Vladimir Aleksandrovich Gusinsky (Влади́мир Гуси́нский) gradually made his fortune through a host of self made business operations which eventually enabled the founding of Media MOST, the largest private Russian media conglomerate in the 1990’s. Gusinsky’s Media MOST, MOST Bank, real estate investments and assets were worth billions of dollars. In 1990, Gusinsky was forced into exile from Russia by Vladimir Putin. As a result, Gusinsky lost control of many of his Russian businesses.
Family History and Education
Vladimir Gusinsky was born in 1952 in Moscow as a Jew. He grew up in a one room flat. His grandfather was shot during a Stalin purge. His grandmother was sent to a Soviet labor camp for ten years.
Gusinsky started university at Gubkin Institute of Petrochemicals and Natural Gas but dropped out to join the army. Gusinsky later graduated from Gitis, a theatrical school. He became a producer in a theater. This was his training ground for public media.
Innovative Small Business
When cooperatives were first allowed in 1987, Gusinsky opened a women’s clothing cooperative. In 1989, he founded MOST, a cooperative consulting firm for foreign investors. He understood the economic opportunities available in Russia during political and economic upheaval.
Vladimir Gusinsky established MOST Bank, in 1989. Gusinsky claims that MOST Bank was the first to distribute credit cards in Russia.
Private Media Empire
In 1993, Gusinsky started what was to become Media MOST with Sevodnya newspaper. He then secured control of Channel 4 with the help of Yuri Luzhkov, Moscow’s Deputy Mayor. He founded NTV, the only private national TV channel in Russia and NTV Plus brought foreign television stations to Russia through a satellite network. He founded TNT to promote regional stations, Ekho Moskvy, a talk radio station, and Itogi, a weekly news magazine published by Sem Dnei publishing house. The television and radio stations were united with the publishing house to comprise Media MOST, the largest provider of news that was independent of the Russian government.
Media MOST Stopped
As the major private media source in Russia, Gusinsky utilized the media for and against politicians during the sensitive post communist era. Media MOST was critical of Vladimir Putin. Media MOST’s offices were raided 30 times. In 2000, he was arrested in Russia and later in Spain and Athens after he fled Russia in his private jet. The charges of fraud and embezzlement by the Russian government were never substantiated.
Russian courts handed Media MOST to Gazprom to pay back a more than $200 million loan with a 20% lien on Media MOST given by Gazprom during the 1998 market crash. Media MOST was absorbed into Gazprom as Gazprom Media. Gusinsky also lost Bank MOST and other businesses in the purge. This happened before Suleyman Kerimov bought his shares of Gazprom through Nafta Moskva.
Vladimir Gusinsky moved between Spain, Israel and America. He has continued to invest in international real estate, sports teams and Ekho TV, a Russian channel broadcasting from America. He bought a stake in Maariv, an Israeli newspaper, which he has since given up. In 2008, Gusinsky started a Russian channel in Israel with Konstantin Kagalovsky to compete with Lev Leviev’s (an Israeli Tycoon) Israeli Russian channel which he has also given up.
Gusinsky is active in the Russian Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress to help protect Jews from anti-Semitism and promote Jewish education.