Viktor Felixovich Vekselberg (Виктор Вексельберг) is part of Russia’s new generation of billionaires. Vekselberg is the third wealthiest
Russian and the forty-ninth wealthiest person in the world with assets estimated at $17.3 billion as of March 2014. He was born in 1957, Drohobych, Lviv region, Ukraine. He worked as an engineer until Russia eased laws against private businesses. Vekselberg founded Renova Group, the holdings house that he used to amass his wealth with investments in metals, oil, gas, technology and more. Since 2007, he has served in various public positions to further the development of Russia’s economy. As a result, the Kremlin chose him to oversee the development of Skolkovo, Russia’s high tech province.
Family and Education
While Viktor Vekselberg’s father is Jewish, his mother is Christian. Despite the fact that he identifies himself only as a Christian after his mother, he says that he has experienced antisemitism.
In 1979, he graduated from Moscow Transportation Engineering Institute with honors in automation and computing engineering. He later received a Ph.D. in mathematics.
He is married with two children and lives in Moscow.
Privatization in Russia
Viktor Vekselberg worked as an engineer until 1988, when Mikhail Gorbachev reduced restrictions on private companies. In 1988, Vekselberg founded NPO KomVek. It provided research and production services for Irkutsk Aluminum Plant. He earned his first million by recycling old copper wires.
In 1990, he cofounded Renova Group with Leonard Blavatnik a college classmate. Renova’s acquisitions and profits made them billionaires. Renova is one of Russia’s largest holding companies.
SUAL and UC RUSAL
With the hastening of privatization by Boris Yelstin, Renova acquired parts of the aluminum and metals industry. In 1996, Viktor Vekselberg cofounded Siberian Urals Aluminum Company (SUAL). Later, SUAL merged to become United Company RUSAL (UC RUSAL) the world’s largest aluminum producer.
Tyumen Oil-British Petroleum (TNK-BP)
With profitable assets bought at discounted prices, Viktor Vekselberg continued to expand his portfolio by buying a significant share of Tyumen Oil (TNK). In1997, he sat on the Board of directors of TNK one of Russia’s Largest oil and gas producers.
In 2003, the oligarchs Viktor Vekselberg, Leonard Blavatnik, Mikhail Fridman, German Kahn and Alexey Kuzmichev negotiated the merging of their oil and gas holdings to form TNK-BP. As TNK’s Chairman of the Board, Vekselberg helped seal the largest private transaction in Russian history that joined TNK with British Petroleum (BP).
In 2013, Vekselberg received $7 billion when Rosneft a state owned company bought out TNK-BP from the five Russian billionaires.
Skolkovo: Russia’s Modern High-tech Project
Dmitry Medvedev, the President of the Russian Federation chose Vekselberg to lead the council in charge of the Innovation Center Project in Skolkovo. In 1910, Medvedev initiated the creation of a modern high-tech center in Russia to spurn technological and economic advancement. Since the onset of the Skolkovo project, Vekselberg has started a group of technology companies including Hevel a developer of thin-film energy technologies.
Russian Art Appreciation
Viktor Vekselberg is an art collector. In 2004, he bought Faberge eggs made in honor of the Russian Czars. He opened a private museum for his art collection.
Philanthropy and Public Service
Viktor Vekselberg supports many Russian cultural, educational, social, and environmental causes. He serves on the Board of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. He helped support the new Olympic complex in Russia. In 2004, he helped build the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow.