Mikhail Maratovich Fridman (Russian: Михаи́л Мара́тович Фри́дман; born 21 April 1964) is a Russian business magnate, investor and philanthropist. He also holds Israeli citizenship. He co-founded Alfa-Group, a multinational Russian conglomerate. According to Forbes, he was the seventh richest Russian as of 2017. In May 2017, he was also ranked as Russia's most important businessman by bne IntelliNews.
|Mikhail M. Fridman|
Fridman at LetterOne in 2015
|Native name||Михаи́л Мара́тович Фри́дман|
21 April 1964 |
Lviv, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
|Alma mater||Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys|
|Occupation||Co-founder of LetterOne, Alfa Group, and Alfa Bank
Co-founder of the Russian Jewish Congress and Genesis Philanthropy Group
|Net worth||US$ 14.5 billion (April 2017)|
|Website||Mikhail Fridman at LetterOne.com|
In 1991 he co-founded Alfa-Bank, which is one of the largest private banks in Russia. After serving as CEO of TNK-BP, the 50/50 TNK-BP joint venture, for nine years, in 2013 he sold his stake in the company and co-founded the international investment company LetterOne (L1), headquartered in Luxembourg. Fridman currently sits as chairman of the supervisory board of Alfa Group Consortium, and he is also on the boards of Alfa-Bank and ABH Holdings, which is the Luxembourg-based holding company of Alfa Banking Group. He is also on the supervisory board of directors for VEON (formerly Vimpelcom) and X5 Retail Group. He is a member of the supervisory board of DEA Deutsche Erdoel AG, which is owned by LetterOne. Fridman has been a member of numerous public facing bodies, including the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, the Public Chamber of Russia, and the Council on Foreign Relations. Also a philanthropist and active supporter of cultural initiatives, he co-founded the Russian Jewish Congress; the Genesis Prize; and the Genesis Philanthropy Group, which supports Russian-speaking Jews worldwide.
Early life and educationEdit
Fridman was born in 1964 in Lviv, Ukraine, USSR, where he spent his youth. He graduated from high school in Lviv in 1980, where he won school olympiads in physics and mathematics. He was denied entrance to Moscow’s top physics college because of his Jewish heritage, and instead attended the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys. He worked various jobs while a college student in Moscow, including washing windows and founding and co-owning a student discotheque named Strawberry Fields. He also led a group of students who would queue for tickets at popular Moscow plays, and then use the tickets as hard currency to barter for rare goods and favours. Having studied metallurgical engineering, he graduated with distinction from the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys in 1986.
Early years and Alfa companies (1980s–1990s)Edit
After graduation Fridman worked as a metallurgical design engineer in Elektrostal Metallurgical Works, a state electrical machinery factory, from 1986 to 1988. As Russian politician Mikhail Gorbachev began to open the economy in the late 1980s, in 1988 Fridman established a window-washing business, an apartment rental agency for foreigners, a company that sold used computers, and a company that imported cigarettes and perfumes, with fellow friends from college, employing students from various Moscow universities. His business mentor was his grandmother, who had owned a kitchenware shop in Lviv. According to Fridman, she had warned him, "Never have dealings with the Reds."
In 1988, along with German Khan and Alexey Kuzmichev, Fridman co-founded Alfa-Photo (also transliterated as Alfa-Foto), which imported photography chemicals. In 1989 the three partners founded Alfa-Eco (Alfa-Echo, Alfa-Eko, Alfa-Ekho), a commodities trading firm, and Alfa Capital (Alfa Kapital), an investment firm. Alfa-Eco and Alfa Capital developed into Alfa Group Consortium. The company, which initially focused on computer trading and copy machine maintenance, expanded into imports and exports and commodities trading, eventually becoming one of Russia’s largest privately owned financial-industrial conglomerates, with interests in industries such as telecommunications, banking, retail, and oil.
Using $100,000 of his profit from his businesses to pay the required fee, in January 1991 Fridman co-founded Alfa-Bank. The company grew to become one of the largest private banks in Russia. Alfa Group's later divisions include 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.
During the 1998 Russian financial crisis, Alfa Bank used its holdings related to TNK to avoid a debt default, and was one of the few Russian banks at the time to continue to allow customer withdrawals.
TNK-BP and other assets (2000–2012)Edit
In 1997, Fridman collaborated with Len Blavatnik and Viktor Vekselberg to purchase the state-owned TNK (Tyumen Oil Company) for US$800 million. TNK, a struggling Siberian oil company, was already bankrupt, and Fridman later recalled of the deal that "We thought it was a mistake. We overpaid." However, the company began to turn a profit after a significant debt restructuring. In February 2003, the British multinational oil and gas company BP agreed to form the TNK-BP joint venture with the AAR consortium, which included Alfa Group, Blavatnik's Access Industries, and Vekselberg's Renova. After the merger, TNK-BP became the third largest oil producer in Russia, and one of the top ten largest private oil companies in the world. Fridman served as TNK-BP chairman for nine years, and CEO for three years. He resigned as CEO of TNK-BP in May 2012. In 2013, TNK-BP was sold to Russia’s state-owned energy group Rosneft for US$56 billion, with Fridman and his Russian partners receiving $28 billion for their 50% stake, at the height of crude oil prices.
