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  RusNet :: Encyclopedia :: A  

Roman Abramovich

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Roman Abramovich, one of Russia's most powerful businessmen, the new Russian owner of Chelsea Football Club who has amassed a huge fortune, thanks mainly to oil. Considered to be closely connected to the so called Family

At only 36 years old, Roman Abramovich is listed by Forbes magazine as the second-richest man in Russia and the world's 49th wealthiest person, with a fortune of £1.8bn, while the Sunday Times says he is worth as much as £3.8bn.

His meteoric rise is all the more remarkable given his difficult start in life.

His mother died when he was only 18 months old and his father died in a construction accident when he was four. Adopted by his father's brother, he lived for a time in Moscow and then with his maternal grandparents in the northern region of Komi.

Mr Abramovich attended the Industrial Institute in the city of Ukhta in Komi, before he was drafted into the Soviet army. His interest in oil began early as he concentrated his business activities on trading oil products out of Russia's largest refinery in Omsk, western Siberia.

Mr Abramovich's big break came in 1992, when Boris Berezovsky, then the most powerful of Russia's tycoons, befriended him and brought him into the inner circle of former president Boris Yeltsin.

Nine years later, when Mr Berezovsky fell out of favour with the new Putin regime, and went into exile to Britain following a criminal investigation into fraud charges, the pupil took over from the master.

Neatly stepping into his mentor's shoes, Mr Abramovich began building up his financial empire. He accumulated 80% of Sibneft, Russia's fifth-largest oil company, 50% of Rusal, the Russian aluminium oil monopoly, and 26% of Aeroflot, Russia's national airline.

Along the way, came the inevitable accusation of financial shenanigans as the Russian economy went through its own version of robber baron capitalism. In 1992, he was investigated, but eventually cleared, for alleged misappropriation of 55 railroad wagons full of diesel fuel from the Ukhtinsky petroleum processing plant.

Recently, Mr Abramovich branched out into politics, following in the footsteps of other oligarchs who became regional governors - men who wield enormous power locally and nationally through the control of vast chunks of natural resources.

In December, 2000, he won 92% of the vote to become governor of Chukotka, a desolate province in northeastern Russia. Since then, he has been pouring money into a frozen province which has a population of just 73,000.

According to a Time magazine article last December, Mr Abramovich spent $200m (£120.2m) to $300m of his own money to build everything from hotels and cinemas to supermarkets.

Such largesse has aroused suspicions from Mr Abramovich's critics, who think he is using Chukotka as a springboard for higher political office. But he told Time: "It's a new endeavour for me. I've never run a territory. I've never talked publicly to people. I've got to try it just to see whether I like it."

He even brought staff from Sibneft to run the province. Despite all his efforts, the region was recently declared bankrupt and public sector salaries went unpaid for months.

Mr Abramovich already had a British connection before his surprise move for Chelsea. His multibillion dollar assets are controlled through Millhouse Capital, a British-registered investment fund. Also, this is not his first move into sport, as he already owns a Russian hockey team.

See also: Celsea FC official website

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