Mikhail Fridman

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Mikhail M. Fridman
Mikhail Maratovich Fridman at L1 in 2015.jpg
Fridman at L1 in 2015
Native name Михаи́л Мара́тович Фри́дман
Born (1964-04-21) 21 April 1964 (age 53)
Lviv, Ukraine, USSR
Residence London, England
Nationality Russian
Citizenship Russia
Alma mater Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys[3]
Occupation Co-founder of LetterOne, Alfa Group, and Alfa Bank
Co-founder of the Russian Jewish Congress and Genesis Philanthropy Group
Years active 1986-present
Net worth US$ 14.5 billion (April 2017)[2]
Children 4
Website Mikhail Fridman at LetterOne.com

Mikhail Maratovich Fridman (Russian: Михаи́л Мара́тович Фри́дман; born 21 April 1964) is a Russian business magnate, investor and philanthropist.[4] He also holds Ukrainian and Israeli citizenship.[5][6][7][8][9][1] He co-founded Alfa-Group, a multinational Russian conglomerate. According to Forbes, he is the second richest Russian as of 2017.[2] In May 2017, he was also ranked as Russia's most important businessman by bne IntelliNews.[10]

In 1990 he co-founded Alfa-Bank, which is now the largest private bank in Russia.[2] After serving as chairman of TNK-BP, the 50/50 TNK-BP joint venture,[2] for nine years,[11] in 2013 he sold his stake in the company and co-founded the international investment company LetterOne (L1), headquartered in Luxembourg.[2] Fridman currently sits as chairman of the supervisory board of Alfa Group Consortium,[12] and he is also on the boards of Alfa-Bank[13] and ABH Holdings, which is the Luxembourg-based holding company of Alfa-Banking Group. He is also on the supervisory board of directors for VimpelCom and X5 Retail Group.[12][14] He is chairman of the L1,[11] and since DEA Deutsche Erdoel AG was bought by L1 Energy in 2015, he has been a member of its supervisory board.[15] Fridman has been a member of numerous public facing bodies, including the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs,[3][16] the Public Chamber of Russia,[13][14] and the Council of Foreign Relations in the United States.[17] Also a philanthropist and active supporter of cultural initiatives, he co-founded both the Russian Jewish Congress,[3] the Genesis Prize,[18] and the Genesis Philanthropy Group, supporting Jewish communities across the FSU.[19]

Early life and education[edit]

Mikhail Maratovich Fridman (Russian: Михаи́л Мара́тович Фри́дман) was born on 21 April 1964 in Lviv, USSR,[3] where he spent his youth.[14] He graduated from high school in Lviv in 1980, where he won school olympiads in physics and mathematics.[14] Initially denied entrance to Moscow’s top physics school because of his Jewish heritage,[20] in 1981[14] he began attending the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys.[3] He worked various jobs while a student,[3] including founding and co-owning[21] a student dancing club named Strawberry Fields.[22] Fridman led a group of students who would queue for tickets at popular Moscow plays, and then use the tickets as hard currency to barter for rare goods.[23] Having studied metallurgical engineering,[24] Fridman graduated from the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys in 1986[3][14] with distinction.[25]


Early years and Alfa-Eco (1980s-1990s)[edit]

After graduation Fridman began working as a metallurgical engineer[25][26] in a state electrical machinery factory.[21] As Russian politician Mikhail Gorbachev began to open the economy in the late 1980s,[14] Fridman in 1988 established Courier, a window washing business[27] and an apartment rental agency for foreigners,[21] with fellow friends from college.[27] The business employed largely other Moscow university students.[27] His grandmother served as a business mentor, his family having owned a kitchenware shop in Lviv, prior to the 1917 revolution.[24] According to Fridman, she warned him to "never have dealings with the goys."[21]

Along with German Khan, Alexei Kuzmichov and several other partners, circa 1988 Fridman founded Alfa-Eco,[28] a company that sold used computers,[21] and a company that imported cigarettes and perfumes.[24] The investment group was later renamed Alfa Group Consortium[28] which initially focused on computer trading, copy machine maintenance and repairs.[28] The company soon expanded into imports and exports as well,[11] becoming one of the larger conglomerates in Russia with interests in industries such as telecommunications, banking, retail, and oil.[27]

