1952 (age 66–67)
|Education||Doctorate Lviv Academy of Commerce|
|Net worth||US $ 1.29 billion (December 2017)|
Alexander Rovt (born July 23, 1952) is an American billionaire businessman and real estate investor who made his fortune in the trade and manufacture of fertilizer in the former Soviet Union. He identifies as Carpathian.
Early life and education
Rovt was born to an observant Jewish family in Mukachevo, Carpathia which is now part of the Ukraine. His father was a manager at a knitting factory and his mother a housewife. He grew up across the nearby border in Hungary and then attended the Lviv Academy of Commerce in the Ukraine where he graduated with a degree in business and later received a PhD in international economics. After school, he worked as a manager for the state-owned vegetable distributor in Hungary but was soon arrested due to his capitalistic business tendencies; in 1985, he fled to the United States with his wife and settled in Brooklyn where he worked in his uncle’s kosher deli and at a cousin’s jewelry store.
In 1988, Rovt took a job at IBE Trade which was founded by Sheldon Silverston. IBE made a profit by selling goods to governments that were not in favor with the international community and as a result, did not have ready access to hard currency. IBE was paid in hard commodities rather than cash (e.g. steel, coffee). Thanks to Rovt’s connections in the Eastern bloc and understanding of the fertilizer business thanks to his involvement at the vegetable distributor, IBE expanded it operations to the Soviet Union supplying goods in exchange for fertilizer, something the Soviets had in abundance thanks to ample natural gas supplies, a primary input to the manufacture of fertilizer. Once Perestroika took hold, the barter business diminished and Rovt (along with his childhood friend and co-worker at IBE, Imre Pakh) bought IBE from Silverston and transitioned the company into a traditional fertilizer distributor eventually controlling 85-90% of the fertilizer trade in Russia and the Ukraine by 2000.
In 1999, Rovt purchased a deteriorating fertilizer plant in Bulgaria on the condition that he spend $100 million over five years on renovations. The company was losing money due to high natural gas prices which were then trading at market prices. Rovt sold a 25% stake in the company to the energy billionaire Igor Makarov from Turkmenistan who agreed to supply the plant with natural gas at discounted price. He also sold 10% to local Bulgarian partners. Unbeknownst to him, his Bulgarian partners were able to seize control of the facility by transferring ownership of the plant to an offshore company in Cyprus. His friend and partner Pakh sold his interest in IBE to Rovt after one of his Bulgarian partners was murdered. Rovt sued in the US to recover his plant and received a favorable decision but the judgment was not honored in Bulgaria.
Despite his unfavorable foray into fertilizer plant ownership in Bulgaria, he purchased several more fertilizer plants in the 2000s which both became very lucrative investments. The first was in Rossosh, Russia in partnership with Igor Olshansky, the son of a member of the Duma (in whose district the plant was located) and the Norwegian agricultural company Yara International. In 2004, IBE purchased a plant in Severodonetsk, Ukraine in return for an investment commitment of $120 million. In 2005, after the Orange Revolution, a court voided the sale; Rovt, with the assistance of the US government, was eventually able to have the decision reversed and the plant is operating profitably with the consent of the Ukrainian government.
In 2007, wanting to secure his wealth, he purchased the Bankers Trust Building from Joshua Zamir for $303 million in cash and sold his remaining overseas fertilizer assets to Ukrainian billionaire Dmitry Firtash. He now has a portfolio of 280 buildings mostly in New York City.
Rovt is a conservative investor. He invests for the long term and does not believe in debt.
Public service and political donations
Rovt served on the NYC Board of Corrections as Vice Chairman and is a trustee of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He serves as the chairman of the board of the Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center. He has donated to the campaigns of Andrew Cuomo and Anthony Weiner. Rovt has endowed a school for Orthodox immigrants, the Zvi Dov Roth Academy in Brooklyn. The school is named after his grandfather who was killed in the Holocaust.
He lives on Manhattan’s Upper East Side with his wife Olga in a five-story, 12,000-square-foot building constructed out of reinforced concrete with brick facing and retractable bulletproof shades covering the windows. He has two children: Philip (born 1978) and Maxwell (born 1987).
- Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, Fifth Class (Ukraine).
- Forbes: The World's Billionaires - Alexander Rovt September 2013
- Businessweek: “Alex Rovt, the Fertilizer Baron of Manhattan” By Andrew Rice September 06, 2012
- Forbes: “How Ukrainian Billionaire Alexander Rovt Bought The Sloane Mansion” by Morgan Brennan March 26, 2012
- New York Times: “Fertilizer Billionaire Buys Buildings His Way, in Cash” By JULIE SATOW April 10, 2012
- New York Observer: “Ukrainian Oligarch Alexander Rovt Would Prefer To Be Called A Carpathian Billionaire” by Kim Velsey September 11, 2012