Fridman's Alfa Group had founded the Perekrestok chain of supermarkets in Moscow in 1995. Through a merger with the Pyatyorochka supermarket chain, which had been founded in St. Petersburg in 1999 by Alexander Girda and Andrey Rogachev, Alfa Group founded the X5 Retail Group in 2006. X5 acquired another grocer, Kopeyka, for US$1.65 billion in December 2010. X5 was the country's largest food retailer in terms of sales before being overtaken by Magnit in April 2013.
Fridman's net worth was evaluated at $12.7 billion in September 2010, which at the time made him the third-richest man in Russia.
Founding LetterOne and L1 Energy (2013–2015)Edit
Using part of the proceeds from the sale of their stakes in TNK-BP, Fridman and his Alfa Group partners Khan and Kuzmichev established the international investment company LetterOne (L1) in 2013, and Fridman became the company's chairman. Headquartered in Luxembourg, the company was created to invest in international projects in energy, telecoms, finance, technology, and other sectors. As of 31 December 2013, LetterOne had $29 billion in assets under management. In May 2015 Mervyn Davies (Lord Davies) was appointed deputy chairman of LetterOne, and former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt was appointed as the board's advisor.
In 2013 LetterOne also formed L1 Energy, an energy investment vehicle, initially focused particularly on undervalued international oil and gas assets during the slump in oil prices. John Browne (Lord Browne) was appointed to its advisory board, and in March 2015 became its chairman.
L1 Energy's North Sea oil assets (2015)Edit
On 3 March 2015, L1 Energy acquired international oil and gas company DEA, from the German utility RWE, for $7 billion (€5.1 billion). Headquartered in Hamburg, Germany with extensive assets in the British North Sea, RWE DEA had total natural gas production output of 2.6bn cubic metres in 2013. The deal was approved by Germany and seven other national and supranational authorities, including the European Union and Ukraine. Despite this, the L1 purchase of RWE DEA was opposed by the UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey, who raised concerns that Fridman might one day face international Ukraine-related sanctions against Russian companies and individuals which could force L1 Energy to shut down production in the North Sea, thus imperiling oil supplies and 5% of Britain's North Sea natural gas output. The opposition from the UK received a fair degree of press coverage, with the Financial Times writing "the [sanctions] argument has puzzled many who know Mr Fridman. Always careful to steer clear of politics, he has never been seen as a Kremlin crony." Bloomberg opined that "the U.K. government is being patently unfair" to Fridman and L1 Energy, stating "it should leave Fridman alone: He's investing in Western Europe because he sees the same Russian risks that Western nations have seen since last year." On 4 March 2015, Davey gave Fridman a one-week deadline to convince the UK government not to force him to sell the North Sea oil and gas assets. In April 2015, the government gave Fridman up to six months to sell.
In October 2015 Fridman and the LetterOne Group sold L1 Energy's British North Sea assets to Ineos, a Switzerland-based petrochemical company, owned by Jim Ratcliffe, with no previous experience operating oil and gas fields, for $750 million. At the time, the British government assured LetterOne that the forced sale was "not a judgement on the suitability of LetterOne’s owners to control these or any other assets in the UK."
In October 2015 LetterOne Group acquired German utility company E.ON’s equity interests in 43 Norwegian oil and gas licences, including interests in three producing Norwegian fields, all located in the North Sea, for $1.6 billion.
LetterOne's telcom and other technology assets 2015 through 2016Edit
In April 2015, LetterOne Technology (L1 Technology) was launched in London. Its focus was buying "struggling telecom or technology companies that require a fresh infusion of capital." Various advisory board members were appointed including Brent Hoberman, Denis O'Brien, and Sir Julian Horn-Smith. The L1 Technology fund began acting as a holding company for the 48 percent stake in VimpelCom owned by Fridman and his partners. The fund also had a 13 percent share in the Turkish telecom company Turkcell.
LetterOne revealed plans in October 2015 to invest funds in indebted Brazilian telecom company OI SA, to foster a merger with TIM Brasil, Telecom Italia’s Brazilian subsidiary, in an effort to aid consolidation in the mobile phone sector in Latin America; however after TIM Brasil refused to cooperate in the proposed merger, L1 Technology pulled away from the deal in February 2016.
In February 2016, Fridman’s LetterOne fund invested $200 million in Uber. In June 2016, LetterOne expanded into healthcare with L1 Health in the United States, for investments in the global healthcare industry.
