Petr Aven

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Petr Aven
Авен, Пётр Олегович.jpg
Born16 March 1955 (1955-03-16) (age 67)
CitizenshipRussian, Latvian
EducationMoscow State University
OccupationBusinessman
Known forAlfa-Bank
Children2

Petr Olegovich Aven (also transliterated Pyotr Aven; Russian: Пëтр Олегович Авен; Latvian: Pjotrs Avens; born 16 March 1955) is a Russian oligarch, businessman, economist and politician who also holds Latvian citizenship.[1] Until March 2022 he headed Alfa-Bank, Russia's largest commercial bank. In March 2022, he resigned from the board of directors at Alfa-Bank and LetterOne Group to help them avoid sanctions.[2] In 2022 he was named the 665th richest person in the world, with a net worth of around $4.7 billion.[3]

Aven is believed to be a member of Russian leader Vladimir Putin's inner circle.[4] He is one of many Russian oligarchs named in the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, CAATSA.[5] In 2022, Aven was included in EU sanctions imposed in the wake of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. He criticized the sanctions, alleging that they had been applied on a "spurious and unfounded basis,"[6] and filed a lawsuit in the European Court of Justice.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Aven was born in Moscow, his father, professor of computer science Oleg Aven [ru], was half Latvian and half Russian,[8][9] and his mother was from a Jewish family.[10] His paternal grandfather Janis Aven or Jānis Avens (lv) was a Latvian rifleman.[8]

Petr Aven studied at Moscow Physics and Mathematics school №2 [ru].[11] He graduated from Moscow State University in 1977 and holds a PhD in economics (1980).[12]

Career[edit]

After graduation from university, Aven was a senior researcher at the All-Union Research Institute for Systems Studies [ru] at the USSR Academy of Sciences and then spent time at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria (1989–1991).

Concerning Russian economic reform in the early 1990s, he and other reformer colleagues had consulted with foreign academics by 1990 on trying to find a new system. When Boris Yeltsin became president, he appointed Aven with the task of making the ruble convertible and finding a solution to foreign debt.[13] Aven went on to become the Minister of Foreign Economic Relations for the Russian Federation (1991–1992), serving as Russia's representative to the Group of Seven and conducting a number of high-level trade and economic missions to Western capitals. After leaving the government in December 1992, Aven became an adviser to the president of JSC "LogoVAZ" Boris Berezovsky and remained in this post until the end of 1993. In 1993 he joined the Russia's Choice movement and was a candidate for State Duma.

In October 1994, Aven met Alfa Group's Mikhail Fridman, and soon became an Alfa-Bank shareholder serving as a member of the supervisory board of the Alfa Group Consortium. From 1994 until June 2011, he served as the president of Alfa-Bank Russia. Currently Aven is a member of the board of directors and chairman of the board of directors of ABH Holdings S.A.[14] Aven is also chairman of the board of directors at AlfaStrakhovanie Group, co-chairman of the board of directors of CTC Media, Inc.[15] In 2012, the Alfa Group together with Viktor Vekselberg of Renova Group and Leonard Blavatnik of Access Industries sold their aggregate 50% stake in TNK-BP to state-owned Rosneft for $28 billion.[16]

In 2013, Aven joined the Board of LetterOne Group, an international investment business founded by Mikhail Fridman and focused on the telecoms, technology and energy sectors. The L1 Group owns companies – and has equity investments in companies – with operations in 32 countries around the world.

LetterOne acquired assets from German utility business E. ON in October 2015, in a deal worth $1.6bn, that saw the Luxembourg-based group gain Norwegian oil and gas resources.[17] In the following month, LetterOne also announced their intention to deal with Brazilian telecoms company Oi SA, and boost their presence in the mobile phone sector there.[18]

In 2015 Petr Aven and Alfred Kokh published Gaidar's Revolution: The Inside Account of the Economic Transformation of Russia, drawing on their experience of the Russian Government and the former First Minister for the Economy, Yegor Gaidar.[19] In his review of the book, John Lloyd of the Financial Times called it "an illuminating study of the reformers who sought to revive Russia's post-Soviet economy."[20]

On 28 February 2022, the European Union blacklisted Aven and had all his assets frozen[21] in relation to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.

