mainly in Russian companies. Last year, he merged several companies into the Rusal concern, making it the largest aluminium manufacturer in the world. Furthermore, he took over the Razvitie company from another oligarch Suleyman Kerimov, one of the most powerful construction companies in Russia.

Richest Serbian Philip ZepterRichest Serbian Philip Zepter The Wprost magazine, well known in the European Union for its satirical photo editing directed against German chancellor Angela Merkel, published its first list of the richest tycoons in Eastern Europe in 2002, generating tempestuous reactions in Poland, Russia, the Ukraine, Bulgaria and Romania, mainly due to the fact that precise data was not publicly available on the assets of the local rich people. For many, the fact that they were included on this list was not pleasant due to frequent accusations and justifiable doubt that they became rich in illegal ways, mainly by controlling national resources for low prices.

At that time, as well as today, most tycoons from the list did not exceed the age of 50, and they mainly are owners of shares in the petroleum, metal and energy industries, as well as in telecommunication and financial houses such as banks and insurance companies. Among the 20 richest Eastern Europeans, 16 are Russians, three are Ukrainians, and 1 is from the Czech Republic.

Only three Croatian tycoons were included on the list: the owner of Agrokor, Ivica Todoric, co-owner and Executive President of the Adris grupa, Ante Vlahovic, and petrol-chemistry tycoon Enver Moralic. The richest Croatian Ivica Todoric, whose assets are estimated at 0 million, ranks 81st on Wprost’s list, and has ascended three places in relation to last year. Ante Vlahovic ranks 92nd, while Enver Moralic takes second last place, ranking 99th. In relation to other countries, there are 43 Russians, 24 Ukrainians, 15 Poles, 8 Romanians, 3 Serbians and 1 Bulgarian on the list.

This year’s Wprost list of richest people is interesting because of one detail: Putin’s friend Gennady Timchenko as well as one of the most powerful Russian mafia bosses Semyon Mogilyevich, wanted by the FBI, who received a passport from the Croatian Interior Ministry in the 1990’s, have been included for the first time. It is believed that Gennady Timchenko, a former member of the KGB from St. Petersburg, controls the trade of petroleum and natural gas which is produced by Russian state companies through his own private company, on behalf of Russia. Because of his role in Russia, the opposition has accused him of being the “caretaker of the black treasury in the Kremlin”. He ranks 3rd on the list with assets valued at billion. As explained by Wprost, it was impossible previously to uncover the proportions of Timchenko and Mogilyevich’s wealth which is the only reason why they have be excluded from the published lists of the richest people in Eastern Europe in the past.

Oleg Deripaska, Russia30  billion USD
Even though he is only 39 years old, Oleg Deripaska already gained his oligarch status back in the mid-1990’s. Today he is considered to be the most loyal member of Putin’s regime. His wife Polina Yumasheva is the daughter of famous journalist Valentin Yumasheva, head of Yeltsin’s administration at the end of the 1990’s, who later married Yeltsin’s daughter Tatyana. “I do not separate myself from the state”, announced Deripaska to a journalist for the Financial Times. He also pointed out that “if necessary”, he would give Russia his most important company Rusal. The value of the most important aluminium company in Russia is estimated at approximately billion USD, but it is only one of the approximately thirty companies in his holding, Basic Element. He is the owner of the GAZ automobile industry, the manufacturer of the Aviacor aircraft, as well as the Ingosstrah insurance company. He is banned from entering the USA because of the way in which he gained his wealth. That does not stop him from expanding his business to other countries. This year, he purchased a 30% package of shares in the Austrian construction company Strabag, which constructs large projects in Croatia as well. Furthermore, he also became an owner of 5% of shares in General Motors which cost him approximately 0 million USD.

Roman Abramovich, Russia22 billion USD He was considered to be the richest Russian for many years, but is no longer as influential as he was at the end of the 1990’s when he controlled a large part of the Russian petroleum fortune. Putin’s government forced him to sell his empire to the oligarchs for the benefit of the state, and part of the money gained from the sale had to be invested in the economically repressed region of Checotah, where he was forced to become Governor in 2000. Abramovich is practically excluded from the new division of wealth in Russia today. Because of this, Abramovich will descend in the upcoming lists of Eastern European tycoons.

