Ruben Vardanyan (businessman)
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|Known for||Troika Dialog, Moscow School of Management Skolkovo, UWC Dilijan, Aurora Prize, Future Armenian|
Ruben Karlenovich Vardanyan (Armenian: Ռուբեն Կառլենի Վարդանյան, Russian: Рубен Карленович Варданян; born May 25, 1968) is an Armenian-born Russian entrepreneur, venture philanthropist, and investor, co-founder of Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity and Future Armenian public initiative, and UWC Dilijan College. Vardanyan initiated and co-founded Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO, and held its president's seat in 2006–2010. He is the also founder of the "Philin" initiative (philanthropy infrastructure) and the co-founder of the family welfare service "Phoenix Advisors". He is the former CEO and major shareholder of "Troika Dialog" investment bank (1992—2012).
Early life and education
Ruben Vardanyan was born on the 25th of May, 1968, in Yerevan. In 1985 he graduated with honours from Yerevan state school No. 20. In 1985 he enrolled in MSU Faculty of Economics, after the first year did his military service in Soviet Azerbaijan and Armenia. In 1992 he graduated with honours from the Faculty of Economics.
Vardanyan trained in Cassa di Risparmio di Torino Italian saving bank in Turin and completed a course on developing markets by Merrill Lynch in NY (1992). Later he completed short-term courses at INSEAD (Fontainebleau, France, 2000), Harvard Business School (2001, 2005, 2018), Yale University and Stanford GSB (2012, 2013).
In September 1990, en route to Maastricht conference, Vardanyan met Pavel Teplukhin. In November of the same year, Teplukhin introduced Vardanyan to Peter Derby, a Russian American who planned to establish a trading company in Russia and offered Vardanyan to join his team. The significant amount of time had been consumed by Russian bureaucracy, so only on March 18, 1991, Troika Dialog was officially registered. Since the very first days, Vardanyan worked at the company, first as an expert (1991—1992), then growing to the Head of the IPO department. In 1992 Vardanyan entered the executive board, taking chairs of executive director, president, CEO and chairman of the board of directors of "Troika Dialog" group. He held the post until the company was sold out.
"Troika Dialog" trading company was registered in 1991, followed by an asset management company in 1996. In the early 2000s "Troika" established offices in New York and London. As of 2011, the partners held 63.6% of "Troika Dialog" shares, with 40% owned by Vardanyan. At financial year-end 2010, "Troika" assets totaled $5.75 bln, $872 mln equity and $42.346 mln revenue.
On March 11, 2011, Sberbank announced 100% acquisition of "Troika Dialog", the transaction was finalized on January 23, 2012 The merger resulted in the launch of Sberbank CIB, a corporate investment business. In 2012 the asset management business merged into united holding, consolidating product ranges and executive boards of Sberbank on the base of "Troika Dialog". In 2018 Sberbank announced the merge of investment and corporate businesses into a single block. Since the sale of "Troika Dialog" up to 2015, Vardanyan co-headed Sberbank CIB, also holding posts of the presidential adviser and Sberbank's chairman of the board.
Sberbank acquired 100% of "Troika" shares for $1 bln. The agreement also included "Troika's" partners bonuses for 3 years, thus the overall deal cost totaled $1.4 bln. Before the sale, Vardanyan owned the major block of shares (40%), estimated at $560 mln. In requital he was offered 20.5% in AvtoVAZ and 27.3% in Kamaz, later sold out with a profit. By 2013 Forbes estimated Vardanyan's net worth at $800 mln.
On March 4, 2019, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) published an investigation on the ‘Troika Laundromat', reporting on its network of 76 offshore companies, facilitating around $4.6 bln. Later Vardanyan commented on the investigation, stating that "Troika" "always strived to perform only under the strict principles of legitimacy and transparency". Austrian prosecution service found no grounds to open an official investigation on the offshore network of "Troika Dialog".
Investment Projects after Troika
In 2013 Vardanyan teamed with his ex-partner in "Troika" Mikhail Broitman and launched investment company ‘Vardanyan, Broitman and Co’. The company offered its clients deal structuring, capital raising, direct asset management and transaction support for traditional and venture projects. According to b.cm data for 2018, Vardanyan owned 75% in "Vardanyan, Broitman and Co".
"Vardanyan, Broitman and Co" assets include shares in Ameriabank, UFS Transport operator, and several venture projects (Lamoda, Pronutria, NtechLab). Major investments are placed in real estate management. In 2013 Vardanyan acquired a 50% share in Avica Management Company, an investment fund, established by Gagik Adibekyan's RD Group. In February 2018 the partners announced a split, dividing real estate assets of estimated $1 bln value. Vardanyan was to keep offices, including Romanov Dvor and Vozdvizhenka business centres. Also in 2018 Vardanyan and Global Blue announced the launch of Global Blue Russia, a first tax-refunding company in Russia.
