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Usmanov in August 2013
Alisher Burkhanovich Usmanov
9 September 1953
|Alma mater||Moscow Institute of International Relations|
|Known for||Owner of MegaFon|
Owner of USM Holdings
Co–owner of Mail.Ru Group
President of Fédération Internationale d'Escrime
|Net worth||US$11.68 billion (May 2020)|
Alisher Burkhanovich Usmanov (Russian: Алише́р Бурха́нович Усма́нов; Uzbek: Alisher Usmonov; born 9 September 1953) is an Uzbek-born Russian oligarch. As reported by Forbes in 2020, Alisher Usmanov has an estimated net worth of $11.68 billion.
Usmanov built his wealth through metal and mining operations, and investments, and is the majority shareholder of Metalloinvest, a Russian industrial conglomerate, which consolidated in 2006 JSC Metalloinvest's assets (the Mikhailovsky GOK and the Ural Steel) with those of Gazmetall JSC (the Lebedinsky GOK and the Oskol Electrometallurgical Plant).
He owns the Kommersant publishing house. He is also a co‑owner of Russia's second-largest mobile telephone operator, MegaFon, and co-owner of the Mail.Ru group, the largest internet company in the Russian-speaking world, which owns stakes in popular web portals like Odnoklassniki, VKontakte and others. Usmanov is the largest investor of Digital Sky Technologies ("DST") funds, and holds shares in a number of international technology companies. Usmanov eventually teamed up with Yuri Milner.
In February 2008, his Metalloinvest also became sponsor of Dinamo Moscow, a football team in Russia's capital. His Metalloinvest group's name replaced the Xerox Corporation's on its players' shirts as part of the $7 million deal.
Usmanov was born in Uzbekistan in the provincial town of Chust, but spent his childhood in the capital Tashkent where his father was a state prosecutor. Planning to pursue a career of a diplomat, he later moved to Moscow and joined Moscow State Institute of International Relations from which he graduated in 1976 with a degree in international law.
He was arrested and convicted on charges of fraud and 'theft of socialist property' in Uzbek SSR in August 1980 and imprisoned for six years of an eight-year sentence. This conviction was vacated in July 2000, 11 years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, by the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan, when it ruled that "the original conviction was unjust, no crime was ever committed, and that the evidence was fabricated." There are also allegations, according to former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, that he was also convicted of rape in the same year. However, the Uzbek government had refuted such conviction ever taking place.
Usmanov, who is Muslim, married Jewish Irina Viner, a top rhythmic gymnastics coach, in 1992. Viner is considered to be close to Putin, having introduced him to former rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva. Usmanov attended the Academy of Finance to study banking beginning in 1997. Although Usmanov has no biological children, through his wife Irina Viner, Usmanov has a step-son, who has become a real-estate investor, currently constructing 30 real estate projects.
Usmanov is a close friend of Roman Abramovich, who owns Chelsea Football Club, and the two shared the same circle of friends in Russia (Usmanov even employed Abramovich's first wife Olga to work for his company).
Usmanov owns the Grade I listed Tudor mansion Sutton Place set in 120 hectares (300 acres) in Surrey, which he bought for £10 million in 2004. In 2012, it was claimed by businessman Boris Berezovsky that Usmanov was given Sutton Place as part of a business deal, a claim that Usmanov denied. In 2008, Usmanov bought Beechwood House, a Grade II listed Regency property in 4.5 ha (11 acres) of grounds in the London suburb of Highgate from the Qatari sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani for £48 million. Usmanov also owns a 12-hectare (30-acre) property in Moscow and a villa on the Italian island of Sardinia.
Usmanov has owned two luxury yachts named Dilbar, after his mother. In 2008 he took delivery of the first Dilbar (now Al Raya) from Lürssen at a reported cost of $250 million. As of 2019 she is the 38th largest motor yacht by length, measuring 110.0 m (361 ft). In 2015 Usmanov commissioned the second Dilbar, the current largest yacht in the world by gross tonnage (15,917 gt) and the 6th largest yacht by length measuring 156.0 m (512 ft). She is reported to have cost $800 million, employ 84 full-time crew members, and contain the largest indoor swimming pool installed on a superyacht at 180 cubic metres. After taking delivery of the second Dilbar, Usmanov renamed the original Ona and in 2018 it was sold to a middle-eastern buyer.
USM Holdings and Metalloinvest
Usmanov has a 60% economic interest and 100% voting rights in USM Holdings, a global conglomerate with main investments in metals and mining industry, telecommunications, technology, and media.
