Suleyman Abusaidovich Kerimov
12 March 1966
|Education||Dagestan State University|
|Net worth||US$24.0 billion (August 2020)|
|Children||3, including Said Kerimov|
|Website||Suleyman Kerimov Foundation|
Suleyman Abusaidovich Kerimov (Russian: Сулейма́н Абусаи́дович Кери́мов, IPA: [sʊlʲɪjˈman ɐbʊsɐˈidəvʲɪtɕ kʲɪˈrʲiməf]; Lezgian: Керимрин Абусаидан хва Сулейман; born 12 March 1966) is a Russian billionaire businessman, philanthropist and politician of Lezgian origin. In 2007, Kerimov established the Suleyman Kerimov Foundation as a vehicle to focus his philanthropic efforts. Since 2008, Kerimov has represented the Republic of Dagestan in the Federation Council of Russia. In April 2018, he was placed under sanctions by the United States Department of Treasury. As of July 26, 2020, American business magazine, Forbes reported that Suleyman has an estimated net worth of USD $21.3 billion ranking him the 56th richest person in the world.
Kerimov graduated from high school in 1983, and following this enrolled in the Civil Engineering Department at Dagestan Polytechnic Institute in 1984, though his obligatory military service for the Soviet Army brought his studies to a halt just one year later. After completing his service in 1986, Kerimov continued his studies at Dagestan State University, where he graduated with a degree in financial accounting and economics in 1989. During his studies he was Deputy Chairman of DSU's Trade Union Committee. It was also at university that Kerimov met his wife, Firuza, the daughter of a former Trade Union leader.
Kerimov has stated to have dreamed of making money from an early age, an ambition that prompted him to later move from his native Dagestan in the early 1990s.
Soon after his university graduation in 1989, Kerimov took a job as an economist at the Eltav electrical plant in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan. The state-controlled plant supplied transistors and semi-conductors to television-makers, while also producing diodes, microchips and halogen lamps. Kerimov was paid 150 roubles (approximately $250 dollars) a month and he and his wife lived in a worker's hostel attached to the plant, where they shared one room of a two-room flat.
In 1993, Kerimov was put in charge of handling relations between Eltav and Fedprombank, a Moscow bank established by the electrical company. Fedprombank financed lagging industries and Kerimov and his associates soon became creditors to large utility companies, allowing them to continue to provide key services. Once the Russian economy stabilized, the debts were repaid with hefty returns for Fedprombank and, consequently, Kerimov.
In 1995, Kerimov was appointed to head the banking and trading company Soyuz-Finans, and by 1997, Kerimov had built a 50% stake in Vnukovo Airlines and used his leverage to take over Fedprombank, buying out his partners’ shares.
In late 1999, Kerimov bought a 55% stake in the oil trading company Nafta Moskva, the successor to the Soviet monopoly firm Soyuznefteexport, for $50 million. By 2000, he had increased his stake of Nafta Moskva to 100%. Kerimov undertook a mass restructuring of the company, selling off all of the oil-related aspects and creating an investment and holding company. Nafta's investments in the mid-2000s included purchase of the business center Smolensky Passazh and AvtoBank.
Gazprom and Sberbank investments
In 2003, Kerimov managed to secure a $43 million loan from the state-owned Vnesheconombank, which he invested in the oil and gas company Gazprom. Within the next year, share prices for the Russian gas company doubled and Kerimov was able to pay off the entirety of the loan within four months. In 2004 Sberbank, now the largest bank in Russia and Eastern Europe, provided Kerimov with a loan of $3.2 billion., which was later repaid, and these funds were also invested in equities. By 2008, Kerimov had amassed a 5% stake in Gazprom, a 6% stake in Sberbank, along with an estimated fortune of $17.5 billion, making him the 36th richest man in the world. However, in mid-2008, Kerimov sold all his Gazprom and Sberbank shares.