In 2015 Ruben Vardanyan launched "Phoenix Advisors", a company engaged in family welfare protection, management and succession planning.
In 2020, the Anti-Corruption Foundation, a Russian NGO led by Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny, published an investigation which concerned Santerna Holdings Limited, a company owned by Vardanyan. Citing Santerna's publicly available annual reports, the investigation found that, in 2016, Santerna invested almost $33.45 million in Luchano - a spa business owned by Gulsina Minnikhanova, the wife of the President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov. The annual reports showed that Santerna's auditors applied a $26.8 million impairment charge shortly after the investment, reducing Santerna's stake in Luchano to $6.6 million. In 2018, Santerna made another investment of $10 million in Luchano. Months later, the same auditors applied another impairment charge, further bringing down the value of Santerna's investment, to $5 million. Based on this financial activity, whereby Santerna willingly overpaid twice, the Anti-Corruption Foundation asserted that Vardanyan's company made two disguised gifts, or bribes, to the wife of the President of Tatarstan. In the aftermath of both investments, investigative journalists found millions of dollars of luxury real estate owned by Minnikhanov's family. Vardanyan denied these accusations.
According to the data in October 2019, Ruben Vardanyan has seats in executive boards of Kamaz, Ameriabank, Global Blue Russia Holdings B.V. He also is a member of the investment committee Avica Property Investors International, a member of the supervisory board at Investment and Venture Fund of the Republic of Tatarstan, and a chairman of the editorial committee international at BRICS Business Magazine. Throughout his career, he had posts in the various expert, executive, and advisory boards both in Russian and international leading companies, such as Sollers JSC, AvtoVAZ, Sibur, Novatek, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company, Sheremetyevo International Airport, Rosgosstrakh, International Finance Corporation, Standard Bank, Marsh & McLennan Companies, etc.
Since 2006, Ruben Vardanyan holds a seat in the council at Bosco di Ciliegi Foundation, an organisation to support creative and innovative projects. In 2018 Vardanyan entered the council at Expanding Space foundation, which contributes to various cultural projects, including the redevelopment of the former power plant GES-2 in Moscow. Between 2006 and 2012 Vardanyan also held a seat at the Pushkin Museum council.
Vardanyan is engaged in several educational initiatives in Russia. He co-founded Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO and was its president from 2006 to 2011. As of 2019, Vardanyan holds a post of vice-chairman at the Skolkovo advisory board. In 2013, he initiated the establishment of the Skolkovo Centre of Wealth Management and Philanthropy. The organisation supports entrepreneurship in Russia, establishing legal and educational infrastructure. Vardanyan also heads the supervisory board at Skolkovo Institute for Emerging Market Studies (SIEMS).In 2000-2016 Vardanyan was a member of the university endowment supervisory board at Russian New Economic School, in 2008-2009 holding a seat at the advisory board. He holds or previously held seats in supervisory boards of Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (since 2014), MSU Faculty of Economics (2014-2017), international councils at Brazilian Fundação Dom Cabral' (since 2009), Japanese International Christian University (2011-2015), and GuangHua management school in China.
UWC Dilijan College
In 2013 Ruben Vardanyan, together with his Veronika Zonabend and partners established UWC Dilijan College - an international boarding school for gifted youth (16–19 years) in Armenian city Dilijan. As one of the 18 United World Colleges, it offers a two-year pre-university scholar program. The campus was erected in the Dilijan National Park by British architect Tom Flynn.
First UWC Dilijan students completed the two-year program in 2016, in 2019 there were more than 100 graduates from 61 countries. Since 2014 more than 400 students from 105 countries graduated from UWC Dilijan. More than 95% of the students receive grants to cover scholarships and living expenses.
Ruben Vardanyan and Veronika Zonabend also co-founded Scholae Mundi platform. It supports UWC Dilijan and various educational initiatives around the world, including ‘Higher Than Dreams’ scholarship program, started by ex-partners in "Troika Dialog". Among other programs there are JUST DILIJAN IT! summer camp in Armenia for children and teenagers, grant programs to provide UWC education for orphans and Near East refugees (in partnership with Near East Foundation), subsidy programs for international students at American University of Armenia, grants for Armenian UWC Dilijan graduates enrolled in one of ten AWRU universities (in partnership with Luys foundation).
In early 2000s Ruben Vardanyan and Armenian-American venture philanthropist Noubar Afeyan initiated the "Armenia 2020" project. Its purpose was to identify strategic development and perspectives of Armenia up to the year 2020. In the following years "Armenia 2020" gave rise to various social, business and charity initiatives of Vardanyan and Afeyan, some of them are managed by "Initiatives for Development of Armenia foundation" (IDeA). One of the most famous projects of IDeA is Wings of Tatev cableway, the longest reversible single-section aerial tramway to the Tatev Monastery. Since 2010 it positively influences on the economy of the nearest town Goris and surrounding villages: due to the bigger tourist flow and corresponding income the region is able to build roads, hotels, and infrastructure, generate employment and boost cultural life.
