“Buy on a scandal, sell on good news” is a phrase reported to have been said by arguably the most reclusive and low profile of the richest Russians: Alexander Ponomarenko. There is nothing shy about his fortune of nearly $3 billion though, and while this tycoon doesn’t court the limelight, he is a regular entry on the Forbes Billionaire’s Lists.
Education and Early Career Years
Born in 1964 in Belogorsk, Alexander Anatolyevich Ponomarenko may be a global shipping mogul and Chairman of Board of Directors of Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port (NCSP), but he is also somewhat of an academic. He served in the military from 1983–1985, before commencing his studies at Simferopol State University in 1988, where he graduated with a degree in Physics. In 1997, he earned his Ph.D. in Economics from the Russian State Academy of Management and successfully defended a second thesis “State regulation of the integrated corporate systems” in 2001.
His career started with a relatively modest investment in a perfume factory situated in Ukraine. Together with partner and lifelong friend, Alexander Skorobogatko, he established the Russian General Bank in Moscow, which dealt primarily with the shipping market operating out of the port of Novorossiysk.
Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port
In 2003 and 2004, the partners bought up a number of companies at the port including the Novorossiysk ship repairing factory, Novorossiysk grain terminal and bulk complex as well as Novoroslesexport. In 2004, they formed the Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port, where Ponomarenko serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors.
Their success can be attributed to the foresight of buying shares in the stevedoring companies around the port that had suffered financially during the recession and financial crisis of the latter years of the 1990s. The Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port was listed as a public company in 2007, netting the partners a staggering $1 billion each for their efforts.
The partners sold 20% of the holding company to well-known businessman Arkady Rotenberg in 2008, and in 2011, the pair sold more stakes to Transneft and Summa Capital, both state-owned companies. This also brought in cash to the value of $1 billion for each partner. Later in the year, Ponomarenko bought a massive mansion and hectares of parkland close to the popular Black Sea resort town of Praskoveyevka. There was some tabloid speculation about the sale, and the mansion was dubbed ‘Putin’s Palaca’, (Putin’s Palace) hinting that state funds had been diverted to purchase the property for the Russian leader. It was at this time that Ponomarenko is said to have quipped that, ‘buying on a scandal, was very good for business’.
The latest venture for Ponomarenko and Skorobogatko appears to be real estate investment. In 2012, they joined forces with Arkady Rotenberg to form TPS Real Estate Holding Ltd., a company with a capital of over $15 billion.
Personal Life and Passions: Art and Antique Books
Alexander Ponomarenko is passionate about hunting and is an avid collector of antique books on the subject. He is also a collector of the landscapes of the Russian artists Ivan Aivazovsky and Alexey Bogolyubov, as well as the paintings of the ‘Silver Age’ of Russian art.