Leonid Nevzlin by Anton Nossik
21 September 1959 |
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
|Residence||Herzliya, Tel Aviv District, Israel|
|Alma mater||Gubkin Institute of Oil and Gas|
|Occupation||Businessman and philanthropist|
Nevzlin occupied various high-ranking positions at Group Menatep and its subsidiary, the Yukos Oil Company. In 2003, the Russia expropriated Yukos and began a campaign of persecution against its executives. In 2014, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of Nevzlin and other Yukos shareholders, calling the actions of the Russian state “a ruthless campaign to destroy Yukos” and expropriate its assets.
From 1981 to 1987, Nevzlin was a software engineer at Zarubezhgeologia, an external trade organization of the Soviet Ministry of Geology. In 1987, he met Mikhail Khodorkovsky and became a Deputy Director at the Center for Scientific and Technical Creativity for Youth (MENATEP), attached to the Komsomol committee in Moscow's Frunzensky District.
From 1989 to 1991, he was President of Bank Menatep. From 1991 to 1996, he held high-ranking positions at Bank Menatep and Group Menatep, focusing on corporate communications, government relations, and human resources. In April 1996 he became Vice President of Yukos, in which Menatep had acquired a 78% share in December 1995.
Nevzlin was awarded the Order of Friendship for his efforts in supporting Boris Yeltsin’s reelection campaign in 1996. From September 1997 to October 1998, Nevzlin served as first deputy director general of the Russian news agency ITAR TASS, leading its transformation into a commercial enterprise. In April 1998 Nevzlin became the First Vice Chairman of the Menatep board. In 1999, after the Bank Menatep’s bankruptcy amidst the 1998 Russian financial crisis, he became the First Vice Chairman of the Yukos board. 
From March to December 2001 Nevzlin served as president of the Russian Jewish Congress. He was a key player in Jewish historical and heritage research projects, including the establishment of the Moscow Jewish Cultural Center and the International Center for Russian and Eastern European Jewish Studies in Moscow. Moreover, Nevzlin contributed to numerous other Jewish educational programs developed in collaboration with World ORT, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
From November 2001 to March 2003, Nevzlin represented the Republic of Mordovia as a senator in the Federation Council of Russia. From June to November 2003, he served as the Rector of the Russian State University for the Humanities.
In 2003, following prolonged clashes with the Kremlin, Yukos’ controlling shareholder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and another senior executive, Platon Lebedev, were arrested on charges of fraud and tax evasion. Both were convicted in 2005 following trials that were widely condemned internationally as procedurally flawed and politically motivated. Yukos’ assets were subsequently awarded to state-owned companies in a series of forced auctions. Yukos was declared bankrupt in August 2006.
Nevzlin left Russia for Israel in 2003. In 2004 the Russian Prosecutor General's Office sought Nevzlin’s extradition over hotly disputed criminal allegations against him related to his tenure at Yukos. The Israeli government rejected the extradition request due to insufficient evidence. Two members of the public who felt aggrieved by the government’s decision sued to have it reversed. They also petitioned the interior minister to revoke Nevzlin’s Israeli citizenship on the grounds that it was obtained under false pretenses. Nevzlin’s attorney, David Libai, argued that the charges against him were the result of political persecution. In May 2008 Israel’s Supreme Court found there was no evidence directly connecting Nevzlin to the criminal allegations made against him. The court rejected extradition and denied the motion to strip Nevzlin of his citizenship. Israel’s interior minister and attorney general were ordered to pay Nevzlin’s court costs this case.  
Nevzlin was tried in absentia by Russia in March 2008, found guilty of several counts of conspiracy to murder, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Nevzlin called the court case a show trial orchestrated by Vladimir Putin. 
In 2014, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled unanimously that the Russian authorities had conducted a “ruthless campaign to destroy Yukos, appropriate its assets and eliminate Mr. [Mikhail] Khodorkovsky as a political opponent.” According to the panel, the forced auction of core parts of the company through contested bankruptcy proceedings “was not driven by motives of tax collection but by the desire of the State to acquire Yukos’ most valuable asset and bankrupt Yukos….In short, it was in effect a devious and calculated expropriation.” The former Yukos shareholders were awarded damages totaling $50 billion – the largest arbitration award in history. As the biggest shareholder of GML, the former Yukos holding company that brought the legal case, with a 70 per cent stake, Nevzlin stands to be the biggest single beneficiary from The Hague’s ruling.
Activities in Israel
Nevzlin established the NADAV Foundation, which supports projects in Jewish studies and education, Israel-Diaspora relations and Jewish peoplehood. Since moving to Israel, Nevzlin has expanded his philanthropic work. He also created The Leonid Nevzlin Research Center for Russian and Eastern European Jewry located at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.  
In collaboration with the Israeli government, Nevzlin created a relief fund in 2004 to revive Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People, located on the campus of Tel Aviv University, and was elected as Chairman of its International Board of Governors. The NADAV Foundation launched the International School for Jewish Peoplehood Studies at Beit Hatfutsot in 2006, and the Nevzlin Center for Jewish Peoplehood at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya in 2010.
Nevzlin has served on the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Board of Trustees of Keren Hayesod – the United Israel Appeal, and as Associate Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute. He has also served on the boards of both the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University.
Among many other philanthropic commitments, Nevzlin is a long-term supporter of Israeli healthcare charity Ezra Lemarpeh. 
On 12 June 2011, it was announced that Nevzlin had purchased a 20% stake in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, for 100 million shekels. Nevzlin’s acquisition leaves the Schocken family with a 60 percent stake in the company.
In 2014, Nevzlin founded the monthly Hebrew-language magazine “Liberal,” which publishes analyses of Israeli political life, communications and culture.
Nevzlin is the author of the two books “Человек с рублем” (“Man with Ruble,” coauthored with Khodorkovsky) and “Public Relations – кому это надо?” (“Public Relations – Who Needs Them?”). 
Family and education
Nevzlin was born in Moscow on 21 September 1959. He graduated from the Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas in 1981, and earned an MA from the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, majoring in management and marketing. Nevzlin has married three times and has five daughters
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