Alisher Burkhanovich Usmanov (Алишер Усмонов) is estimated to be the richest man in Russia, the forty first richest person in the
world and the sixty third most powerful person in the world by Forbes in June, 2014.
The primary source of his wealth is from a company that became known as Metalloinvest. It includes major holdings in Russian iron ore mining and steel. Currently, he owns Megaphone (MegaFon) Russia’s second largest mobile communications company, Kommersant Russia’s largest daily business newspaper, Mail.ru the largest Russian Internet company and many others.
Alisher Usmanov was born in Chust, Uzbek SSR, Russia (1953) and grew up in Tashknet, the capital of Uzbekistan. He followed his father’s path in becoming a lawyer. In 1976, Usmanov graduated with a degree in international law from Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He aspired to become a diplomat.
In 1988, he was exonerated by the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan from charges of fraud and embezzlement.
In 1992, Alisher Usmanov married Irina Viner a Jewish gymnast who has trained many Russian Olympiads. They have no children together.
Usmanov is friends with Roman Abramovich and many other Russian oligarchs. He lives in Rublyokva, a suburb of Moscow where Vladimir Putin also lives. He is a supporter of the government.
Big Business Beginnings
In the late 1980’s, Usmanov became rich selling plastic bags at a time when bags were so uncommon that Russians cleaned them out in order to reuse them. Usmanov borrowed money to start producing bags in a government owned factory at night. He was able to make over 30,000 bags that sold at close to a ruble each from a ton of polymer that cost 437 rubles.
Metals Bring Billions
Alisher Usmanov hesitated at first to invest in the privatized holdings of the Russian government’s major businesses. In 1994, he founded Interim, one of the first publicly traded holding companies in Russia. In 1998, Rem I. Vyakhirev, Gazprom’s chairman asked Usmanov to help restructure the assets that Gazprom collected from its debtors (for more about investments in Gazprom, see Suleyman Kerimov’s biography). Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev was CEO of Gazprom at the time. Oskol Electrometallurgical Plant and Lebedinsky Mining and Processing Plant gave Gazprom shares in their companies. The shares were consolidated to create Gazmetal. In 2006, Usmanov and others bought up the shares and renamed it Metalloinvest. It is one of the largest iron ore extractors and steel producers in the world. Metalloinvest owns the second largest iron reserves in the world. Usmanov’s assets have fluctuated greatly with the metal markets. Currently, in mid 2014, his assets are valued at $19.6 billion as compared to $1.6 billion in March, 2009.
Internet Technology and Media
Alisher Usmanov has invested in many large Internet based businesses in Russia and abroad including Facebook, Twitter, Groupon and Alibaba through Mail.ru Group, Usmanov’s Internet and technology holding company. In 2006, Usmanov bought the business daily, Kommersant from Boris Berezovsky after he was pushed out of Russia. Kommersant has a very strong Internet presence. He currently owns over thirty Russian local and national television stations in Russia.
Fencing Athlete and Sports Investor
Alisher Usmanov was a saber fencer for Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. In 2007, Usmanov and Farhad Moshiri bought shares in the Arsenal’s, an English football team. He is vested in Russian sports teams as well. He supports many fencing organizations including the Russian Fencing federation. He is a member of the Board of the Russian Olympian Sportsmen Support Fund.
Philanthropy and Public Service
In 2010, Bloomberg estimated that Alisher Usmanov was the second largest Russian philanthropic donor. He is the supporter of many educational, arts, sports, and cultural endeavors in Russia, Kazakhstan and beyond. He has received many honors for public service including the Medal of Honor in 2004 by the President’s decree.
Usmanov serves on the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs’ board to further the economic development of Russia.