Fridman is chairman of the supervisory board of Alfa Group Consortium, and he is also on the boards of directors of Alfa-Bank and of ABH Holdings, which is the Luxembourgh-headquartered holding company of Alfa Banking Group. He is on the board of directors of LetterOne. He is also on the supervisory board of directors for VEON (formerly Vimpelcom) and X5 Retail Group. Since DEA Deutsche Erdoel AG was bought by L1 Energy in 2015, he has been a member of its supervisory board.
Fridman is a member of numerous public facing bodies, including the National Council on Corporate Governance in Russia and a boardmember of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. In February 2001, he became a member of the Council for Entrepreneurship at the Government of the Russian Federation. He was elected as a member of the Public Chamber of Russia in November 2005. Since 2005, he has been a Russian representative on the international advisory board of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Writing and public speakingEdit
In July 2016, Fridman and economist Anatole Kaletsky were interviewed by The Milken Institute in a feature titled "Searching for Growth in an Unstable Global Economy." In the article they talk about the emergence of a new, "Indigo Era" of economics based on creativity and digital skills rather than on natural resources. The feature was a followup to an article Fridman had published in the Financial Times the year before, in which he theorized that "the oil price had [previously] remained high because people perceived there was a shortage," and that the global economy was facing a "new phase in which people would not fear the end of oil." In October 2016, Fridman spoke as part of a panel discussion at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels, focusing discussion on modern trends in the global economy and the implications for Europe. In October 2017, he hosted the Council on European Studies at the MacMillan Center, personally speaking on the topic of entrepreneurship. In November 2017, he spoke at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, home of Yale Hillel.
Philanthropy and initiativesEdit
In 1996 Fridman was one of the founders of the Russian Jewish Congress, and he has been active in it since then, including having been its vice president and head of its cultural committee. He is an active supporter and judge of the Russian national literary award "Big Book", and he is also a member of the board of the Center for the Support of Russian Literature, which is focused on implementing cultural programs, promoting the ideals of humanism and respect for the values of Russian culture, and supporting creative writing and book publishing in Russia.
He is a major donor to the European Jewish Fund, which promotes inter-religious dialogue. In 2007, Fridman along with Stan Polovets, Alexander Knaster, Pyotr Aven, and German Khan founded the Genesis Philanthropy Group, whose purpose is to develop and enhance Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide. The Genesis Prize, which the group founded in 2012, is a million-dollar annual prize for Jewish contributions to humanity. Fridman was also one of the major funders of the Holocaust memorial project at Babi Yar in Kiev, Ukraine, which was launched in 2016.
Honors and awardsEdit
In 2003, Fridman was honored with the Golden Plate Award from the Academy of Achievement in Washington, presented by former US President Bill Clinton, and he was named one of "The Stars of Europe: 25 Leaders at the forefront of change" by BusinessWeek. Fridman was given the Darin Award from the Russian Academy of Business in 2004 for his contribution to the development of domestic business and entrepreneurship. In 2004 he was also included in the Financial Times list of 25 business executives named "Leaders of the New Europe", and he was named one of Europe's 25 Most Powerful People in Business by Fortune. Fridman and Peter Aven for Alfa Bank were among the laureates of the "Best Russian Brand" awards by the World Brand Academy in 2006. Forbes Russia named Fridman the Russian Businessman of the Year in 2012 and 2017. In 2013 the Russian business daily Kommersant presented him with the Businessman of the Year Award, during the week of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
In 2003, two "elite dachas" owned by the Russian government were sold below market value, one to Fridman and another to former Russian prime-minister Mikhail Kasyanov. The sales caught the attention of the press in July 2005, with State Duma member and journalist Aleksandr Khinshtein stating that the sales were done without the mandatory media announcement of auction. Khinshtein also alleged a preferential loan from Fridman to Kasyanov, which Fridman denied. Fridman stated that the property's asking price was low because the building was delapidated and sold without land. Radio Free Europe reported that Khinshtein's investigation appeared to be an attempt to intimidate Kasyanov, who aspired to head anti-Putin forces. In early 2006, the Moscow Court of Arbitration ruled that the two houses should be returned to the state, maintaining Fridman's right to a refund but arguing the proper procedures were not followed during the privatization. On 1 March 2006, government officials responsible for the sale of the two properties were charged with misappropriation of entrusted property in an especially large amount by an organized group.
In May 2017 Fridman, along with fellow Alfa Bank owners Petr Aven and German Khan, filed a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed for publishing the unverified Donald Trump–Russia dossier, which alleges financial ties and collusion between Putin, Trump, and the three bank owners.
Fridman was based for many years in Moscow, often spending time in European cities such as London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Hamburg. In 2015 he moved to London, and by 2016 had purchased Athlone House to be his primary residence. He is divorced and has four children. He has stated that in his will, his fortune will be left to charity.
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