Using $100,000 of his own money to pay the fee,[24] Fridman co-founded Alfa-Bank in December 1990[11] and was chairman of Alfa Bank.[25] The company grew to become the largest private bank in Russia.[14] Other Alfa Group divisions would later include Alfa Capital Management, Rosvodokanal Group, AlfaStrakhovanie Group and A1 Group.[28] During the 1998 Russian financial crisis, Alfa Bank used its holdings related to TNK to avoid a debt default, and was one of the few Russian banks at the time to continue to allow customer withdrawals.[24]

TNK-BP and assets (2000-2012)[edit]

Fridman (center) with colleagues Petr Aven and Lord Browne

In 1997, Fridman collaborated with Len Blavatnik and Viktor Vekselberg to purchase TNK for US$800 million. TNK, a struggling Siberian oil company, was already bankrupt, with Fridman explaining that at the time, "we thought it was a mistake. We overpaid." However, the company began to turn a profit after a significant debt restructuring.[27] On 2 February 2003, BP agreed to form the TNK-BP joint venture with the AAR consortium, which included Alfa Group, Access Industries, and Renova. After the merger, TNK-BP became the third largest oil producer in Russia.[5]

Fridman co-founded the Perekrestok food retail chains in May 2006, and through the merger of Pyatyorochka founded the X5 Retail Group.[29] It was the country's largest retailer in terms of sales before being overtaken by Magnit in April 2013.[30] A rival grocer, Kopeyka, was acquired by X5 for USD $1.12 billion in 2010.[31] Fridman's net worth was evaluated at $12.7 billion in September 2010, which at the time made him the third-richest man in Russia.[32] After Fridman served as TNK-BP chairman for nine years,[11] in July 2012, Fridman oversaw the sale of TNK-BP to the state-owned Rosneft[11] for USD $56 billion,[33] relinguishing his positions as CEO[11] and chairman.[14] Fridman and his partners sold their stake in TNK-BP to Rosneft, Russia’s state-owned energy group, for $28 billion in 2013.[34]

Founding LetterOne and L1 Energy (2013-2015)[edit]

Fridman speaking at the L1 Energy launch on 14 September 2015 in New York.

Using US$14 billion raised from selling their stakes in TNK-BP, Fridman and his partners[34] established LetterOne (L1) in 2013 with Fridman as chairman.[35] Headquartered in Luxembourg,[35] the company was created to invest in international projects in oil and gas, treasury services, private equity,[33] and telecom, technology, healthcare and energy companies.[35] As of 31 December 2013, LetterOne had around $29 billion in assets under management.[36] Forbes assessed Fridman's net worth in 2014 at US$15.6 billion, making him the second richest person in Russia.[2]

In March 2015 Lord Browne was appointed chairman of L1 Energy to build it into a new energy company.[37] L1 Energy officially launched in May 2015 in New York's Neue Galerie, with a stated ambition to acquire and then develop a portfolio of two or three regionally focused platforms around the world.[38] On 7 May 2015 Lord Davies was appointed deputy non-executive chairman of LetterOne,[36] and a week later, former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt was appointed as the board's advisor.[39] By spring 2015, L1 Energy was growing internationally with assets in countries such as Germany, Norway, Egypt,[40] Denmark,[41] and Algeria.[40] Fridman remained involved with his former companies as well, and Alfa Group's assets equaled around $40 billion by March 2015.[42]

North Sea assets, L1 divisions (2015)[edit]

On 3 March 2015, L1 Energy purchased 100% of DEA,[41] an international exploration and production company[42] owned by the German utility RWE, for $7 billion[37] (€5.1 billion). Headquartered in Hamburg, Germany with extensive assets in the North Sea and Britain,[41] RWE DEA had total natural gas production output of 2.6bn cubic metres in 2013.[40] The deal was approved by Germany[42] and seven other national and supranational authorities, including the European Union and Ukraine.[37] Despite this, the L1 purchase of RWE DEA was opposed by the UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey, who "raised concerns" that sanctions[42] related to Ukraine[43] might "force L1 Energy to shut down production in the North Sea, imperiling oil supplies"[44] and 5% of Britain's North Sea natural gas output.[43] The opposition from the UK met with a fair degree of press coverage, with the Financial Times writing "the [sanctions] argument has puzzled many who know Mr Fridman. Always careful to steer clear of politics, he has never been seen as a Kremlin crony."[45] Bloomberg opined that "the U.K. government is being patently unfair" to Fridman and L1 Energy, stating "it should leave Fridman alone: He's investing in Western Europe because he sees the same Russian risks that Western nations have seen since last year."[42] On 4 March 2015, Davey gave Fridman a one-week deadline[40][46] to convince the UK government not to force him to sell the North Sea oil and gas assets.[47] In April 2015, the government gave Fridman up to six months to sell.[43]

