January 20, 2003
A BILLIONAIRE IN RUSSIA IS MORE THAN AN OLIGARCH
About young and daring Russian billionaires
Author: Andrei Savitsky
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
NINE RUSSIAN BILLIONAIRES ARE ON THE LIST OF EUROPE'S 188 RICHEST PEOPLE FOR 2002. YOUTH AND VIGOR ARE THEIR DISTINGUISHING TRAITS. THE RUSSIAN TEAM OF BILLIONAIRES IS THE YOUNGEST, AND THEIR FORTUNES ARE GROWING FASTER THAN ANY OTHERS ON THE CONTINENT.
Nine Russian billionaires are on the list of Europe's 188 richest people for 2002. Youth and vigor are their distinguishing traits. The Russian team of billionaires is the youngest, and their fortunes are growing faster than any others on the continent, according to a survey which determined the the richest people in Europe, published by EuroBusiness magazine.
However, most remarkable among the Russian billionaires are a pensioner and a public servant, whose fortunes originate from Gazprom. The magazine values Viktor Chernomyrdin's fortune at ?1.35 billion (140th place); and Rem Vyakhiev's fortune is valued at ?1.8 billion (105th place). The magazine's analysts seem to proceed from evidence that Vyakhirev and Chernomyrdin own stakes in Gazprom, the value of which has been growing.
Viktor Chernomyrdin is not only Russia's ambassador to Ukraine; he is also the president's special envoy for the development of Russian-Ukrainian commercial and economic contacts, which means he is virtually a Kremlin official. Discussion related to Chernomyrdin's wealth once ended in a scandal previously. In 1997, citing Le Monde, Izvestia reported that the private fortune of the Russian prime minister was the equivalent of $5 billion. Chernomyrdin angrily denied all such statements. In general, responding to all attempts of assessing his fortune, he has challenged people to find even one register of Gazprom's shares containing information about shares he owns. Despite the fact that over the past decade Chernomyrdin hasn't been involved in commercial activities, the Western media still continues counting his billions.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky was admitted as the richest among Russians. In the opinion of EuroBusiness analysts, his fortune ranks eighth in Europe. Moreover, the magazine has published its list of the 30 richest people in the world. The head of YUKOS is last on that list.
Almost all of the Russian billionaires, the magazine notes, expanded their fortunes last year, with the exception of Vladimir Potanin and Vladimir Bogdanov - in 2002 their capital was assessed at less than in 2001. The year of 2002 proved to be incredibly successful for Roman Abramovich - judging by the magazine's information, he managed to double his fortune. Such dynamics of growth is unprecedented for similar astronomic amounts.
Almost all billionaire fortunes of Russia were gained due to closeness of their owners to the government. Besides the steady contacts with the authorities, the Russian billionaires have another considerable distinction from their European colleagues. Among the European billionaires it is hard to find any under 60, and many of them are over 70 and they made their fortunes during their long lives.
With the exception of Vyakhirev and Chernomyrdin, the Russian billionaires are very young. The young and daring Russian capitalists are putting pressure on the European magnates.
There are two billionaires in Ukraine - Rinat Akhmetov with ?1.7 billion and Viktor Pinchuk with ?1.3 billion.
The Portuguese economy is often used as a criterion for measuring the growth of the Russian economy. So, we have outpaced Portugal according to the number of billionaires - nine-fold.
(Translated by Andrei Ryabochkin)