Leonard Blavatnik

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Sir Leonard Blavatnik
Leonard Blavatnik, February 2018 (4568) (cropped).jpg
Born (1957-06-14) June 14, 1957 (age 62)
ResidenceLondon, England, UK[1]
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom-United States[2]
EducationMoscow State University of Railway Engineering
Columbia University (M.S.)
Harvard Business School (M.B.A.)
OccupationFounder of Access Industries
Net worthUS$18.0 billion (2019)[1]
Spouse(s)Emily Appelson

Sir Leonard "Len" Blavatnik (Ukrainian: Леонід Валентинович Блаватнік, Russian: Леонид Валентинович Блаватник, Leonid Valentinovich Blavatnik; born June 14, 1957) is a Soviet-born British-American businessman, investor, and philanthropist. He made his fortune through business via diversified investments in myriad companies through his conglomerate company, Access Industries.

As of January 2018, Blavatnik was the wealthiest man in the United Kingdom, and the 50th wealthiest in the world, with a net worth of US$21.2 billion.[3] In 2017, Blavatnik received a knighthood for services to philanthropy.

Early life and education[edit]

Blavatnik was born in Odessa, Soviet Ukraine, to a Jewish family.[4][5] He attended Moscow State University of Railway Engineering, but did not complete his coursework due to the family's request for emigration visas. His family emigrated from the Soviet Union to the United States in 1978, and he received a masters in computer science from Columbia University and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1989.[6][4]


In 1986, Blavatnik founded Access Industries, an international conglomerate company located in New York, of which he is chairman and president. Access has long-term holdings in Europe and North and South America. Initially, he moved into Russian investments, just after the fall of communism. He and a friend from university, Viktor Vekselberg, formed the Renova investment vehicle, and then the two joined with Mikhail Fridman's Alfa Group to form the AAR venture.[7] Access has since diversified its portfolio to include investments in industries such as oil, entertainment, coal, aluminum, petrochemicals and plastics, telecommunications, media, and real estate.[citation needed]

Petrochemicals and oil[edit]

In August 2005, Access Industries bought petrochemicals and plastics manufacturer Basell Polyolefins from Royal Dutch Shell and BASF for $5.7 billion. On December 20, 2007, Basell completed its acquisition of the Lyondell Chemical Company for an enterprise value of approximately $19 billion. The resulting company, LyondellBasell Industries then became the world's eighth largest chemical company based on net sales.[8] On January 6, 2009, the U.S. operations of LyondellBasell Industries filed for bankruptcy.[9]

On April 30, 2010, LyondellBasell emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a significantly improved financial position. As part of its exit financing, LyondellBasell raised $3.25 billion of first priority debt as well as $2.8 billion through the rights offering jointly underwritten by Access Industries, Apollo Management, and Ares Management.[10] LyondellBasell stock has increased 103% in value since April 2010. Access currently owns approximately 14% of LyondellBasell.

AAR gained a controlling stake in Russian oil company TNK through privatization auctions, then in 2003 sold a 50% stake to British Petroleum to form TNK-BP, one of Russia's largest oil companies, where Blavatnik served on the board of directors. On March 21, 2013, Rosneft completed its $55 billion acquisition of TNK-BP. Blavatnik also has interests in UC Rusal, the world's largest aluminum producer, where he sits on the board. On May 6, 2011, Warner Music Group announced its sale to Access for US$3.3 billion.[11]


In 2010, Blavatnik sued JPMorgan Chase after losing $100 million by allegedly following Morgan's advice three years earlier to buy mortgage securities with AAA credit ratings.[12] JPMorgan Chase was ordered to pay $50 million to Blavatnik on August 27, 2013.[13]


In early 2010, Access Industries was reported as one of the handful of bidders for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.[14]

On July 20, 2011, an Access affiliate acquired Warner Music Group for $3.3 billion. [15][16]

In 2016, Blavatnik launched Access Entertainment, which bought James Packer's stake in RatPac Entertainment and a 24.9% stake in Bad Wolf in 2017[17][18].

In April 2018, it was reported that Blavatnik was a front runner in the bidding to purchase Britain’s third oldest theatre, the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Sources report that the bid is around £40 million[19]

Blavatnik also owns AI Film, the independent film and production company which backed Lee Daniels’ film The Butler and the summer 2015 release Mr. Holmes.[20] He was an early investor in Rocket Internet and Beats Music, helped finance fashion designer Tory Burch, and in 2013 paid $115 million for wireless spectrum in Norway.[21]

Board membership[edit]

Blavatnik is a member of the Global Advisory Board of the Centre for International Business and Management at Cambridge University, a member of the board of Dean's Advisors at the Harvard Business School and a member of the academic board at Tel Aviv University.[22]