Through USM Holdings and as an individual investor, Usmanov owns diverse interests including stakes in iron ore and steel, media and internet companies. He is the co-owner of Metalloinvest, which he founded along with business partner Vasiliy Anisimov, in order to manage his acquisitions in the metal industry. Metalloinvest owns a wide range of Russian metal and mining businesses including Lebedinsky GOK and Mikhailovsky GOK; Oskol Elektrometallurgical Plant and Ural Steel steel mills and a ferrous scrap enterprise – Ural Scrap Company. It also has interests in auxiliary businesses including 21% of Nautilus Minerals, which explores the ocean floor for polymetallic sulphide deposits, 100% of Baikal Mining Company, which owns the license to one of the world's largest copper deposits, and 5% of Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest producer of nickel and palladium and one of the leading producers of platinum and copper.
Since 2006, he has acquired stakes in Australia-based mining companies, Medusa, Mt Gibson and Aztec Resources through Gallagher Holdings, now USM Holdings. In 2009, Metalloinvest Holding has sold its 10.37% stake in Australian gold producer Medusa Mining. Usmanov is the second largest shareholder, after Dr Mohammed Al Bawani (MB Holding), in Toronto-listed (TSX) Nautilus Minerals (NUSMF), which is planning to extract undersea gold and copper deposits off Papua New Guinea in 2019.
In May 2009, Digital Sky Technologies (which later changed its name to "Mail.Ru Group"), a company in which he owns a 17.9-percent stake, paid $200 million for a 1.96-percent stake in social networking website Facebook. Mail.ru made notable investments in other international technology companies, including Twitter, Groupon, Zynga, Airbnb, ZocDoc, Alibaba and 360buy. Consistent with its investment goals, in 2013 Mail.ru sold its share of Facebook for $525 million as well as its share of Groupon and Zynga.
The Alibaba investment was said by Usmanov to be up 500% in late 2014. The Facebook investment Usmanov implied he had sold, saying "I admire Facebook, but I said 'arrivederci' Facebook". At the same time, he said he had made an investment in "Chinese low-cost smartphone maker Xiaomi", saying it is a "future technology giant", and that he is looking to invest in India, particularly the online trade sector.
In September 2018, it was reported that Mail.ru would enter into a $2 billion joint venture with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. The agreement would merge the online marketplaces of both companies in the Russian market and was backed by the Kremlin via the Russian Direct Investment Fund.
Usmanov is a co-owner of Russia's second-largest mobile telephone operator, MegaFon. The carrier's subscriber based has grown significantly in the past decade, exceeding 65 million members.
The joint venture between Mail.ru and Alibaba in 2018 also meant that Usmanov would sell its 10% stake, valued at around $486 million, in Mail.ru to Alibaba.
Gazprom Invest Holdings
Usmanov was the General Director of Gazprom Invest Holdings, the investment-holding subsidiary of Russia's state-owned gas company Gazprom, and managed it for more than a decade; During this time it invested in DST and its Facebook and Twitter holdings. Usmanov left the company in 2014.
Kommersant and media firms
In August 2006, Usmanov began to invest in media. He bought Kommersant, a newspaper formerly owned by Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky. The deal was finalised at US$200 million. Usmanov also made a $25 million purchase of a 50-percent stake in Russian sports TV channel 7TV in November 2006 and bought 75 percent of Russian TV music channel Muz-TV for $300 million in June 2007. Usmanov is currently a co-owner of the media holding company UTH, which holds 51% of Disney Russia and 100% of Muz TV and U television channels.
Usmanov worked as the Deputy General Director of Intercross JSC from 1990 to 1994, and from 1994 to 1998, he headed Interfin Interbank Investment and Finance Company. He also acted as an Adviser to the General Director of Moscow Aviation Industrial Enterprise from 1994 to 1995, and served as the First Deputy Chairman of MAPO-Bank from 1995 to 1997.
Usmanov had a significant ownership in Arsenal F.C.
Usmanov moved into the football arena in August 2007 by acquiring a 14.58-percent stake in the English football team Arsenal. He and his business partner Farhad Moshiri bought the stake in the club owned by former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein for £75 million. David Dein was appointed as head of their investment vehicle, Red and White Holdings, which became the largest shareholder in the club outside of members of the board of directors.
On 28 September 2007, it was announced that Red and White Holdings had increased its shareholding to 23 percent, making it the second largest shareholder in the club behind Danny Fiszman on 24 percent. On 15 February 2008, he increased it further to over 24 percent, giving him a stake just short of Arsenal non-executive director and major shareholder Danny Fiszman's 24.11 percent. However, there was speculation that Usmanov might already be the club's largest shareholder at 24.2 percent, which he later increased to 25 percent on 16 February 2009.