In April 2015, LetterOne Technology (L1 Technology) was launched in London. Its focus was buying "struggling telecom or technology companies that require a fresh infusion of capital."[48] Various advisory board members were appointed including Brent Hoberman, Denis O'Brien, and Sir Julian Horn-Smith.[48] The L1 Technology fund began acting as a holding company for the 48 percent stake in VimpelCom owned by Fridman and his partners.[21][48] The fund also had a 13 percent share in the Turkish telecom company Turkcell.[48] On 9 May 2015, L1 said it was prepared to sell the North Sea gas fields on "commercially acceptable terms."[49] L1 sold its North Sea Oil fields to Ineos, the chemical company owned by Jim Ratcliffe, for an undisclosed sum in October 2015.[50] At the time, the British government assured LetterOne that the forced sale was "not a judgement on the suitability of LetterOne’s owners to control these or any other assets in the UK."[51]

Recent developments (2015-2016)[edit]

On 14 October 2015, LetterOne Group announced that it had agreed a deal in Norway to acquire German utility company E.ON’s interests in three producing Norwegian fields, all located in the North Sea. Norway’s oil minister said that approval would be handled "in the usual way."[52] Later that month, E.ON solds its Norwegian oil and gas business to L1 for $1.6 billion.[34][53] LetterOne also revealed plans in October 2015 to contribute funds to Brazilian telecom company OI SA, in an effort to aid consolidation in the mobile phone sector in Latin America.[34][53] After several parties left the talks, L1 Technology pulled away from the deal[34] in February 2016.[54]

Fridman is chairman of the supervisory board of Alfa Group Consortium,[12] and he is also on the boards of Alfa-Bank[13] and ABH Holdings, which is the Luxembourgh headquartered holding company of Alfa-Banking Group. He is also on the supervisory board of directors for VimpelCom and X5 Retail Group.[12][14] He is chairman of LetterOne,[11] and since DEA Deutsche Erdoel AG was bought by L1 Energy in 2015, he has been a member of the supervisory board.[15] On 12 February 2016, it was announced that through the L1 Technology fund, Fridman had made an investment of $200 million in Uber.[44] As of March 2016, his net worth was $14.2 billion, which ranked him at No. 63 on Forbes 2016 list of billionaires, and the No. 2 richest man in Russia.[2] In June 2016, LetterOne expanded into healthcare with L1 Health in the United States, with "$2-3 billion of investments in the global healthcare sector" to be doled out over the ensuing three years. Franz Humer was appointed the L1 Health Advisory Board.[55]

Writing and public speaking[edit]

In July 2016, Fridman and economist Anatole Kaletsky were interviewed by The Milken Institute in a feature titled "Searching for Growth in an Unstable Global Economy."[56] In the article they talk about topics such as the reasons for current market volatility and an emergece of a new "indigo" economic era, among others.[56] The feature was a followup to an article Fridman had published in the Financial Times the year before, in which he theorized that "the oil price had [previously] remained high because people perceived there was a shortage," and that the global economy was facing a "new phase in which people would not fear the end of oil."[56] On 2 October 2016, Fridman spoke as part of a panel discussion at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels, focusing discussion on modern trends in the global economy and the implications for Europe.[57]

Public career[edit]

Fridman is a member of numerous public facing bodies, including the National Council on Corporate Governance in Russia[12] and a boardmember of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.[3][16] In February 2001, Fridman became a member of the Council for Entrepreneurship at the Government of the Russian Federation.[25] He was elected as a member of the Public Chamber of Russia in November 2005,[13][14] and also that year he took part in the first convocation of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation. Since 2005, Fridman has been a Russian representative on the international advisory board of the Council of Foreign Relations in the United States.[17]