Blavatnik and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin with young scientists who have been awarded the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, February 2018

Blavatnik, the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Access companies have supported many cultural and philanthropic institutions over the past 15 years, including serving as the primary benefactors for numerous major art and cultural exhibitions, including the British Museum, Tate Modern (which named a new wing the "Blavatnik Building" in 2017[23]), Royal Opera House, National Portrait Gallery and Museum of Modern Art. Since 2007, the Blavatnik Family Foundation together with the New York Academy of Sciences has supported the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists. The annual award recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding young scientists in life sciences, physical sciences and engineering and provides all finalists with a significant cash prize.[24]

Blavatnik sponsors a Colel Chabad 20,000-square-foot (1,900 m2) food bank and warehouse in Kiryat Malakhi, Israel, which sends monthly food shipments to 5,000 poor families in 25 Israeli cities, and before Jewish holidays to 30,000 families in 73 Israeli cities, towns and villages.[25]

In 2010, it was announced that Blavatnik and the Blavatnik Family Foundation would donate £75 million to the University of Oxford to establish a new school of government.[26] The gift is one of the largest philanthropic gifts in the university's 900-year history. Blavatnik also indicated the possibility of increasing his benefaction up to £100 million over time. The Blavatnik School of Government began accepting students in September 2012, and the new permanent home of the school was constructed on the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter. The building, which was finished in summer 2015, was designed by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. The first dean of the school is professor Ngaire Woods.

In 2013, Harvard University announced a $50 million donation from Blavatnik's foundation to sponsor life sciences entrepreneurship at the university[27] and named the first five HBS graduates to receive the Blavatnik Fellowship in Life Science Entrepreneurship[28]. In 2018, Harvard Medical School announced a $200 million donation from Blavatnik's foundation to sponsor research, investments in data science, and the creation of subsidized lab space for biotech startups.[29]

Political donations[edit]

In 2011, Blavatnik donated to both President Barack Obama and his GOP rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.[30]

Blavatnik is a supporter of the US Republican Party, and in 2015–2016 donated a total of $7.35 million to six Republican political candidates, including South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Arizona Senator John McCain.[31] In February 2016, Blavatnik donated over $1 million to an anti-Donald Trump GOP group.[32] He also donated $1 million to the committee for the inauguration of Donald Trump.[31] In August 2017, political scientist Bo Rothstein resigned from the Blavatnik School of Government out of opposition to Blavatnik's politics.[33]

Blavatnik and his American wife, Emily, also donated to Democratic Party candidates Kamala Harris, Chuck Schumer, Andrew Cuomo and Hillary Clinton.[34]

In 2017, after two senior Trump administration officials went on record as being lobbyists for Blavatnik’s Access Industries[35], Blavatnik was mentioned in investigations led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian donations to the administration.[36] Since April 2016 Blavatnik contributed $383,000 to the Republican National Committee and $1 million to Trump’s inauguration fund. However, he did not give directly to the Trump campaign.[37] Between 2015 and 2017, Blavatnik contributed $3.5 million to Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell's super PAC.[38]


In the Sunday Times Rich List 2015, Blavatnik was listed as the UK's richest person,[39] with a fortune of £16.9 billion. Forbes ranks Blavatnik as the 16th richest in the world as of April 2015. As of 2018, Len Blavatnik was ranked 59th in the Forbes' annual list of the world's billionaires and 27th in the Forbes 400 list. [40]

Personal life[edit]

Blavatnik is married to Emily Appelson Blavatnik.[41] The couple have four children, including daughter Laila. [42]

He owns a grade II listed building in Kensington Palace Gardens which is valued at £200 million.[43]

Blavatnik is a friend of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.[44]

Blavatnik is also a longtime friend and business partner of Ukrainian-born Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg,[7] one of Russia's richest men, who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.[31]


