March 12, 1966 |
|Alma mater||Dagestan State University|
|Net worth||US$7.1 billion (March 2013)|
|The Suleyman Kerimov Foundation|
Suleyman Abusaidovich Kerimov (Russian: Сулейма́н Абусаи́дович Кери́мов; IPA: [sʊlʲɪjˈman ɐbʊsɐˈidəvʲɪt͡ɕ kʲɪˈrʲiməf]; Lezgian: Керимрин Абусаидан хва Сулейман), born March 12, 1966 in Derbent, Dagestan, USSR, is a controversial businessman and investor and a Russian politician. Since 2008, Kerimov has represented the Republic of Dagestan in the Federation Council of Russia. He is often referred to as “Russia’s Richest Civil Servant", with an estimated fortune of $7.1 billion as of March 2013.
- 1 Education
- 2 Career
- 3 Other investments
- 4 Business controversies and lawsuits
- 5 Political life
- 6 Personal life
- 7 Philanthropy
- 8 See also
- 9 References
Kerimov was born on March 12, 1966 in Derbent, Dagestan. His father was a lawyer at a criminal investigation institution and his mother an accountant at Sberbank. Following his high school graduation in 1983, Kerimov enrolled in the Civil Engineering Department at Dagestan Polytechnic Institute in 1984, though his obligatory military service for the Soviet Army brought his studies to a halt just one year later. After completing his service in 1986, Kerimov continued his studies at Dagestan State University, where he graduated with a degree in financial accounting and economics in 1989. It was also at university that Kerimov met his wife, Firuza, the daughter of a former Communist Party boss.
Kerimov has stated to have dreamed of making money from an early age, an ambition that prompted him to later move from his native Dagestan in the early 1990s.
Soon after his university graduation in 1989, Kerimov took a job as an accountant at the Eltav electrical plant in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan. The state-controlled plant supplied transistors and semi-conductors to television-makers, while also producing diodes, microchips and halogen lamps. Kerimov was paid 150 roubles (approximately $250 dollars) a month and he and his wife lived in a worker’s hostel attached to the plant, where they shared one room of a two-room flat.
In 1993, Kerimov was put in charge of handling relations between Eltav and Fedprombank, a Moscow bank established by the electrical company. Fedprombank financed lagging industries and Kerimov and his associates soon becames creditors to large utility companies, allowing them to continue to provide key services. Once the Russian economy stabilized, the debts were repaid with hefty returns for Fedprombank and, consequently, Kerimov.
In 1995, Kerimov was appointed to head the banking and trading company Soyuz-Finans, where he orchestrated several high profile corporate raids, including the takeover of Smolensky Passazh, a business center, and AvtoBank.
In 1998, Kerimov bought a 55% stake in the oil trading company Nafta Moskva, the successor to the Soviet monopoly firm Soyuznefteexport, for $50 million. By 2000, he had increased his stake of Nafta Moskva to 100%. Kerimov undertook a mass restructuring of the company, selling off all of the oil-related aspects and creating an investment and holding company.
In 1999, Kerimov gained a seat in the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, as a member of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democrat Party (LDPR). Nafta Moskva, along with LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, were later named in a United Nations inquiry into the Oil-for-Food Programme as having benefited from illegal kickbacks schemes with Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. It has also been alleged that Kerimov himself visited Iraq during the late 1990s.
Gazprom and Sberbank investments
In 2003, Kerimov managed to secure a $43 million loan from the state-owned Vnesheconombank, which he invested in the oil and gas company Gazprom. Within the next year, share prices for the Russian gas company doubled and Kerimov was able to pay off the entirety of the loan within four months. Sberbank, now the largest bank in Russia and Eastern Europe, offered Kerimov loans to do the same. By 2008, Kerimov had amassed a 5% stake in Gazprom, a 6% stake in Sberbank, along with an estimated fortune of $17.5 billion, making him the 36th richest man in the world.
In November 2005, Kerimov’s Nafta Moskva acquired JSC Polymetal, one of Russia’s largest gold and silver mining companies. With JSC Polymetal, Kerimov pushed to buy gold in 2006, when the price was relatively low at $600 an ounce. In 2007, he took the company public on the London Stock Exchange, then sold 70% of his shares in 2008 before gold would go on to climb to an all-time high in 2011.