Red and White Holdings confirmed on 28 February 2008 that it was the club's largest shareholder and the company said it "has the necessary funding to increase its stake further [but] it has no current intention to make a full takeover bid for Arsenal for six months." If the stake were to reach 30 percent, Red and White Holdings would have to launch a formal takeover. Usmanov said he had been an Arsenal fan for seven years and he had a great love for Arsenal.
Usmanov's interest precipitated a "lock-down" agreement by the Gunners' board, whereby chairman Peter Hill-Wood announced that club directors could sell their stakes only to "permitted persons" before April 2009, and had to give fellow board members "first option" on shares until October 2012. However, there was a termination clause in the agreement in October 2010.[clarification needed] "The lockdown...makes us bullet-proof," said the then Arsenal managing director Keith Edelman.
American businessman Stanley Kroenke, already a major Arsenal shareholder, increased his stake in the club to just over 62 percent in April 2011 after buying out Fiszman and Lady Bracewell-Smith, making him the majority shareholder. As Kroenke's stake had risen above 30 percent, he was obliged to make an offer to buy out the remainder of Arsenal shares. Usmanov refused to sell, however, and maintained his stake.
Usmanov increased his Arsenal FC share beyond 29 percent in June 2011. Red and White Holdings announced on 20 June 2011 that it had more than 29-percent stake in Arsenal Holdings Plc. This was further increased after Usmanov purchased shares held by Scottish football club Rangers in February 2012. As of October 2013, he owned over 30% of the club.
Usmanov criticized Arsenal's lack of ambition and financial model in an open letter sent to the board on 5 July 2012. This criticism came as consequence of the Dutch football player Robin van Persie's decision not to extend his contract. Usmanov, who remains a major shareholder, states that he has no intention of selling his shares. A month later, he reiterated his view that "the current politics of the club's management" were in part responsible for Arsenal's failure to win trophies. On 7 August 2018 it was reported that Usmanov had accepted a bid of 550m for his shares at Arsenal.
International Fencing Federation
A former sabre fencer who fenced for the former Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, Usmanov invested in the promotion of fencing through his charity fund "For the Future of Fencing", created in 2004, and was president of the Russian Fencing Federation from 2001 to 2009 and of the European Fencing Confederation from 2005 to 2009. He was elected president of the International Fencing Federation during the 2008 Paris Congress with 66 votes to 61 for incumbent president René Roch. He was re-elected at the 2012 Moscow congress with 127 votes.
The International Charity Fund for the Future of Fencing
In 2005, The International Charity Fund for the Future of Fencing was founded by Alisher Usmanov. The mission of the Charity Fund is to facilitate the international popularization of fencing and to raise it to a higher level worldwide.
Specialized Endowment Fund to Support Veterans Fencing
In 2012, Usmanov announced that a "specialized endowment fund to support veterans fencing" had been created. The fund is capitalized with $15,000,000, the amount allocated by the International Charity Fund For the Future of Fencing.
Usmanov is a member of the Councils of the 2014 Sochi XXII Olympic Winter Games and XI Paralympic Winter Games. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Olympian Sportsmen Support Fund. In 2015 it was announced that USM invested the equivalent of US$100 million in the Eastern European eSports team Virtus.pro.
In January 2017, Usmanov's holding company, USM, entered into a five-year, $15 million+ deal with Everton F.C. for the naming rights of the club's training ground, Finch Farm. Usmanov's accountant and partner in USM holdings is Farhad Moshiri, the current majority shareholder of Everton, and former co-owner of Usmanov's Arsenal shares, Red and White holdings.
Charity Fund "Art, Science and Sport" founded by Alisher Usmanov is in close cooperation with London's Tate Britain. Together they carried out several projects in Russia such as the Turner exhibition in 2009 and the Pre-Raphaelites exhibition in 2013.
On 17 September 2007, Usmanov paid more than £20 million for an art collection owned by the late Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, days before it was to be auctioned by Sotheby's in London. He gave all the artwork to the Russian state, where it is housed in the Konstantinovsky Palace near St. Petersburg. Later that same month he purchased the rights to a large collection of Soviet cartoons, which for fifteen years had been owned by Russian-born actor Oleg Vidov, who emigrated to the United States in 1985. After the deal, valued at $5–10 million, Usmanov donated the cartoon collection to a newly formed Russian children's television channel.
Usmanov is a member of the Board of Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs and the chairman of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs committee on regulatory activity improvement and removal of administrative barriers. He is also one of the founders of the Arts and Sports Charity Foundation and a guarantor of the Charity project "One Thousand Russian cities".
Usmanov is a Trustee for a range of social, educational and cultural organisations, including the Russian Geographical Society, Moscow State Institute of International Relations, National Research University Higher School of Economics, and European University in St. Petersburg.