In November 2005, Kerimov's Nafta Moskva acquired JSC Polymetal, one of Russia’s largest gold and silver mining companies. In 2007, he took the company public on the London Stock Exchange, then sold 70% of his shares in 2008 before gold would go on to climb to an all-time high in 2011. In 2008, Kerimov sold control over Polymetal.
Role in the 2008 crisis
As markets around the world began to tighten in 2007, Kerimov and his associates expected that Russia would suffer more than the West from the impending economic crisis. A concerted effort was thus made to build closer ties with Western banks. Kerimov decreased his stakes in Gazprom and other Russian blue chips and approached Wall Street, proposing to invest the vast majority of his fortune to defend the institutions from short-sellers. In return, it was expected that Kerimov would receive favorable lending terms for future loans.
In 2007, Kerimov invested billions in Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and other financial institutions. Though neither Kerimov nor the Western banks have disclosed the exact size of his investment, it was sizeable enough for Kerimov to receive a call from the United States Treasury during the darkest days of the economic crisis imploring the Russian oligarch not to sell his stakes.
Following his losses during the economic crisis, Kerimov shifted his investment strategy to buying stakes large enough to influence the strategies of the companies he invests in. In 2009, Nafta Moskva bought a $1.3 billion stake (37% stake) in OAO Polyus Gold, Russia’s largest gold producer, from Vladimir Potanin.
Property developer PIK Group
In the spring of 2009, shareholders of Russia's construction giant PIK Group sold 25% of their company's shares to Kerimov. PIK required extra funding after their debt level reached $1.98 billion, and the value of their capital fell by more than 40 times to $279.9 million. Nafta Moskva later increased its stake in PIK Group to 38.3%.
In June 2010, Kerimov and his partners Alexander Nesis and Filaret Galchev together paid Dmitry Rybolovlev an estimated $5.3 billion for a 53% stake in Russian potash giant Uralkali,which, together with Belaruskali, at the time made up the duopoly that controlled 70% of the global potash market: the Belarusian Potash Company (BPC). Kerimov secured substantial loans from Russia's VTB bank for the Uralkali takeover.
In July 2013, Uralkali announced it was pulling out of the BPC cartel, dropping prices and increasing production to maximum capacity in a grab for market share. The immediate consequences on the global economy were a 25% drop in potash prices to around $340 a tonne, harming the prospects of both Canadian producers and the Belarusian economy. Belarusian authorities estimate they may lose up to $1 billion a year.
Two weeks after Uralkali's July announcement, Belarusian prime minister Mikhail Myasnikovich responded by inviting Kerimov and the Uralkali managers to Minsk to discuss the current situation. Uralkali's then-CEO Vladislav Baumgertner attended in Kerimov's place and was arrested by state security forces and charged with "abuse of power".
In the meantime, Belarus also opened a criminal investigation into other Uralkali employees and its main shareholder Suleyman Kerimov. Baumgertner was held in a Belarusian KGB jail until a plan to change ownership of Uralkali was announced, and Belarus then extradited Baumgertner to Russia. Belarus put Kerimov on the national wanted list, and also requested Interpol to publish a Red Notice for him. Interpol clarified later that no Red Notice had been issued and that the request was political in nature. The Belarusian authorities later withdrew the case against Kerimov and closed the criminal investigation. By December 2013, Kerimov sold 21.75% of Uralkali shares to Mikhail Prokhorov for US$3.7 billion and 19,99 % (for approximately US$2.9 billion) to Uralchem.
Media portrayal of business style
Forbes magazine describes Kerimov as one of the most private Russian billionaires, who has not given a single interview over 20 years in business.
A senior Moscow banker is reported to have said of Kerimov: "Sometimes it is difficult to talk to him. He is always a few steps ahead of you. For foreigners, it is next to impossible, even those used to a Russian environment. He is very quick and creative, in a sense that ideas come to him that don’t come to other people".
Kerimov reportedly made extensive use of leverage for his investments, according to financiers and bankers active in Russia.
His financial success is based on investments that have significant growth potential with a strategy focused on locking in asset capital gain through resale.