Role in the 2008 crisis
As markets around the world began to tighten in 2007, Kerimov and his associates expected that Russia would suffer more than the West from the impending economic crisis. A concerted effort was thus made to build closer ties with Western banks. Kerimov decreased his stakes in Gazprom and other Russian blue chips and approached Wall Street, proposing to invest the vast majority of his fortune to defend the institutions from short-sellers. In return, it was expected that Kerimov would receive favorable lending terms for future loans, an arrangement that one senior Wall Street banker referred to as “a pyramid scheme”.
In 2007, Kerimov invested billions in Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and other financial institutions. Though neither Kerimov nor the Western banks have disclosed the exact size of his investment, it was sizeable enough for Kerimov to receive a call from the United States Treasury during the darkest days of the economic crisis imploring the Russian oligarch not to sell his stakes.
Less than one month after Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008, Kerimov flew a group of Wall Street executives to his villa in Cap d'Antibes, France where they were entertained by singer Beyoncé. By the end of the year, Kerimov’s personal fortune had fallen to $3.1 billion.
Following his losses during the economic crisis, Kerimov shifted his investment strategy to buying stakes large enough to influence the strategies of the companies he invests in. In 2009, Kerimov bought a $1.3 billion stake (37% stake) in OAO Polyus Gold, Russia’s largest gold producer, from Vladimir Potanin.
In June 2010, Kerimov and his partners Alexander Nesis and Filaret Galtchev together paid $5.3 billion for a 53% stake in Russian potash giant Uralkali, which, together with Belaruskali, makes up the duopoly that controls 70% of the global potash market: the Belarusian Potash Company (BPC). Kerimov was able to secure “sizeable loans” from Russia’s VTB bank in order to buy into Uralkali.
In July 2013, Uralkali announced it was pulling out of the BPC cartel, dropping prices and increasing production to maximum capacity in a grab for market share. The immediate consequences on the global economy have been a 25% drop in potash prices to around $340 a tonne, harming the prospects of both Canadian producers and the Belarusian economy. Belarusian authorities estimate they may lose up to $1 billion a year.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko responded by arresting Uralkali's then-CEO Vladislav Baumgertner in Minsk and issuing a warrant for Kerimov, charging both with “abuse of power”. Kerimov is now reportedly in talks to sell his Uralkali stake in an effort to defuse a bitter conflict with Belarus.
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FC Anzhi Makhachkala
On January 17, 2011, Kerimov purchased FC Anzhi Makhachkala — his hometown football club who compete in the Russian Premier League. Anzhi shortly regained headlines when it acquired, in August of the same year, Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o signed a three-year-deal from Inter Milan, subsequently becoming the world's highest-paid footballer (earning a reported £350,000 per week).
In March 2012, it was reported that Kerimov had given Carlos — now Anzhi's director of football — a summer transfer budget of €300 million, in an attempt to qualify for the UEFA Champions League within the next three seasons. Following on from this in September 2012, after Carlos returned from a scouting trip in Madrid, there were even rumours that Anzhi were going to make a move for Cristiano Ronaldo, although Carlos soon cleared up any confusion.
Below is a list of Anzhi's signings since Kerimov's takeover. Players highlighted green are still contracted to the club.
Business controversies and lawsuits
Involvement in the Oil-For-Food Scandal
Kerimov’s Nafta Moskva was one of many companies named in both the UN Volcker Report and a US Senate Subcommittee Investigation for having participated in an illegal kickbacks scheme with Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq during the UN’s Oil-For-Food Programme. Though Kerimov is not named in either report, two of his fellow LDPR party members and business partners, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Sergei Isakov were. Moscow-based journalist John Helmer maintains that Kerimov was involved in the kickbacks scheme, noting that Kerimov moved into Nafta Moskva in 1998 and negotiations between Nafta and Sadam Hussein took place between September 1998 and March 1999. It has also been alleged that Kerimov himself visited Iraq during the late 1990s.
Criminal conspiracy investigation
Shortly after his takeover of Nafta Moskva, Kerimov entered a battle for the financial empire of former police chief Andrei Andreyev. Kerimov wrested control of Andreyev’s assets but the former police chief claimed, "I did not sell my business and did not receive a single kopek for it. It was taken away from me in a criminal way, through murder threats and through falsifying documents." Andreyev claimed that nominal shareholders were coerced into signing away their stakes and, in other cases, ownership documents were falsified.
Accusations of silent partners
Kerimov’s ability to continually secure massive loans from state-owned banks with little collateral has regularly been greeted with suspicion. John Helmer claims that Kerimov is a “front-man” for committees of powerful Russian individuals who do not invest under their own names because the do not wish to or are not able to for conflict of interest reasons.