Armenian cultural heritage preservation
Tatev Revival Project, a venture by Vardanyan's IDea Foundation, supports Tatev monastery restoration program. In 2010, the Dzit Han oil mill was restored and opened for visitors. In 2015 the subsoil drain system was constructed to drain ground waters down to Vorotan river valley. In 2015-2017 the North Entrance and the spring were reconstructed. Later, in 2018 the restoration works in the Holy Mother of God Church were completed. In 2019 the auxiliary buildings were reconstructed and opened for visitors.
In 2015, the Saint George's Church in Georgian Tbilisi was restored. The three-year long reconstruction project was financed by several philanthropists, including Ruben Vardanyan. Vardanyan was one of the project benefactors of Armenian Cathedral of Moscow consecrated in 2017. In May 2017 the restored Church of Holy Mother of God was opened Moushkapat, Artsakh. Restoration of Yukhari Govhar Agha Mosque in Shusha in 2019 was supported by Vardanyan's Revival of Oriental Historical Heritage Foundation.
Fund for Armenian Science and Technology
The Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology (FAST) was established in 2016. The organisation aimed to develop productive environment for technology and science innovations and marshall corresponding resources both in Armenia and within Armenian expat communities. The founding parties — Ruben Vardanyan, Noubar Afeyan (of IDeA), Fr. Mesrop Aramian (of Ayb and Luys) and IT-businessman Artur Alaverdyan. The $15 mln level of fund is to be divided into four main branches — education, research, start-ups, and production.
The Future Armenian
In 2020, after the devastating 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, Vardanyan, together with Richard Azarnia from France, Artur Alaverdyan from Armenia, Noubar Afeyan from U.S. came up with The Future Armenian public non-political initiative to collectively resolve the problems that Armenia, Artsakh and Armenian Diaspora face. 
Aurora Humanitarian Initiative
The start of the 100 LIVES project was announced in March 2014, marking the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was launched on the same evening. The award was established to acknowledge "those, who risk their lives for the sake of others". The Laureate receives $1 mln prize to support any philanthropy organization of his choice. The award was co-founded by Ruben Vardanyan, Noubar Afeyan, and Vartan Gregorian.
In 2016 Marguerite Barankitse became the first Aurora laureate. Barankitse is known for the establishment of the Maison Shalom shelter and REMA hospital in Burundi, she saved thousands of lives and rescued refugees and orphans, victims of the Burundian Civil War. In 2017 the Aurora prize was awarded to Dr. Tom Catena, the sole practicing physician in rebel-controlled territories in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. In 2018 Dr. Catena was elected head of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative. In 2018 the award was given to Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung, a lawyer and Rohingya human rights activist from Myanmar. The 2019 Aurora prize was awarded to Mirza Dinnayi, co-founder and director of Air Bridge Iraq (Luftbrücke Irak) initiative, which saved the Yazidis people and other victims of terror in Iraq, evacuated women and children from ISIS-controlled territories to Germany, where they can get medical care and help.
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative holds Aurora Dialogues, the discussions on the world's humanitarian issues and challenges, facing the Aurora community. The event also includes the Aurora Humanitarian Index, an international survey that measures social attitudes to the world's biggest humanitarian issues. In 2019 #AraratChallenge, a new global crowdfunding campaign aimed to support people in urgent need of basic humanitarian aid and support. In October 2019 the first Aurora forum took place in Armenia. It included Aurora Prize events, FAST Global Innovations Forum, #AraratChallenge festival, film festival, conferences, discussions, concerts, and exhibitions.
Ruben Vardanyan spares a major part of his time to projects on Russian philanthropy infrastructure development. In 2014 he launched "Philin" ("Philanthropy Infrastructure") initiative, aimed to provide back-office services to non-profit organizations. "Philin" outsources legal, IT, financial and HR tasks of non-profit organizations, it also audits charity funds' performance and provides accounts to the benefactors.
Ruben Vardanyan has held seats in expert committees and executive boards of various Russian stock market organizations, such as the Russian Trading System (1998—2001), the Moscow Stock Exchange (1997—2002), the Federal Commission on Securities Market (1996—2002), the Depository Clearing Company (1995—1999), the National Association of Stock Market participants (1997—2006). He also headed the National Association of Stock Market participants in 1997–1998. Since 2000, Vardanyan has been a member of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP), up to 2012 he held a seat at the executive board. From 2002 he is included in RSPP Joint Commission for Corporate Ethics. In 2009 he entered the Committee on Innovative Policy and Entrepreneurship. Vardanyan was one of the co-founders of the "2015 Club", an informal Russian businessmen organization, that worked on strategic planning for the Russian economy up to 2015.Since 2010 Vardanyan is a member of trustees at the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund. In 2015 he co-founded the Primakov Center for International Cooperation, currently Vardanyan is a member of its advisory board. In 2019, Vardanyan was invited to join the executive board of Moscow-based ACRA rating agency.
