Who is Mikhail Fridman? The success story of the Russian billionaire, co-founder of Alfa Group
Mikhail Fridman is one of Russia's great businessmen. He is the principal owner of Russia's largest privately-owned financial-industrial investment, Alfa Group. He successfully invested in different sectors, including oil and gas, and eventually became a global force to reckon with. Mikhail made news headlines after speaking up on the Russian-Ukrainian war recently.
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The Ukrainian-born Mikhail Maratovich Fridman is the seventh wealthiest man in Russia, investing in several companies such as Alfa-Bank (Russia's largest private bank) and LetterOne. He also owns stakes in Wintershall DEA, a German oil and gas company, and is one of the founders of Russia's largest privately-held investment firms.
- Full name: Mikhail Maratovich Fridman
- Gender: Male
- Date of birth: 21 April 1964
- Age: 58 years (as of 2022)
- Place of birth: Lviv, Ukraine
- Current residence: Moscow, Russia, and Athlone House, UK
- Nationality: Ukrainian, Russian, Israeli
- Ethnicity: Jewish
- Religion: Jewish
- Height in feet: 6'
- Height in centimetres: 183
- Weight in pounds: 133
- Weight in kilograms: 60
- Hair colour: Black
- Eye colour: Black
- Mother: Evgenia Rothstein
- Father: Marat Fridman
- Relationship status: Married
- Partner: Oksana Ozhelskaya
- School: Lviv High School
- University: Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys
- Profession: Entrepreneur and CEO
- Net worth: $12.4 billion
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Early life and education
Mikhail Maratovich Fridman was born in western Ukraine in 1964 into the family of Evgenia Rothstein and Marat Fridman. In 1980, he graduated with a high school diploma. A sad occurrence took a toll on him due to his Jewish heritage; he was turned away from Moscow's top physics college.
Nevertheless, he went to the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys, studying metallurgical engineering. There, he did odd jobs like cleaning windows with his friends. Also, they sold tickets to famous shows and used the money to trade for rare items before he graduated in 1986.
What is Mikhail Fridman's net worth?
According to Forbes magazine, as of 2022, Mikhail Fridman has a net worth of $12.4 billion. But then, how did he achieve this much?
Mikhail Fridman's source of wealth
Immediately after his graduation, Fridman worked for Elektrostal Metallurgical Works as a metallurgical design engineer until 1988. He founded a window-washing business and an apartment rental agency for foreigners.
His business prospered, and he decided to partner with German Khan and Alexey Kuzmichev to start Alfa-Photo. The newly founded company imported photography chemicals. Later, the three diversified and founded Alfa-Eco, an oil trading firm, and Alfa Capital, an investment firm.
Alfa Group Consortium, Russia's biggest privately held financial-industrial conglomerate, was formed by merging Alfa-Photo and Alfa-Eco. The merged companies have interests in telecommunications, banking, retail, and oil.
In 1991, Fridman made a financial investment that multiplied his fortune. He wisely invested his $100,000 profit from his previous business to co-found Alfa-Bank with German Khan. Eventually, the bank grew to become one of the largest private banks in Russia.
Furthermore, Alfa Group became the parent company of several independent companies such as Rosvodokanal, a private water utility; AlfaStrakhovanie, a diversified insurance company; A1 Group, an investment company; and X5 Retail Group, a large chain of food retailers.
Alfa Group expanded further to include several companies from different sectors. Some of the companies and how he acquired them are discussed below:
In 1997, Fridman, Len Blavatnik, and Viktor Vekselberg paid $800 million for Siberia's state-owned TNK (Tyumen Oil Company). In February 2003, BP, a British multinational oil and gas company, agreed to create TNK-BP with the AAR consortium, including Alfa Group, Blavatnik's Access Industries, and Vekselberg's Renova.
Alfa Telecom and Altimo
In 2001, Alfa Group purchased large shares in different telecom and internet firms, including Golden Telecom, Vimpelcom, MegaFon, Kyivstar, and Turkcell.
LetterOne and L1 Energy
In 2013, the oligarch and his Alfa Group colleagues, Khan and Kuzmichev, sold their TNK-BP holdings to form the worldwide investment firm LetterOne (L1), with Fridman as chairman. Petr Aven and Andrei Kosogov also came on board as co-founders of LetterOne.
The firm has an interest in energy, telecommunications, finance, and technology. LetterOne was in charge of $29 billion in assets as of 2013.
Mikhail Fridman's family
Olga was his first spouse. In the 1990s, they met at the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys but unfortunately parted ways for reasons that remain a mystery to the public. The Russian billionaire and Olga have two daughters, Katya (Ekaterina) and Lora (Larisa).
Mikhail later married Oksana Ozhelskaya as his second wife in May 2014. As of now, Mikhail Fridman's wife has two children for him, making his children four.
Mikhail Fridman's house
The billionaire businessman mostly resides in the UK, where he bought Athlone House for $90 million in 2016. The house is reportedly one of the grandest Victorian properties in the Highgate enclave beloved by the super-rich. Sprawled over five acres of land, the prime real estate is not far from Bishop's Avenue in north London.
Is Russia an oligarchy?
Yes, it is. Oligarchs are the superwealthy business elites with excessive political power in the country's context. They were formed in two different periods. The first set of people came during the privatisation of the 1990s, when the largest state-owned enterprises were sold off to a few business tycoons in exchange for loans.
The second set of people emerged after President Putin came to power in 2000. He awarded state contracts to private suppliers in different sectors. This set of people overcharged the government and went back to pay specific percentages to the state officials involved.
Over the years, Mikhail Fridman's dedication and investment have made him the eleventh most prosperous man in Russia. As a result, he has received several awards, such as the Golden Plate Award and Forbes Russian Businessman of the Year.
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