Update: Forbes Real-Time feed updates exchange rates once a day at 9:30 a.m. After factoring in the tumble of the Russian ruble against the U.S. on Thursday, Forbes estimates that Russian billionaires have lost more than $126 billion in wealth since February 16, compared to our initial report of a nearly $90 billion loss. Numbers throughout have been changed to reflect the plunging value of Russia’s currency.
Russian President Vladimir Putin summoned some of the nation’s business leaders today to a meeting at the Kremlin. At the meeting were at least 13 billionaires: Vagit Alekperov, Pyotr Aven, Andrei Bokarev, Andrei Guriev, Mikhail Gutseriev, Suleiman Kerimov, Andrey Melnichenko, Leonid Mikhelson, Alexey Mordashov, Vadim Moshkovich, Vladimir Potanin, Dmitry Pumpyansky and Vladimir Yevtushenkov, according to state-owned news agency TASS.
“What is happening is a necessary measure,” he reportedly told them. “We were simply left with no chance to do otherwise.”
None of the billionaires have apparently commented, some likely too scared of Putin to speak out against the invasion. But they are not immune.
His attack on Ukraine has not only wreaked havoc on Ukraine, it has destabilized markets around the world and hit the fortunes of even his closest allies. Tens of billions of dollars have been wiped from the fortunes of Russia’s billionaire elite as the country’s stock market and the ruble plunged after President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s roughly 116 billionaires have lost more than $126 billion since February 16, Forbes calculates. Of that, an estimated $71 billion was wiped out on Thursday, after Russia’s Moex index closed down 33% and the ruble plunged to a record low against the dollar. The threat of sanctions extending beyond the small circle of billionaire oligarchs and businesses already targeted by the United States, United Kingdom, and European Union could bite further into the fortunes of Russia’s richest.
At least five of the billionaires at the Kremlin Thursday – Alekperov, Mikhelson, Mordashov, Potanin and Kerimov – were among the day’s biggest billionaire losers. Altogether at least 11 Russian billionaires lost $1 billion or more each on Thursday.Lukoil’s Vagit Alekperov was the biggest billionaire loser from the Moscow Stock Exchange sell off sparked by President Putin’s order to invade Ukraine.
Alekperov, a former Caspain oil sea rig worker and former Soviet oil minister who set up Lukoil, Russia’s largest independent oil producer, was the biggest loser. He saw $4.2 billion, or around 17.1% of his fortune, disappear as Russian oil and gas stocks plunged. Lukoil shares, which are listed in London and Moscow, are down more than 30% since the start of the military build up to the invasion.
Lukoil was targeted by the U.S. along with other Russian energy companies like state-owned Rosneft in 2014 by financial and technological sanctions over Russia’s seizure of Crimea and could again be targeted by Washington, Brussels and London.
Billionaire Gennady Timchenko, who was targeted this week by British sanctions, was also among those whose fortunes took the biggest hits. Timchenko, who owns stakes in various Russian businesses, including gas company Novatek and petrochemicals producer Sibur, saw around $4.2 billion wiped from his fortune.
Timchenko, who is still worth more than $19 billion, was named as a part of Putin’s “inner circle” in sanctions imposed by the U.S. Treasury after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March 2014. Those sanctions led Timchenko, who claims to have met Putin in the early 1990s, to sell his 43% stake in Gunvor, then the world’s fourth largest oil trading group.
The U.S. had claimed that Putin himself had investments in Gunvor and may have had access to the group’s funds, allegations denied by the Geneva-based trading house. Gunvor has disputed that allegation.VTB Capital has offices in the heart of London’s financial district and today was named in new sanctions imposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The British government earlier this week also sanctioned three other super wealthy Russians , including Putin’s former son-in-law (and former billionaire) Kirill Shamalov. Following Russian strikes on Ukraine it also announced an asset freeze of Russia’s banks, and a ban on Russian nationals from holding more than $66,000 (50,000 pounds) in a U.K. bank account.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also reportedly pushed Western leaders to go further and eject Russia from the SWIFT international payments system, one of the main pipelines for international finance and banking. Czech President Milos Zeman, once one of Putin’s keenest supporters in Europe, also called for Russia to be cut out from SWIFT for a “crime against peace” despite hesitance from some European leaders over the economic fallout for all parties of locking Russian businesses and energy companies out of the payments system.
British opposition lawmakers called for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to go further and seize the assets of the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. The billionaire owner of Premier League soccer team Chelsea FC, who made his fortune in Russia’s oil industry after the fall of the Soviet Union, has repeatedly become caught in the long-running diplomatic tensions between London and Moscow.
“We have more individuals on our list, who we are ready to sanction,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told LBC radio on Wednesday when questioned if Abramovich was a target for sanctions. “Nobody is off the table.”