On 9 April 2022, the French Ministry of Culture seized a Pyotr Konchalovsky painting owned by Petr Aven, "Autoportrait" (1910), as part of the personal sanctions imposed on Aven in relation to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.[22] The canvas had been part of the "Icônes de l'Art Russe" exhibition of the late Morozov brothers' collection of artworks at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris.

Aven is currently the subject of a UK investigation into the possible evasion of sanctions, with transfers totaling £3 million to the UK from Austria in February 2022 under scrutiny.[23] In May 2022 Aven's home was raided by officers from the National Crime Agency. Nonetheless, Aven's legal team scored a victory of sorts in July 2022, when a judge ruled that some of the accounts used to fund expenses for Aven's London mansion could be unfrozen.[24]

Libel suits[edit]

In 2005, a United States district court in Washington, D.C., dismissed a 2000 libel suit by Aven and fellow Alfa-Bank owner Mikhail Fridman against the Center for Public Integrity over an online article which included a suggestion that they had been involved in drug-running and organized crime; the federal judge ruled that there was no evidence of actual malice on the part of the publication and that Fridman and Aven were limited public figures regarding the public controversy involving corruption in post-Soviet Russia.[25][26][27][28]

In May 2017 Aven, along with fellow Alfa-Bank owners Mikhail Fridman and German Khan, filed a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed for publishing the unverified Steele dossier,[29][30][31] which alleges financial ties and collusion between Putin, Trump, and the three bank owners.[32][33] In October 2017 Aven, Fridman, and Khan also filed a libel suit against the private-investigation firm Fusion GPS and its founder Glenn Simpson, who had commissioned former MI6 agent Christopher Steele to compile the dossier, for circulating the dossier among journalists and allowing it to be published.[25] In May 2018, the Kremlin released a statement noting that Aven, Fridman and Khan were not representing interests of Putin or the Russian government. The statement followed a meeting between the Kremlin, Aven and Fridman.[34] In April 2018 Aven, Fridman, and Khan filed a libel suit against Steele in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia,[35][36] but the suit was dismissed with prejudice the following August.[37]

In September 2018, attorneys for Aven, Fridman and Khan filed another suit against investigative firm Fusion GPS and founder Glenn Simpson alleging defamation from the Steele report. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon has yet to rule on the suit.[38]

Together with fellow Alfa-Bank partners Mikhail Fridman and German Khan, Aven brought a lawsuit for defamation in Britain against Orbis Business Intelligence, Steele's private intelligence firm. In July 2020, Justice Warby from the Queen's Bench Division of the British High Court of Justice ordered Steele to pay damages to Aven and Fridman who Steele claimed had delivered "large amounts of illicit cash" to Vladimir Putin when Putin was deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. Judge Warby stated that the claim was "demonstrably false" and awarded the damages to compensate "for the loss of autonomy, distress and reputational damage caused by the breaches of duty". The judge stated that Steele's dossier also inaccurately claimed that Aven and Fridman provided foreign policy advice to Putin.[39][40][41][42]

Public activities[edit]

Petr Aven holds a number of public facing positions:

Since April 2006, Aven has been a member of the board of directors of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. In 2007, Aven became chairman of the Russia-Latvian Business Council.

Aven has acted as a guest professor and lecturer at some universities, including Yale University, Bar-Elan University (Israel), and the University of Glasgow and has published two books on econometrics and on economic reform and numerous articles in Russian and international journals, including in Communist Economies and Economic Transformation in Economic Policy. Yale University Press and the Kiel Institute of World Economics, and other scientific and academic institutes have published Aven's monographs.[49]

He has received a number of international awards, including the best manager in the financial services sector in Russia in 2004 by Institutional Investor.[50]

Aven is a supporter of the arts and theatre in Russia. Aven along with Stan Polovets and three fellow Russian Jewish billionaires, Mikhail Fridman, Alexander Knaster, and German Khan, founded the Genesis Philanthropy Group whose purpose is to develop and enhance Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide.[51][52][10]

In 2008, Petr and Elena Aven established the charity foundation "Generation". Its priorities are "support for children's healthcare, cultural exchange projects between Latvia and Russia, as well as scholarships and grants in the field of science.