In 2001 Vardanyan became a member of the American Young Presidents Organisation (YPO). In the same year, he opened its Russian branch and was its director up to 2006.
In 2008-2017 Vardanyan was a member of the Supreme Spiritual Council of the Armenian Church. In 2016-2018 he was one of the trustees in the Armenian Center for Strategic Initiatives. In the same years, he stayed at the executive board of the Armenian General Benevolent Union, USA.Vardanyan co-founded and initiated a series of Armenia-2020/ 2031/ 2041 projects, aimed to define the country's development and perspectives. In 2007-2014 he was a member of trustees in the Competitive Foundation of Armenia.
In October 2016 Vardanyan joined other prominent Armenians on calling the government of Armenia to adopt "new development strategies based on inclusiveness and collective action" and to create "an opportunity for the Armenian world to pivot toward a future of prosperity, to transform the post-Soviet Armenian Republic into a vibrant, modern, secure, peaceful and progressive homeland for a global nation."
Ruben Vardanyan has been awarded numerous awards and accolades, such as Businessman of the Year by (American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, 1999), "Best business manager on Russia's capital market" by Career magazine (1999, 2000), Entrepreneur of the Year Award by Ernst & Young (2004), "Investment banker of the year" by the National Association of Stock Market participants (2004, "Stock market elite" competition), the Aristos prize in management (2006), Russian GQ "Man of the Year" as Best Entrepreneur (2010).
In 2001 the Fortune magazine put Vardanyan into its "25 Rising Stars of the New Generation" chart. The same year, Vardanyan was included in the list of the "100 Global Leaders of Tomorrow" at the World Economic Forum.
Vardanyan was awarded the Order of St. Mesrop Mashtots by the president of the Republic of Tatarstan in 2011, the Order of Saint Gregory the Illuminator by Armenian Church in 2013, and Order of Friendship in recognition of fruitful cooperation with the Republic of Tatarstan, contribution to the development of entrepreneurship, and public service, by the president of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov in 2018. The same year, Vardanyan received Academy of International Business Presidential Award for contribution to the development of education, and, with co-founder of ‘Aurora’ humanitarian initiative Noubar Afeyan), Search for Common Ground prize to honor accomplishments in conflict resolution, negotiation, community building, and peace-building.
Vardanyan is married to Veronika Feliksovna Zonabend who is of Jewish origin. They have four children. Their eldest son served in the military in Nagorno-Karabakh during 2016 clashes.
Vardanyan's wife graduated from the Moscow Aviation Institute, served as an engineer at the Scientific Research Institute of Avionics. From 1993 she held the post of deputy director of Foreign Exchange Department at TverUniversalBank. In 1994-1995 she studied banking and finances at the London School of Economics and Political Science, started her own business in 1999. Zonabend is the co-founder of the Armenian UWC Dilijan College, she is a member of its board of trustees and holds a post at the American University of Armenia advisory board. Zonabend is the head of the executive board at the "Teach For Armenia" educational foundation. She is occupied with numerous charity, social and business projects, led by her family philanthropic foundation.
Vardanyan's elder sister Marine Ales is a composer and songwriter in Russian and Armenian languages, a member of the Aurora Prize Creative Council, and co-founder of "Grant Life Armenia" charity fund.
In June 2021, Vardanyan acquired Armenian citizenship. “For me this was a very vital decision that I made after the Artsakh War, realizing that the current situation does not allow us all to be indifferent, to not think, to not worry, to not try to change the future of our Armenian world anymore,” Vardanyan said in a video message standing with Armenian passport in his hands. "Today, standing on this land, which is an important place for me, I want to say that I am the owner. I am the owner of this land. I am the owner of Armenia. I am the owner of the Armenian world. We are the owner,” he added. 
- Ghazanchyan, Siranush (2021-06-23). "Ruben Vardanyan takes up Armenian citizenship". Public Radio of Armenia. Retrieved 2021-07-03.
Armenian businessman and philanthropist, Aurora Initiative co-founder Ruben Vardanyan has become a citizen of Armenia.
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- Ghazanchyan, Siranush (2021-06-23). "Ruben Vardanyan takes up Armenian citizenship". Public Radio of Armenia. Retrieved 2021-07-03.
Armenian businessman and philanthropist, Aurora Initiative co-founder Ruben Vardanyan has become a citizen of Armenia.
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