Others suspect that Kerimov is a front for none other than the Kremlin. Chris Barter, former co-chief executive of Goldman Sachs’ Moscow office, has stated that “Many of the things [Kerimov does] seem to be in tandem with the government.”
Kerimov, for his part, has maintained that he only invests his own capital.
Moskva Hotel lawsuit
In September 2010, Member of Russian Parliament Ashot Egiazaryan accused Kerimov of conspiring with the city government of Moscow to forcibly acquire his 25% stake in the Hotel Moskva project, a multi-billion dollar project to construct a replica of the enormous Stalin-era luxury hotel demolished in 2004. After reportedly receiving death threats, Egiazaryan fled to the United States to seek asylum and filed lawsuits in a civil court in Cyprus, the London Court of International Arbitration and on Capitol Hill claiming that a campaign of threats of criminal prosecution and armed police raids forced him to give up his shares.
Pending deliberation by the courts, Kerimov’s assets were frozen, upsetting Uralkali’s $39 billion joint bid with Chinese company Sinochem for the Canadian Potash Corp. The Nicosia district court in Cyprus lifted Kerimov’s billion dollar asset freeze in February 2011, arguing that the plaintiffs “failed to prove the urgency of their petition.” According to Egiazaryan’s lawyer, Andreas Haviaras, the Cyprus ruling was based on “technicalities” and did not prejudge the merits of the case.
Member of the State Duma
From 1999-2003, Kerimov was a member of the State Duma of the 3rd Convocation — the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia — as well as a member of the State Duma Committee for Security. From 2003-2007, while continuing his role on the Committee for Security, he was also a member of the 4th Convocation and Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Physical Education, Sports and Youth. He first gained a seat in parliament with the Liberal Democratic Party, the ultra-nationalist movement led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
Member of the Federation Council
Since 2008, Kerimov has served as a member of the Federation Council of the Federation Assembly of the Russian Federation — the upper house of the Federation Assembly— and represents the Republic of Dagestan.
Over the years, Kerimov has strengthened his ties to many powerful Russian authorities. Zumrud Khandadashevna Rustamova, wife of President Vladimir Putin’s chief economic advisor Arkady Dvorkovich, serves as director on the board of two of Kerimov’s companies, the PIK Group and Polyus Gold. Kerimov also enjoys close relationships with First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev.
In October 2011, Kerimov used his connections to fly Western financial figures such as Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan, Richard Parsons of Citigroup and Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone to Moscow in support of Medvedev’s initiative to turn Moscow into an “international financial centre”.
On November 26, 2006, in Nice, France, Kerimov was seriously injured after losing control of his Ferrari Enzo on the Promenade des Anglais. He and his purported companion, television presenter Tina Kandelaki, suffered severe burns as a result of the accident, which influenced him to donate €1 million to Pinocchio — a charity who work with children suffering from burns.
Kandelaki initially denied being in the Ferrari with Kerimov (both are married with children), though she was later contradicted by French police and her own husband. Kerimov wears skin-colored gloves to hide his burns while Kandelaki has tattooed Mayan symbols over burns on her hand and thigh.
Known for spending much of his fortune on parties, the Russian billionaire has paid for celebrities such as Christina Aguilera, Shakira, Amy Winehouse and Jessie J perform at his events, while also mingling with Anna Chapman.
Kerimov also owns one of the world's largest private yachts, which is known as Ice. Previously known as Air, she was built by German company Lürssen back in 2005. Ice measures 295 feet (90 metres) in length, and can reach a speed of 18.6 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph). She was acclaimed Superyacht of the Year at the World Superyacht Awards in 2006, and is currently the 37th largest yacht in the world.
Kerimov established the Suleyman Kerimov Foundation in 2007, with a vision to enhance the lives of young people in Russia and throughout the world, by investing in initiatives that strengthen communities and help those in need. Unlike most charities in Russia, the foundation work closely with the government, meaning their projects have much better long-term prospects.
On December 17, 2010, the press reported that Kerimov will spend $100 million on the construction of an advanced comprehensive school west of Moscow "for educating children from different social groups.” The school will include a modern sports complex with a swimming pool, a skating-rink, a giant dance floor, as well as a residential area for gifted children from the provinces.
In response to the Russian parliament’s passage of a bill prohibiting government officials from holding foreign-issued securities and bank accounts abroad, Kerimov transferred his assets to the Suleyman Kerimov Foundation, a charity registered in Switzerland, in May 2013. This way, the he retained both his position in the Federation Council and beneficiary rights to his business assets.
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