His rise to the top could serve as a scenario for a movie. He grew close to former Russian president Boris Yeltsin in the mid-1990’s through billionaire Boris Berezovski. Berezovski not only brought him into top politics, he made him a billionaire. For an inconsiderable amount of money, they took over the Siberian Sibneft petroleum company. After Putin came into power, Berezovski escaped Russia and Abramovich bought his shares from him. A new partnership was created by Abramovich with Oleg Deripaska, currently the richest Russian in the world. Together they took over the Russian Aluminium holding, today’s Rusal, and created the company Ruspromavto. Abramovich sold Deripaska his share in both projects for billion USD. In 2005, he sold his shares of Sibneft for .1 billion USD, his most important company, to state-owned Gazprom Neft.

Since 2003, Abramovich has been the owner of England’s Chelsea football club, valued at 0 billion USD. Over the past several months, Abramovich has begun to purchase shares in Britain in his own name, which may be a step towards receiving British citizenship. Abramovich divorced in March of this year, which cost him 0 million USD.

Gennady Timchenko, Russia20 billion USD The 55 year old psychologist is one of the least known billionaires in the world. Even though he is Russian, he has Finnish citizenship, but he has settled in Switzerland. He served in the KGB together with Vladimir Putin and both are originally from St. Petersburg. Timchenko is one of the shareholders in the Bank of Russia in St. Petersburg. In February 2004, Ivan Rybkin, the current chairman of Russia’s Duma, publicly criticized Timchenko for protecting Putin’s interests in the raw crude oil market and taking care of the “Kremlin’s black treasury”. Timchenko’s name is mentioned in the fraud investigation reports for the “Petroleum for food” humanitarian program, which was carried out by American economist Paul Volcker. Upon publication of the report, Timchenko’s name disappeared from all public address lists in Switzerland.

Timchenko is the owner of the largest conciliator in the sale of Russian petroleum, the Gunvor group, a company registered in the Virgin Islands and in Switzerland. That holding, whose list of shareholders are secret, controls 80% of the production of Surgutneftegaz, 30% of the production of Rosneft, as well as all petroleum in Gazpromneft. Based on an analysis made by the American Energy Intelligence Group, Timchenko is carrying out a merge between Rosneftgaz and Surgutneftegaz, as desired by the Kremlin, which would result in the creation of a Gazprom petroleum giant.

Renat Akhmetov, the Ukraine18.7 billion USD This 41 year old Ukrainian businessman, the owner of the Shakhtar football club, was connected to underground clashes in his early career. Today Akhmetov is one of the leaders of the ruling Ukraine party, the Party of Regions. If this party gains the majority in the elections which will be held on 30 September, as expected by several polls, it will be Akhmetov’s doing, who is marginalizing party leader Viktor Yanukovych. The reason behind the conflict between Akhmetov and Yanukovych is their opposing relations with President Viktor Yushchenko, who Akhmetov supports. The crown of Akhmetov’s business empire is the company System Capital Management. Through it, he controls companies which deal with steel and energy, and he also owns a coal mine.

The latest investment by Renat Akhmetov was Metinvest Holding, through which he controls assets from the metallurgy industry. The continuous advertisements for his company in leading Polish media has been interpreted by Wprost as an attempt to construct an image in order to create foundations for future investments in the country.

Vladimir Lisin, Russia16.5 billion USD Vladimir Lisin, a 50 year old with a PhD in engineering, is the main metal producers in Russia and one of the most secretive oligarchs who is persistently staying away from the world of politics and the media. He is the president and owner of Novolipitsk Steel, one of the largest in Russia, whose earnings last year totalled .6 million USD. Lisin also controls the harbour in St. Petersburg (the third largest harbour in Russia in the amount of loaded cargo), as well as 70% of shares for the Tuapsa harbour.

He is a lover of clay pigeon shooting and the President of the Sports Shooting Federation. That did not assist him in his candidacy for the presidency of the Russian Olympic Committee. In January 2007, together with the Italian-French concern Duferco, he established Steel Invest & Finance. Lisin often spends his vacations in Scotland, where he has a 16th century castle valued at several million dollars.

Vladimir Potanin, Russia15 billion USD He worked as an employee at the Soviet Department of Trade until the fall of communism. In 1990, he established the Interros holding and later he was involved in banking. In 1996, Boris Yeltsin appointed him Vice Premier where he created a plan which resulted in his nickname “the father of all oligarchs”. It was a special system of public tenders whereby, during the sale of state companies, all large international companies would be excluded from the competition, which guaranteed the possibility of taking over national resources for next to nothing. That is how Potanin, together with Prokhorov, took over Norilski Nikel in 1996, today one of the most significant companies in their group. They are currently in the phase of seperation and the division of wealth should be completed by the end of the year. 40 year old Potanin is a lover of downhill skiing, chess and football.

Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia15 billion USD This Russian oligarch is well known for his public excess and parties. At the beginning of the year, he was arrested by French police who accused him of bringing Russian prostitutes into the country for his millionaire friends; Prokhorov’s defence was based on the claim that he loves the company of smart and beautiful women. 41 year old Prokhorov is parting from his long time colleague Vladimir Potanin, who will purchase 26% of Prokhorov’s shares in Norilski Nikel. This transaction is still in process and it is speculated that the candidate for taking over Prokhorov’s share is Deripaska.

Mikhail Fridman, Russia14.5 billion USD People who are acquainted with him describe him as resentful and scanty, and an individual who trusts no one. In his youth, he scalped theatre tickets and later opened an illegal club. In 1989, he established the Alfa Group, which owns Alfa-Eko. In 1995, he was charged with drug trafficking under the auspice of sugar trading with China. He owns funds in ALFA Capital Partners and Alfa Insurance, as well as one of the largest companies for the trade of food products. In 2003, his company became a shareholder in the petroleum concern TNK-BP. 43 year old Fridman is a loyal supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin. American television station Fox News announced that the company connected to Alfa secretly invested in Iran.

Alexei Mordashov, Russia13.5 billion USD “Steel Alexei”, as this businessman is called in Russia, is one of the closest oligarchs to President Putin. He did not pay cheap for this status: four years ago he purchased 8.8% of the shares of the Bank of Russia from St. Petersburg for much more money that the market value of the shares. 42 year old Mordashov is the president and main shareholder of Severstal, the second largest steel producer in Russia. Mordashov manages several harbours, coal mines, train companies, regional televisions and newspapers. He is the co-owner of the Irish excavation company Celtic Resources.

Suleyman Kerimov, Russia13 billion USD This 41 year old man from Dagestan, an active Judist, can serve to confirm how an increase in the value of assets in Russia must be followed by changes in political perspective. He entered the Russian Parliament through the list for the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, run by Vladimir Zhirinovsky. He is now an active member of the pro-Putin party, United Russia. Based on information published in Russian media, it cost Kerimov 0 million USD for his place on the party list. Kerimov became rich by selling petroleum. Today he controls Nafta Moskva and Polimetal, Russia’s largest silver producer. He travels with a private Boeing, and vacations on a 90 metre yacht valued at 0 million USD.

Viktor Vekselberg, Russia12.5 billion USD As in the case with most oligarchs, 50 year old Vekselberg’s luck changed at the beginning of the 1990’s when he established Renov together with a colleague from University. He earned his wealth thanks to “privatization for oligarchs”, invented by Vladimir Potanin. At that time, he bought an aluminium and bauxite factory, and merged them in 1996 to create SUAL Holding, today part of the Rusal company. He is the owner of 12.5% of the petroleum concern TNK-BP, 31.4% owner of Sulzer shares, one of the largest manufacturers of equipment for the exploitation of petroleum and natural gas. He is the owner of 9% of Rusal shares, as well as several companies in the chemical industry. He is very close to President Vladimir Putin whom he often travels to foreign countries with.

Vagit Alekperov, Russia12.5 billion USD As the head of the Lukoil petroleum company, he is executing the state policy for returning Russian international influence through economic expansion, specifically by taking over strategic companies in former socialist countries and creating dependency on Russian raw materials. Due to his long employment in the industry, where he has been the president of Lukoil since 1991, they call him the first oil tycoon of Russia. In the USSR, he was the deputy minister of the Oil and Gas Industry. He is 57 years old and has a PhD in Economics. He owns 19% shares of Lukoil.

Vladimir Yevtushenkov, Russia9 billion USD 59 year old Yevtushenkov is the owner of AFK Sistema holding. He has shares in various companies: from telecommunication (Swiazinwiest, MTS), electronics (Mikron, Sitronics TS), to insurance (Rosno), and he invests a lot of money in property. Two years ago, he purchased municipal land on Mljet with the intention to construct a luxury tourist settlement, which the Dubrovnik-Neretva County is attempting to legally dispute. He was brought to Croatia by recently deceased consultant, Radovan Volmut.

Ihor Kolomoysky, Ukraine8.9 billion USD The business foundation of this 43 year old Ukrainian tycoon are the metal and petroleum industries, mainly Ukrnafta, the Galichina and Neftehimik Prikarpatia refineries, the Petrovski metallurgy concern, several ironworks and companies in Russia and Romania. He also controls the largest private bank in the Ukraine, Privat, through his group. Recently, Kolomoysky has been more supportive of President Yushchenko and has financed the Our Ukraine- People’s Self-Defence Block.

