MOSCOW (AFP) – The young favourite among the Russian oligarchs of the 2000s, Oleg Deripaska has managed to stay on the right side of President Vladimir Putin and has built up a gigantic business empire, notably in aluminium and energy.
Here are five things to know about the billionaire as his holding company En+ floats on the London stock exchange, the first for a Russian group since the West imposed economic sanctions on the country over the Ukraine crisis.
– Close to the presidents –
The 49-year-old was among the oligarchs who amassed huge wealth in the years following the collapse of the USSR. He was close to the first Russian president Boris Yeltsin and in 2001 he married Polina Yumasheva, the former editor of a glossy magazine and the daughter of Yeltsin’s chief of staff.
Ahead of the IPO the company transferred a 6.9 percent stake to Deripaska’s wife Polina.
The influence of the oligarchs diminished after Putin’s arrival in power in 2000 but with the exceptions of some passing tensions Deripaska has remained in favour, unlike many of his contemporaries. In 2014, he invested heavily in the Sochi Winter Olympics.
– Meteoric rise –
Born in 1968 in the Nizhny Novgorod region, to the east of Moscow, the billionaire has been keen to stress his humble origins.
“I was eleven when I received my first pay check working at a plant in Ust-Labinsk. I was an electrician’s apprentice, in other words, I was a real worker and even had my own locker,” he wrote in a biography.
In the 1990s, he graduated from the prestigious Moscow State University with a degree in quantum physics, while the country was in the grip of wild privatisation. Deripaska threw himself into the metal trade and invested in an aluminium factory in Siberia.
He took over the factory at the age of 26 and within a few years had amassed a portfolio that made him one of the richest men in the country.
– The ‘King of Aluminium’ –
Forbes magazine puts Deripaska’s fortune at $6.5 billion. En+ owns the power supplier En+ Power and also holds a 48-percent stake in aluminium giant RUSAL.
In 2016, the group, which is based in Siberia but has a presence in 19 countries, reported a turnover of $10 billion.
The oligarch’s business empire also reaches into the automobile, insurance and agriculture sectors.
– Hit by the crisis –
The 2008 financial crisis hit Deripaska hard, as he had developed his businesses by taking out foreign loans secured by his assets.
“In total we were expected to pay out $4.5 billion,” he wrote in his biography. The Russian state came to his aid and the state development bank Vneshekonombank loaned him the sum to pay back his creditors.
“I can recall the night of October 29 (2008) very clearly. RUSAL’s board of directors met in the Vneshekonombank building and signed the documents that approved taking out a loan of $4.5 billion,” he wrote.
– Russian interference –
Deripaska — who was once an associate of Donald Trump’s former campaign director Paul Manafort, who is being investigated by the FBI — has offered to cooperate with the congressional committees probing Russian interference into the US presidential elections.
At the end of May, The New York Times cited congressional sources saying the magnate had requested immunity to provide testimony.
But Deripaska rejected claims he had proof of Russian meddling and was willing to provide it in return for a free legal pass as “absolutely untrue”.