Blavatnik was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to philanthropy.[45] He is a member of the Legion d'Honneur.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b [1]; accessed April 3, 2019.
  2. ^ "Len Blavatnik". forbes.com. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  3. ^ "Music boss Len Blavatnik named as Britain's richest man". BBC News. April 26, 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Russian-born U.S. billionaire offers to buy Ma'ariv", haaretz.com; accessed February 23, 2015.
  5. ^ "The world's 50 Richest Jews: 11-20: Len Blavatnik", jpost.com, September 7, 2010.
  6. ^ "Warner Music Suitor’s Record of Deal-Making". Ben Protess. DealBook. May 5, 2011
  7. ^ a b Yenikeyeff, Shamil, "BP, Russian billionaires, and the Kremlin: a Power Triangle that never was", Oxford Energy Comment, November 23, 2011; retrieved March 3, 2015.
  8. ^ "C&EN's Global Top 50 Chemical Firms For 2014". Chemical & Engineering News. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
  9. ^ LyondellBasell May Seek Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection, nytimes.com; accessed February 23, 2015.
  10. ^ LyondellBasell profile; accessed February 23, 2015.
  11. ^ Wilkerson, David B., "Warner Music to be sold in $3.3 billion cash deal", MarketWatch, May 6, 2011; retrieved 2011-05-06.
  12. ^ Lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase, nytimes.com; accessed February 23, 2015.
  13. ^ JPMorgan Chase ordered to pay Blavatnik $50 million in damages, bbc.co.uk; accessed February 23, 2015.
  14. ^ MGM bidding by Access Industries, bloomberg.com; accessed February 23, 2015.
  15. ^ Sisario, Michael J. de la Merced and Ben. "Warner Music Is Sold, Ending a Long Auction". DealBook. Retrieved 2018-05-06.
  16. ^ "Access Industries buys Warner Music Group for $3.3bn - Music Business Worldwide". Music Business Worldwide. Retrieved 2016-01-28.
  17. ^ Barraclough, Leo (2017-03-27). "Len Blavatnik, Danny Cohen's Access Entertainment Backs Bad Wolf (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2018-05-06.
  18. ^ Thomsen, Simon (2017-04-20). "James Packer has sold his stake in Hollywood film company RatPac Entertainment". Business Insider Australia. Retrieved 2018-05-06.
  19. ^ "Billionaire Blavatnik leads race to buy prized West End theatre". Sky News. Retrieved 2018-05-06.
  20. ^ "Blavatnik owns AI Film, the independent film and production company that's behind acclaimed film Lee Daniels' The Butler and the summer 2015 release Mr. Holmes". Business Insider. Retrieved 2016-01-28.
  21. ^ "Len Blavatnik". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-01-28.
  22. ^ "Academic Boards and Committees: Harvard University, Cambridge University, Tel Aviv University"
  23. ^ Ellis-Petersen, Hannah (2017-05-04). "Tate Modern names extension after billionaire Len Blavatnik". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  24. ^ Profile, nyas.org; accessed February 23, 2015.
  25. ^ Colel Chabad profile, colelchabad.org; accessed February 23, 2015.
  26. ^ Blavatnik donation of £75 million to Oxford University, ox.ac.uk; accessed February 23, 2015.
  27. ^ $50 million donation to Harvard from Blavatnik, thecrimson.com; accessed February 23, 2015.
  28. ^ "Harvard Business School Names First Blavatnik Fellows in Life Science Entrepreneurship - News - Harvard Business School". www.hbs.edu. Retrieved 2018-05-06.
  29. ^ Harvard Med Gets Record Gift From Blavatnik to Speed Research, bloomberg.com; accessed November 8, 2018.
  30. ^ "Special counsel probing flow of Russian-American money to Trump political funds". ABC News. September 26, 2017.
  31. ^ a b c May, Ruth. "GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia". Dallas News. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  32. ^ "Warner owner Len Blavatnik pumps $1m into anti-Donald Trump group". Music Business Worldwide. March 22, 2016.
  33. ^ Weaver, Matthew (28 August 2017). "Oxford University professor resigns in Donald Trump protest". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  34. ^ "The Russians at the DNC". Politico. July 29, 2016.
  35. ^ "Exclusive: Two top Trump officials are ex-lobbyists for a billionaire with deep ties to Russian oligarchs". VICE News. Retrieved 2018-05-06.
  36. ^ "Special counsel Robert Mueller is asking Russian oligarchs if they gave money to Trump". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2018-05-06.
  37. ^ Brian Ross and Matthew Mosk (2018-02-20). "Special counsel probing flow of Russian-American money to Trump political funds". ABC News. Retrieved 2018-05-06.
  38. ^ Pareene, Alex (2019-03-21). "Nihilist In Chief". The New Republic. ISSN 0028-6583. Retrieved 2019-05-23.
  39. ^ "Music boss Len Blavatnik named as Britain's richest man". BBC News. April 26, 2015.
  40. ^ "Len Blavatnik". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-04-03.
  41. ^ "Filipino housekeeper claims Leonard Blavatnik won't hire her because of her ethnicity - Virginia Lim files discrimination suit in U.S.", nydailynews.com, November 21, 2011.
  42. ^ Colacello, Bob. "Inside Paris's 25th Annual le Bal des Débutantes". Vanity Fair.
  43. ^ Clementine, Katherine. " Rich List 2015: Kensington property owner Len Blavatnik top with £13.17 BILLION fortune ", Get West London, 1 May 2015. Accessed 28 May 2015
  44. ^ "Kremlin-linked Billionaire, Netanyahu Friend Donated to Trump's Private Legal Fund". Haaretz. September 25, 2017.
  45. ^ "No. 61962". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 June 2017. p. B2.

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