Since 2012 the foundation has been supporting the Madona Hospital in northeastern Latvia. One of the first baby boxes in Latvia is equipped with the help of the foundation.[53]

Aven is also a recognised art collector. His first art purchase was a still life by Pavel Kuznetsov in 1993, and afterwards he began collecting mostly pre-Soviet Russian art, as well as art by artists of other nationalities.[54] Works from his collection have been lent to the Jewish Museum in Moscow, the Tate in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and recently the Royal Academy.[54] In May 2015, pieces from Aven's private collection were put on display at New York's Neue Galerie in an exhibition examining early twentieth century Russian art and its relationship with German art of the time.[55]

Aven has been vociferous in his criticism of fake artworks from the school of Russian avant-garde.[56]  This included criticism of the recent showing of avante-garde works at the Ghent Museum.[57]

On 3 November 2015, Aven received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship in recognition of his contribution to corporate and public service to U.S.-Russia relations, at the 2015 Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Awards Dinner.[58] The award was given to Aven in recognition of his many achievements in building understanding between Russians and Americans during his career, and for his role as co-founder of the Alfa Fellowship Program,[59] which gives emerging young leaders from around the world the opportunity to gain professional experience in the private sector, government, and non-profit community, creating a new generation of American experts on Russia.[60]

In 2021 Aven bought a building in the center of Riga to establish a museum for his collection.[61] He is a trustee of the UK Royal Academy of Arts Development Trust.[62]