Philanthropy and initiatives[edit]

Fridman (second from right) at the commemoration of the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center at Babi Yar in Ukraine in 2016.[58]

Fridman has been an active supporter of Jewish and Russian cultural initiatives in Europe[59] and the world.[11] In 1996[32] Fridman was one of the founders of the Russian Jewish Congress,[3] now sitting on the RJC Presidium.[32] He is vice president of the Russian Jewish Congress and head of its cultural committee.[25] Fridman is an active supporter of the national literary award "Big Book," and he is also a member of the board of the "Center Support for Native Literature," which is focused on implementing cultural programs, promoting the ideals of humanism and respect for the values of Russian culture, supporting creative writing and book publishing in Russia.[60] Through Alfa Bank, he has donated funds to Bolshoi Theatre.[24]

He makes large contributions to the work of the European Jewish Fund, a non-profit organization aimed at developing European Jewry and promoting tolerance and reconciliation on the continent.[32] He has also donated to the Nativ program, which is an IDF program eligible for all immigrant soldiers in Israel. In the summer of 2007,[61] Fridman along with Stan Polovets and Alexander Knaster, Pyotr Aven, and German Khan founded the Genesis Philanthropy Group, whose purpose is to develop and enhance Jewish identity among Jews worldwide.[19][61] Every year the Genesis Prize recognises a new person,[18] with character the focus as compared to religion.[32] The New York Times described it as "a $1 million annual award for excellence in virtually any field, to honor those people who attribute their success to Jewish values."[19] The first annual Genesis Prize was awarded in Jerusalem in 2014, with Fridman as a speaker,[20] and Helen Mirren emceeing two years later.[62] In September 2016, it was announced that he had contributed funding to a Holocaust memorial at Babi Yar in Ukraine.[63] He also joined the Initiative Group of the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, which also included his long-term colleague German Khan.[58]

Honors and awards[edit]

In May 2003, Fridman was honored with the Golden Plate Award[25] from the International Academy of Achievement in Washington, presented by former US President Bill Clinton.[13] Fridman was given the Darin Award in 2004 for "contribution to the development of domestic business and entrepreneurship."[25] That year he was also included in the Financial Times list of "Leaders of the New Europe 2004,"[13][13] and he was one of the "Europe's Power 25" by Fortune in 2004.[13] Fridman was honored "For Creation of Successful Russian Brand" by World Brand Academy in 2006.[64] The annual GQ Man of the Year National Award, organized by GQ Magazine, named Fridman as "Businessman of the Year" for 2006.[25]


In 2003, two luxury houses owned by the Russian government were sold below market value to two companies, one of which was owned by Fridman and another by former Russian prime-minister Mikhail Kasyanov.[65] The sales caught the attention of the press in July 2005,[65] with State Duma member and journalist Aleksandr Khinshtein alleging financial connections between Fridman and Kasyanov,[65] which Fridman dismissed. Fridman also stated that the house's asking price was low because the lease had been owned by another entity.[65] In early 2006,[66] the Moscow Court of Arbitration ruled that the two houses should be returned to the state,[66][67] maintaining Fridman's right to a refund[67] but arguing not all procedures were followed during the privatization.[66][67] On 1 March 2006, two government officials responsible for the auction were indicted but not arrested for "appropriation of managed property committed by an organized group on a particularly large scale."[68]

In May 2017 Fridman, along with fellow Alfa Bank owners Petr Aven and German Khan, filed a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed for publishing the unverified Donald Trump–Russia dossier, which alleges financial ties and collusion between Putin, Trump, and the three bank owners.[69][70]

Personal life[edit]

Based for years in Moscow[24] and often spending time at corporate headquarters in cities such as Amsterdam and Hamburg,[71] Fridman is unmarried and has four children.[72] Based in Paris, France with his ex-wife as of 2003,[24] in the autumn of 2015[59] Fridman became primarily based in London,[2] and as of 2016 was in the process of remodeling Athlone House to be his primary residence.[73] He is a fervent fan of jazz,[24] as well as opera and history.[73] He has stated that in his will, his fortune will be left to charity.[73]

Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]