Abramovich, who had more than $1 billion wiped from his fortune this week, is reportedly without a British visa after his entrepreneur visa reportedly expired in 2018, but has been able to visit his soccer team thanks to newly acquired, Portuguese citizenships. Any moves the British government makes towards his ownership of his beloved soccer team could be threatened by a $2 billion loan he made to Chelsea. Sports fans and many others will be watching.
Russia’s Big Losers (measures Thursday’s one day drop)Leonid Mikhelson
Down $4.5 billion, – 16.5%
Major shareholder of gas producer Novatek.
Down $4.2 billion, – 17.1%
Former Caspian oil sea rig worker and former Soviet oil minister is chairman of Russia’s largest independent oil company, Lukoil.
Down $4.2 billion, – 14.4%
Majority shareholder in steel company Severstal, which he ran for 19 years as CEO.
Down $4.2 billion, -18.1%
Timchenko was hit with sanctions on Tuesday after Putin deployed forces to the two regions in eastern Ukraine.
Down $4.1 billion, – 13.5%
Chairman of NLMK Group, a leading manufacturer of steel products.
Down $3.2 billion, – 22.7%
A trained economist, Kerimov made a career investing in distressed companies in Russia. Most of his fortune now comes from his family’s stake in Russia’s biggest gold producer, Polyus.
Down $3 billion, – 10.7%
Named as a close associate of the Russian president by the U.S. Treasury in 2018, most of his fortune is held in mining giant Norilsk Nickel.
Down $2 billion, – 52.2%
The founder of Russian bank, Tinkoff, was sentenced last year for filing a false tax return and agree to pay more than half a billion to the U.S. government. .
Down $1.7 billion, – 38.9%
Former head of the investment division of state-owned Rostec, which controlled military contractors in Russia, he now gets most of his fortune from his stake in VSMPO-AVISMA, the world’s largest titanium producer for the aerospace industry.
Down $1.4 billion, – 14.2%
Former military man-turned-financial whiz is Alekperov’s right hand man at Lukoil.
Down $1.2 billion, – 8.4%
British opposition lawmakers have demanded the seizure of Abramovich’s assets including Chelsea football club. It won’t be so easy.
I joined Forbes as the Europe News Editor and will be working with the London newsroom to define our coverage of emerging businesses and leaders across the UK and Europe. Prior to joining Forbes, I worked for the news agency Storyful as its Asia Editor working from its Hong Kong bureau, and as a Senior Editor in London, where I reported on breaking news stories from around the world, with a special focus on how misinformation and disinformation spreads on social media platforms. I started my career in London as a financial journalist with Citywire and my work has appeared in the BBC, Sunday Times, and many more UK publications. Email me story ideas, or tips, to email@example.com, or Twitter @_iainmartin.
The fortunes of Russia’s super-rich have tumbled $32 billion this year, with the escalating conflict in Ukraine poised to make that wealth destruction much larger.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday unleashed sanctions targeting Russia’s sale of sovereign debt abroad and the country’s elites, and said he’s sending an unspecified number of additional U.S. troops to the Baltics in a defensive move to defend NATO countries.
Gennady Timchenko heads the list of Russian billionaires who have seen their fortunes drop, with almost a third of his wealth disappearing this year, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a listing of the world’s 500 richest people.
Timchenko, 69, the son of a Soviet military officer who met and befriended Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin during the early 1990s, now has a fortune of about $16 billion, with the bulk of his wealth derived from a stake in Russia gas producer Novatek, according to Bloomberg’s wealth index.
Fellow Novatek shareholder Leonid Mikhelson’s fortune has tumbled $6.2 billion this year, while Lukoil Chairman Vagit Alekperov’s net worth has declined about $3.5 billion in the same period as the energy company’s stock has slid almost 17%.
The country’s 23 billionaires currently have a net worth of $343 billion, according to the wealth list, down from $375 billion at year-end.
Markets slumped further this week after Putin recognized two separatist republics in Ukraine, leading to Germany halting an energy project with Russia and the U.K. imposing sanctions on five of the country’s banks and three of its wealthy individuals, including Timchenko.
Also on the U.K.’s sanctions list are Boris Rotenberg, 65, and his nephew, Igor, 48, whose families made their fortune through gas-pipeline construction firm Stroygazmontazh.
Igor’s father, Arkady, one of Putin’s former judo sparring partners, sold the pipeline firm in 2019 for about $1.3 billion. He purchased a minority stake from his younger brother Boris five years earlier when both siblings and Timchenko were hit with U.S. sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Additionally, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday he wouldn’t meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov this week because it “does not make sense” given Russia’s moves in Ukraine.
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