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Moscow - Rich in Russia, October 2003

Related Features THE STORY
Synopsis of "Rich in Russia"

The Oligarchs

Money, Power and Politics

Examining the Young and the Restless

Government, Population, Economy

Life in Russia Today and the Transition to Capitalism




How to Make a Billion Dollars
Roman Abramovich Vagit Alekperov Boris Berezovsky Oleg Deripaska Mikhail Fridman Vladimir Gusinsky Mikhail Khodorkovsky Vladimir Potanin

Boris Berezovsky Boris Berezovsky - Russia’s Fallen Oligarch
Boris Berezovksy, 57, helped popularize the term "oligarch" and is perhaps the most controversial of the group. Born in Moscow in 1946, Berezovsky was the only child of a factory builder and a pediatric nurse. He earned his Ph.D. in mathematics and physics and landed his first research position at the prestigious Institute of Control Sciences. Berezovsky, by his own admission, wasn't a brilliant scientist, but he was an ambitious and skilled networker, constantly giving speeches and organizing seminars and trips abroad. He began in business selling and importing computer software, then cars. Berezovsky made his first millions from assets of state auto manufacturer Avtovaz. Later, he took over the management of the Russian airline Aeroflot, the oil company Sibneft, much of Russia's aluminum industry, and ORT, the state's largest and most influential television network. Through his close relationship with the longtime chief of staff to Boris Yeltsin, Berezovsky became part of the former president's inner circle. In 1996, he led Russia's most powerful tycoons to back Yeltsin's reelection. Yeltsin appointed Berezovsky deputy secretary of the National Security Council, then secretary of the Organization for Coordinating the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS.) In 1999, he won a seat in the State Duma (the lower chamber of the Russian parliament), but six months later, amid unrelenting pressure from the new regime of President Vladimir Putin, Berezovksy resigned and soon fled Russia. The Russian Prosecutor General's office charged Berezovsky in absentia with complicity to fraud, complicity not to return hard currency from abroad, and money laundering. He now lives in self-imposed exile in France and Britain. In March, Berezovsky was arrested on a warrant alleging that he defrauded the Russian region of Samara of nearly $2 billion in 1994 and 1995. After the arrest, a London court granted Berezovsky political asylum, protecting him from extradition.

Estimated Worth:
Before his exile from Russia, Forbes Magazine valued Berezovsky's worth to be $3 billion

Current Position:
Chair, Foundation for Civil Liberties

Major Holdings:
When Berezovsky left Russia, he sold most of his oil and media interests to his protégé Roman Abramovich.

Political Connections:
Once dubbed the "Grey Cardinal" of the Kremlin, Berezoksy forged a close relationship with Yeltsin and acted as the coordinator of the family of close advisors to the former president. In 1996, Berezovsky teamed up with other powerful Russian bankers to form the Big Seven, a group of oligarchs that underwrote Yeltsin's reelection campaign. Berezovsky viewed himself as a king-maker, and he was a major force in ousting some senior officials and electing others. Berezovksy also was instrumental in Putin's 2000 election victory before the two men's falling-out, which began over Berezovsky's public criticism of Putin for his slow response to the deadly sinking of the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk.

New Plays:
While in exile, Berezovsky launched the Liberal Russia Party, with an anti-Putin platform. Recently he has taken out full-page advertisements in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, warning the United States not to trust Putin. He also has stated his interest in running in the December 2003 election for a seat in the State Duma (the lower chamber of the Russian parliament), but has yet to announce his official candidacy.

Today, Berezovksy divides his time between his London office and his reportedly $30 million home on the Cap d'Antibes in the South of France.

Since 1996, when Forbes Magazine alleged Berezovsky to be the head of the Russian mafia, the tycoon has battled a poor public image. He's used the courts to dispel such accusations, and this year, Berezovsky finally reached a settlement in a five-year libel suit against Forbes, with the magazine agreeing to run a correction.

Next: Oleg Deripaska - Aluminum King

Previous: Vagit Alekperov - Oil Magnate

Photo Credits
Photo of Vagit Alekperov - Photographer/Getty Images
Photo of Vladimir Potanin - Photographer/Getty Images
Photo of Roman Abramovich - AP / Wide World Photos
Photo of Mihail Fridman - AP / Wide World Photos
Photo of Vladimir Gusinsky - AP / Wide World Photos

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