According to presidential decree No. 365 of 17 March 2004, Usmanov was awarded with a Medal of Honor of Russia. In 2011, Usmanov received the Order of Friendship of the Republic of Kazakhstan. In 2013, he was awarded the Order for Service to the Fatherland IV class in recognition of his services to the state, as well as his community and charitable activities. In the same year, he was awarded a medal 'For contribution to international cooperation' by the Foreign Ministry of Russia. In 2014, Usmanov received the Order of Alexander Nevsky for his community and charitable activities.
On 4 December 2014, Usmanov paid $4.8m for Dr James Watson's Nobel Prize Medal in Physiology or Medicine, which was auctioned at Christie's in New York City. Watson was selling his prize to raise money to support scientific research. After auctions fees, Watson received $4.1m. Usmanov subsequently returned the medal to Watson, stating "in my opinion, a situation in which an outstanding scientist sells a medal recognizing his achievements is unacceptable. Watson's work contributed to cancer research, the illness from which my father died. It is important for me that the money that I spent on this medal will go to supporting scientific research, and the medal will stay with the person who deserved it."
In February 2020, it was revealed Usmanov purchased Pierre de Coubertin's original 1892 Olympic Manifesto for $8.8 million. He then donated it to the Olympic Museum. The manifesto has become the world's most expensive piece of sports memorabilia.
Suppression of online criticism
On 2 September 2007, Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan referred to Alisher Usmanov's criminal conviction, claiming that Usmanov "was in no sense a political prisoner, but a gangster and racketeer who rightly did six years in jail" and his pardon was the work of Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov on the instructions of Uzbekistani power broker and alleged drug trafficker Gafur Rakhimov. The article was subsequently removed by Murray's web host, allegedly under pressure from Usmanov's legal team, London's Schillings law firm. However, what followed was that Schillings contacted independent blogs and websites warning them to remove any references to Murray's allegations, and any reproduction of the blog posting. UK Indymedia reported that they were one of the sites that had been issued with a take down notice on 10 September 2007 and again on 21 September. On 20 September 2007, Bloggerheads.com, the weblog of Tim Ireland, was taken down for reproducing Murray's article, incidentally causing the loss of other blogs belonging to the MP Boris Johnson and councillor Bob Piper – none of which themselves had reproduced the article.
On 12 December 2011, following the 2011 Russian protests regarding vote-rigging in parliamentary elections, the weekly Kommersant Vlast magazine ran an unflattering issue on Vladimir Putin titled "Victory of United ballot-stuffers" – a pun on Putin's United Russia party. Usmanov sacked the editor, Maxim Kovalsky, and the head of the publisher's holding company, Andrei Galiyev, saying there had been an "ethical breach" and that the issue "bordered on petty hooliganism". The controversy surrounded an image of a ballot paper from the parliamentary vote with the words "Putin, go fuck yourself" scrawled in red ink. The caption read: "A correctly filled out ballot recognized as invalid." Demyan Kudryavtsev, the head of the Kommersant publishing house, assumed responsibility by resigning, stating in a blog post that the magazine issue had been "in violation of internal procedures, professional journalistic standards and the Russian law".
Nadezhda Azhgihina, executive secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists, was shocked by the incident, calling it "a clear example of censorship from the owner". On 14 December 60 journalists from the Kommersant newspaper signed an open letter to Usmanov, saying, "We are being compelled to be cowards, which is unworthy and unproductive...We regard [Kovalsky's] dismissal as an act of intimidation aimed at preventing any critical words about Vladimir Putin...We take particular offense at the attempt to present the dismissal of a man for his professional position as a fight for the purity of the Russian language. This is the same kind of fabrication that offended people at the election." Usmanov responded that emotionally, he could "understand the journalists speaking up for sacked top managers" but that "Kommersant Vlast is a respectable, independent, socio-political publication." Mikhail Prokhorov, who had announced his candidacy for the 2012 presidential election, offered to buy Kommersant on the same day, but Usmanov rejected the offer.
On 12 November 2012, the British newspaper The Times reported that Usmanov had hired a London-based PR firm, RLM Finsbury, that edited Usmanov's article on the online encyclopedia English Wikipedia to remove information on Usmanov's criminal convictions and later controversies surrounding their client. The discovery caused significant backlash among the PR professionals in the UK, with the CEO of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations stressing that "public relations professionals should not directly edit Wikipedia for a client or employer". The PR firm acknowledged their actions and stated that they had acted without the authorisation of their client. The information was said to have been removed in expectation of the stock market listing of MegaFon, which is controlled by Usmanov. As of January 2015, the original Times article has been removed from the newspaper's website, its publicly accessible archives, and Google search.
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