Frontline World

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

Oleg Deripaska Oleg Deripaska - Aluminum King
Oleg Deripaska, born in 1968, is Russia's youngest billionaire at age 35. Deripaska accumulated a business empire through a series of ruthless and elaborate, though technically legal, takeover raids. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, he was a 23-year-old student at Moscow State University. He soon got a job in the fledgling metals trading market. By 1994, he was chief financial officer of Aluminprodukt. Through the company, he bought a stake in a Siberian smelter plant, beginning his ascent to the top of one of Russia's roughest industries. Deripaska became the plant's manager to protect it from a takeover by its former owner, who once threatened him with a grenade launcher. Later, Deripaska waged his own revolt to take over the shares of the London-based Transworld Group, then owned by controversial multimillionaire Mikhail Chernoi. Fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich became Deripaska's partner; in early 2000, the two created a joint venture called Russian Aluminum (RusAl). Today, RusAl has $4 billion in annual sales and is the world's second-largest aluminum producer. Deripaska owns 75 percent of the company. His other businesses include power stations, Russia's largest car and commercial vehicle manufacturer, and the country's largest insurance company.

Estimated Worth:
$1.5 billion

Current Position:
Chairman of the board of directors, Basic Element Company

Major Holdings:
Russian Aluminum

Other Interests:
Ingosstrakh Insurance; aircraft builder Aviacor; the GAZ automobile company; several bus builders and paper and pulp interests.

Political Connections:
Deripaska is married to Polina Yumashev, the daughter of former President Boris Yeltsin's chief of staff. Deripaska's father-in-law in turn married Yeltsin's daughter, which makes Deripaska a grandson of Yeltsin by marriage. In the current political climate of struggles between the Kremlin and oligarchs, Russian news media speculated in July 2003 that Deripaska would be "next in line" for investigations of his business practice by the Kremlin. One of Deripaska's deputies at Russian Aluminum, the executive in charge of contacts with state agencies, is running in the December 2003 election for the State Duma (the lower chamber of the Russian parliament) on the ticket of the center-right, ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.

New Plays:
In October 2003, Deripaska bought an additional 25 percent stake of Russian Aluminum for an estimated $2 billion from fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich.

For more than a year, Deripaska has flown by private jet to London every week to improve his English. Yet, unlike his fellow oligarchs, Deripaska says he has no interest in leaving Russia. In addition to his home in Moscow, Deripaska owns a country house in the wild southern region of Khakassia.

In late 2000, a competitor filed a civil suit for racketeering against Deripaska and his company in a New York court, including charges of bribery, judicial corruption and armed force. The judge dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds. Deripaska was barred from travel to the United States and from entrance to the Davos economic summit in Switzerland. Deripaska has also become an outspoken opponent of Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization, clashing on the issue with U.S. ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow.

Next: Mikhail Fridman - Oil Tycoon

Previous: Boris Berezovsky - Russia's Fallen Oligarch

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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