In 2006 Kerimov was listed among the world's 100 richest people and as Russia's eighth richest man ranked by Forbes. He had a net worth of $6.9 billion as of 2014, with the previous years' net worth estimated at $7.1 billion (2013) and $6.5 billion (2012). In 2015 Kerimov was listed as the 18th wealthiest person in Russia.
In 2020, Kerimov's fortune doubled due to a sharp rise in gold prices. In August 2020, he became the richest businessman in Russia for a while. His family's fortune almost entirely based on the 77 percent holding in Polyus gold company was estimated at $24.7. At the end of 2020, the value of the assets of the Kerimov family was estimated at $20,9 billion.
FC Anzhi Makhachkala
In August 2013, as a part of new long-term strategy for the club, it was decided to scale back the club's annual budget by $50–70 million, down from their previous outlay of $180 million a season. The club sold some international players and recruited Russian young players instead.
Kerimov sold the club to Osman Kadiyev on 28 December 2016.
Business controversies and investigations
Business controversy over Nafta Moskva
Shortly after Kerimov bought into Nafta Moskva, the company found itself in a conflict with businessman Andrei Andreev. Andreev's assets were transferred to Nafta Moskva, Millhouse Capital and Basic Element. Further dispute brought the parties to the court.
In July 2004 Andreev and Nafta Moskva reached an amicable settlement and the dispute was resolved.
Moskva Hotel ownership and associated issues
Nafta Moskva, controlled by Kerimov, acquired a 25% stake in the Hotel Moskva project, a multibillion-dollar project to construct a replica of the enormous Stalin-era luxury hotel demolished in 2004. in February 2009, closing the deal by January 2010. In September 2010, Member of Russian Parliament Ashot Egiazaryan accused Kerimov of conspiring with the city government of Moscow to forcibly acquire his 25% stake in the project. After claiming he received death threats, Egiazaryan fled to the United States to seek asylum and filed lawsuits in a civil court in Cyprus, the London Court of International Arbitration and on Capitol Hill claiming that a campaign of threats of criminal prosecution and armed police raids forced him to give up his shares. According to Kerimov's lawyer Mr Egiazaryan transferred his interest in the Moskva Hotel as part of a legitimate business deal but was overextended and was deep in debt. Mr Egiazaryan was facing financial ruin.
Pending deliberation by the courts, Kerimov's assets were frozen, upsetting Uralkali’s $39 billion joint bid with Chinese company Sinochem for the Canadian Potash Corp. The Nicosia district court in Cyprus lifted Kerimov’s billion dollar asset freeze in February 2011, arguing that the plaintiffs "failed to prove the urgency of their petition." According to Egiazaryan's lawyer, Andreas Haviaras, the Cyprus ruling was based on "technicalities" and did not prejudge the merits of the case.
French tax evasion case
In November 2017, Kerimov was arrested by French police at Nice airport in connection with a tax evasion case concerning his alleged purchase of several luxury residences on the French Riviera via shell companies. The charges were dismissed the following June. In March 2019, French prosecutors placed Kerimov under formal investigation "on suspicion of complicity in tax fraud". He was released on bail of €20 million and his lawyer plans to appeal the accusation of fraud.
Kerimov is one of many Russian "oligarchs" named in the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, CAATSA, signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2017.
A leak of banks' "suspicious activity reports" - called the FinCEN Files - was reported as showing an $8m payment to Vladimir Chernukhin in Apr 2016 from a British Virgin Islands company linked to Kerimov. The offshore company, called Definition Services Inc, was controlled by Kerimov's children. The documents purported to show the funding came from their father and it was Kerimov who had the personal relationship with Vladimir Chernukhin. Deutsche Bank filed a suspicious activity report (SAR), noting the link to Kerimov and the payment to Vladimir Chernukhin. Deutsche said Definition was "registered and banking out of high risk jurisdictions and the commercial purpose of the transactions and the relationship between the parties could not be determined".