Iskander Makhmudov, Russia8.5 billion USD “We are all Putin’s soldiers”, said the 44 year old oligarch, an expert in Arabic, in an interview. At the beginning of the 1990’s, he dealt in the trade of coal, and due to a private army, he overtook a range of companies in that industry. Later he became interested in copper and today controls 40% of the Russian copper market. He is the majority shareholder in the Uralskaya Gorno-Metallurgicheskaya, whose annual profits total approximately 0 million. He avoids the press so the news that he has decided to invest in the media in 2005 was taken with surprise. It is believed that he was instructed by the Kremlin to do so. Today he controls the Rodionova publishing house, which publishes the Russian version of the Business Week magazine. He is the owner of St. Petersburg’s ATN television station.

Croatians have ascended on the list

Two years ago, Wprost expanded the list from fifty to one hundred names; for the first time, two Croatian names appeared on the list – the leader of Adris grupa Ante Vlahovic and the owner of Agrokor Ivica Todoric. With them, Enver Moralic has appeared on the newest list.

Mafia boss with Croatian passport

The FBI has issued an all-point bulletin for one of the most powerful bosses in the Russian mafia, for money laundering and fraud on the New York Stock Exchange among other things. Mogilyevich controls a large part of the natural gas export from Turkmenistan and a brothel chain in Russia. Croatian media wrote about Mogilyevich in the mid-1990’s when it was discovered that the Internal Ministry had issued a passport for him. As later announced by Hrvoje Sarinic, Mogilyevich wanted to expand his operations in Croatia so he became connected to key individuals in Tudjman’s regime. He intended to purchase a home in Opatija and begin doing business with Pliva. Mogilyevich’s Croatian passport was seized in 1999.

From 51st to 100th place 51. Ryszard Krauze, Poland, .61 billion
 52. Vassil Kroumov Bozhkov, Bulgaria, .5 billion
 53. Gleb Fetisov, Russia, .3 billion
 54. Ion Tiriac, Romania, .3 billion
 55. Bogusław Cupiał, Poland, .28 billion
 56. Aleksander Gudzowaty, Poland, .28 billion
 57. Jan Bohdan Wejchert, Poland, .28 billion
 58. Marek Mikuskiewicz, Poland, .25 billion
 59. Sergej Burjak, Ukraine, .2 billion
 60. Grzegorz Jankilewicz, Poland, .2 billion
 61. Oleksandr Yaroslavski, Ukraine, .2 billion
 62. Viktor Nusenkis, Ukraine, .2 billion
 63. Sławomir Smołokowski, Poland, .2 billion
 64. Grazyna Kulczyk, Poland, .15 billion
 65. Jan Kulczyk, Poland, .15 billion
 66. Valerij Horoshkovsky, Ukraine, .1 billion
 67. Yevgeny Shvidler, Russia, .1 billion
 68. Sergei Tigipko, Ukraine, .1 billion
 69. Igor Yakovlyev, Russia, .05 billion
 70. Andrej Babish, Czech Republic, billion
 71. Iosif Constantin Dragan, Romania, billion
 72. Vladimir Kogan, Russia, billion
 73. Vasil Hmeljnicki, Ukraine, 0 million
 74. Igor Nayvalt, Russia, 0 million
 75. George Gigi Becali, Romania, 0 million
 76. Leonid Yurushev, Ukraine, 0 million
 77. Sergei Pugachov, Russia, 0 million
 78. Fyodor Špih, Ukraine, 0 million
 79. Sorin Ovidiu Vantu, Romania, 0 million
 80. Paunescu family, Romania, 0 million
 81. Ivica Todoric, Croatia, 0 million
 82. Sergei Generalov, Russia, 0 million
 83. Andrei Kluyev, Ukraine, 0 million
 84. Yuriy Kosyuk, Ukraine, 0 million
 85. Ioan and Viorel Micula, Romania, 0 million
 86. Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine, 0 million
 87. Józef Wojciechowski, Poland, 5 million
 88. Andrei Ivanov, Ukraine, 0 million
 89. Ioan Niculae, Romania, 0 million
 90. Boris Kolyesnikov, Ukraine, 0 million
 91. Heorhiy Skudar, Ukraine, 0 million
 92. Ante Vlahovic, Croatia, 5 million
 93. Jacek Domogała, Poland, 0 million
 94. Aleksandr Mamut, Russia, 0 million
 95. Vyacheslav Kantor, Russia, 0 million
 96. Stanko Cane Subotic, Serbia, 0 million
 97. Oleg Boyko, Russia, 0 million
 98. Mihail Hodorkovsky, Russia, 0 million
 99. Enver Moralic, Croatia, 0 million
100. Karel Komarék, Czech Republic, 0 million