In 2013, Aven was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Latvia "for scientific and practical contributions to Latvia's development and cooperation with Russia." Said doctorate was revoked unanimously in 2022 because of Aven's support for Vladimir Putin and the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.[63]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Russian billionaire stripped of Latvian state award feels "taken aback and humiliated"".
  2. ^ Thomas, Daniel; Seddon, Max (2 March 2022). "Mikhail Fridman loses control of LetterOne after sanctions". Financial Times.
  3. ^ "Pyotr Aven". Forbes.
  4. ^ Zeffman, Sean O’Neill | Louisa Clarence-Smith | Henry. "EU sanctions Russian oligarchs and Putin's inner circle cronies". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  5. ^ Sheena McKenzie; Nicole Gaouette; Donna Borak (30 January 2018). "Full list of Russian oligarchs released by US". CNN.
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  7. ^ https://tass.ru/ekonomika/14768447[bare URL]
  8. ^ a b National Historical Encyclopedia, Biography of P. O. Aven by N. Zenkovich, 2004
  9. ^ Interview with P. Aven May 2010
  10. ^ a b Jerusalem Post: "The world's 50 Richest Jews: 41-50" 7 September 2010
  11. ^ Юлия Таратута (28 November 2014). "Петр Авен: "Меня больше интересует общество, чем личность"". Forbes.ru (in Russian). Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  12. ^ Environment, United States Congress House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Natural Resources, Agriculture Research, and (1990). U.S. Participation in the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA): Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Natural Resources, Agriculture Research, and Environment and the Subcommittee on International Scientific Cooperation and the Subcommittee on Science, Research, and Technology of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, One Hundred First Congress, Second Session, April 18, 1990. U.S. Government Printing Office.
  13. ^ Cummings, Mike (13 November 2017). "Aven offers inside account of the making of modern Russia". YaleNews.
  14. ^ Petr Aven profile. Archived 20 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine Alfa-Bank Board of Directors. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  15. ^ Forbes.com Petr Aven profile. Forbes.
  16. ^ Forbes: The World's Billionaires - Pyotr Aven March 2014
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  18. ^ "Fridman Offers $4 Billion to Merge Brazil Carriers Oi, Tim". Bloomberg.
  19. ^ Subbotina, Kristina. "Exclusive "No Tie" Interview with head of the Alfa Banking Holding, Petr Aven on business, childhood and friends".
  20. ^ Lloyd, John (3 July 2015). "'Gaidar's Revolution', by Petr Aven and Alfred Kokh". Financial Times.
  21. ^ Valentina Pop; Sam Fleming; Max Seddon (28 February 2022). "EU freezes assets of Russia's leading oligarchs and allies of Putin". The Financial Times.
  22. ^ "War in Ukraine: A painting from the Morozov Collection owned by a Russian oligarch will remain in France". Le Monde.fr. 10 April 2022.
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  24. ^ "Russian Billionaire Haggles with UK over Expenses at Mansion". Bloomberg.com. 19 July 2022.
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  26. ^ "Libel case over mafia-Halliburton link dismissed". Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. 4 October 2005. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  27. ^ "Alfa Loses Libel Suit in U.S. Court". The Moscow Times. 29 September 2005. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  28. ^ Fortescue, Stephen (2006). Russia's Oil Barons and Metal Magnates: Oligarchs and the State in Transition. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 69. ISBN 9780230800748.
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  30. ^ Gerstein, Josh (26 May 2017). "Russian bank owners sue BuzzFeed over Trump dossier publication". Politico. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  31. ^ "Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven, and German Khan v. Buzzfeed, Inc. - Summons and Complaint" (PDF). 26 May 2018. Retrieved 20 August 2018 – via Politico.
  32. ^ Smith, Geoffrey (11 January 2017). "Here's Why Russian Intelligence Bombshell on Donald Trump Might Be Believable". Fortune. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  33. ^ Sommer, Allison Kaplan (11 January 2017). "Controversial Dossier on Trump Alleges That Russia Targets Jewish-American Businessmen". Haaretz. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
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  44. ^ CERP Trustees. CERP. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  45. ^ Council of Trustees. Archived 13 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine Russian Olympians Foundation. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  46. ^ Petr Aven profile. HSE. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  47. ^ "President's Council on International Activities". Yale University. 10 July 2015.
  48. ^ "RIAC :: Experts". russiancouncil.ru.
  49. ^ Petr Aven profile Businessweek.com. Retrieved 14 November 2011
  50. ^ Petr Aven profile. Archived 2 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine Skolkovo Experts and Lecturers. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  51. ^ New York Times: "Russians Join Israel to Start Jewish Prize of $1 Million" by David M. Herszenhorn 26 June 2012
  52. ^ Yad Vashem: "Ceremony Marking the Cooperation between Yad Vashem and the Genesis Philanthrophy Group" 12 June 2009
  53. ^ "Madonas slimnīcas dzemdību nodaļa ziedojumā saņem 77 000 eiro vērtu ultrasonogrāfu". nra.lv (in Latvian). Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  54. ^ a b Jack, Andrew (12 July 2017). "Petr Aven: the Russian oligarch with an eye for art, not yachts". Financial Times.
  55. ^ "From The Director". Neue Galerie.
  56. ^ The Editors of ARTnews (1 July 2009). "The Faking of the Russian Avant-Garde". ARTnews. Retrieved 4 April 2019. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  57. ^ "Ghent museum director under fire from Flemish museums". theartnewspaper.com. 7 March 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  58. ^ "Petr Aven receives Woodrow Wilson Award in Washington DC - LetterOne". www.letterone.com.
  59. ^ "Alfa Fellowship Program".
  60. ^ "Wilson Center Honors Petr Aven and Susan Carmel Lehrman | Wilson Center".
  61. ^ "Russian Art Gallery: Free Valuation and Attribution". russianartgallery.org. Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  62. ^ "The Royal Academy Development Trust". Royal Academy.
  63. ^ "Billionaire stripped of University of Latvia's doctorate degree". Public Broadcasting of Latvia. 8 March 2022. Retrieved 10 March 2022.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)