Member of the State Duma
From 1999 to 2003, Kerimov was a member of the State Duma of the 3rd Convocation, the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia, as well as a member of the State Duma Committee for Security. From 2003 to 2007, while continuing his role on the Committee for Security, he was also a member of the 4th Convocation and Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Physical Education, Sports and Youth. He first gained a seat in parliament with the Liberal Democratic Party, led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
Member of the Federation Council
Since 2008, Kerimov has served as a member of the Federation Council of the Federation Assembly of the Russian Federation — the upper house of the Federation Assembly— and represents the Republic of Dagestan.
In response to the Russian parliament’s passage of a bill prohibiting government officials from holding foreign-issued securities and bank accounts abroad, Kerimov transferred his assets to the Suleyman Kerimov Foundation, a charity registered in Switzerland, in May 2013. This way, he retained both his position in the Federation Council and beneficiary rights to his business assets. Suleiman Kerimov was re-elected to the Federation Council in September 2016.
Endorsement of Moscow
In October 2011, Kerimov used his connections to fly Western financial figures such as Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan, Richard Parsons of Citigroup and Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone to Moscow in support of Medvedev’s initiative to turn Moscow into an "international financial centre".
On 26 November 2006, in Nice, France, Kerimov was seriously injured after losing control of his Ferrari Enzo on the Promenade des Anglais. He suffered severe burns as a result of the accident.
Known for spending much of his fortune on parties, the Russian billionaire has paid for celebrities such as Christina Aguilera, Shakira, Amy Winehouse and Jessie J to perform at his events.
From 2005 to 2015, Kerimov owned one of the world's largest private yachts, which is known as Ice. Previously known as Air, she was built by German company Lürssen in 2005. Ice measures 295 feet (90 metres) in length, and can reach a speed of 18.6 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph). She has won the Superyacht of the Year award at the World Superyacht Awards in 2006, and is currently the 54th largest yacht in the world. He sold Ice to Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue's Equatorial Guinea interests in 2015.
Kerimov established the Suleyman Kerimov Foundation in 2007, with a vision to enhance the lives of young people in Russia and throughout the world, by investing in initiatives that strengthen communities and help those in need. Unlike most charities in Russia, the foundation work closely with the government, meaning their projects have much better long-term prospects.[why?]
Suleyman Kerimov Foundation collaborates with the Russian Wrestling Federation ,as well as other sports programs, on supporting gym construction and equipment provision, for several hundred Russian athletes and coaches across the country. Since the inception of the Suleyman Kerimov Foundation in 2007 close to 300 grants totaling over 300 million CHF have been awarded. Funding has been given in accordance with the Foundation's identified ten core funding areas, with special emphasis in the areas of education, religion, social aspects, medicine and sport.
The Suleyman Kerimov Foundation partners closely with the Russian charity Podari Zhizn.
On 17 December 2010, the press reported that Kerimov will spend $100 million on the reconstruction of the Zarechenskaya secondary school, an advanced comprehensive school west of Moscow "for educating children from different social groups." The school will include a modern sports complex with a swimming pool, a skating-rink, a giant dance floor, as well as a residential area for gifted children from the provinces. Reconstruction was completed in 2015.
The Kerimov Foundation also donated to mosque and church constructions and sent thousands of pilgrims to Mecca on Hajj annually. Kerimov spent $100 million on the construction of the Moscow Cathedral Mosque.
Recognitions and honours
The International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) honored Kerimov the "Gold Medal" in 2013.
On 10 March 2016, Kerimov was recognised with an award for outstanding social contribution to the Republic of Dagestan, by the Head of the Republic, Ramazan Abdulatipov.
On 8 February 2017 Kerimov and his wife received an award from Andrei Vorobyov, Governor of Moscow Oblast, recognizing their contribution to the reconstruction of the Zarechenskaya secondary school, and their service to the Moscow region.
On 20 March 2017 Suleyman Kerimov was awarded the Order for Merit to the Fatherland of II degree by President Vladimir Putin for his outstanding contribution to the development of parliamentarianism and legislation.
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