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

Mikhail Fridman Mikhail Fridman - Oil Tycoon
Mikhail Fridman, 39, was born in 1964 in Lvov, on the western border of Ukraine. Fridman's first entrepreneurial stints, which he worked at while attending the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys, included window washing, running a discotheque, and scalping Moscow theater tickets -- all illegal under Soviet rule. When then-Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev passed a series of economic reforms relaxing the prohibitions on private business, Fridman and his classmates started a co-op, arranging for courier delivery of goods and a hodgepodge of other services. In 1988, Fridman set up his own photo cooperative, Alfa Foto, and subsequently ALFA/EKO, a commodities trading firm, which gave him the capital to establish AlfaBank, today one of Russia's largest banks. He recruited a Russian foreign trade minister to head up the bank. After a series of profitable debt securities deals, Fridman's wealth grew exponentially, positioning him to acquire significant oil interests in Russia. Today, he is a major shareholder and the chairman of the newly formed Russian oil giant TNK-BP, Russia's third-largest oil producer.

Estimated Worth:
$4.3 billion

Current Position:
Chairman, Alfa Group

Major Holdings:
TNK-BP (formerly Tyumen Oil) and AlfaBank

Other Interests:
Telecom businesses Golden Telecom and Vimpelcom; retailer Trade House Perekriostock, which operates a leading chain of supermarkets, and vodka producer Smirnov Trade House

Political Connections:
Fridman's partner, Peter Aven, was Russia's minister of foreign economic affairs. Fridman was one of the Big Seven, the original group of oligarchs who bankrolled the 1996 reelection of President Boris Yeltsin and who claimed to then control 50 percent of Russia's assets.

New Plays:
Fridman recently sold 50 percent of Tyumen Oil to British Petroleum in a landmark $6.75 billion deal, creating TNK-BP, the 10th-largest private-sector oil and gas company in the world in terms of production.

Fridman is known for keeping a low profile, although his Moscow flat is said to be larger than 12,000 square feet; Fridman's wife and two children live in Paris.

The oil tanker Prestige, which sank off the Spanish coast in 2002 and released an oil slick that spread 250 miles, was chartered by a company owned by Fridman.

Next: Vladimir Gusinsky - Media Magnate

Previous: Oleg Deripaska - Aluminum King

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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