Suleyman Kerimov

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Suleyman Kerimov
Kerimov Suleyman.jpg
Born (1966-03-12) March 12, 1966 (age 49)
Dagestan, USSR
Residence Moscow, Russia
Nationality Russian
Alma mater Dagestan State University
Occupation Owner of Anzhi Makhachkala
Major Shareholder of Polyus Gold
Net worth IncreaseUS$3.0 billion (2015)[1]
Children 3
Website The Suleyman Kerimov Foundation

Suleyman Abusaidovich Kerimov (Russian: Сулейма́н Абусаи́дович Кери́мов; IPA: [sʊlʲɪjˈman ɐbʊsɐˈidəvʲɪtɕ kʲɪˈrʲiməf]; Lezgian: Керимрин Абусаидан хва Сулейман), lezgin, born March 12, 1966 in Derbent, Dagestan, USSR, is a Russian businessman, investor and politician.[2][3] Since 2008, Kerimov has represented the Republic of Dagestan in the Federation Council of Russia.[4] He is often referred to as “Russia’s Richest Civil Servant", with an estimated fortune of $7.1 billion as of March 2013.[5][6]


Kerimov was born on March 12, 1966 in Derbent, Dagestan. His father was a lawyer at a criminal investigation institution and his mother an accountant at Sberbank. Following his high school graduation in 1983, Kerimov 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.[7] 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.[8] During his studies he was Deputy Chairman of DSU's Trade Union Committee.[9] It was also at university that Kerimov met his wife, Firuza, the daughter of a former Communist Party boss.[10]

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.[11]


Early career[edit]

Soon after his university graduation in 1989, Kerimov took a job as an economist at the Eltav electrical plant in Makhachkala,[12] the capital of Dagestan. The state-controlled plant supplied transistors and semi-conductors to television-makers, while also producing diodes, microchips and halogen lamps.[13] 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.[14]

Eventually, Kerimov rose to the rank of Deputy Director General at Eltav and began to dabble in investing alongside during the fall of the Soviet Union.[14]


In 1993, Kerimov was put in charge of handling relations between Eltav and Fedprombank, a Moscow bank established by the electrical company.[14] Fedprombank financed lagging industries and Kerimov and his associates soon becames 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.[15]

In 1995, Kerimov was appointed to head the banking and trading company Soyuz-Finans, where he orchestrated several high profile corporate raids, including the takeover of Smolensky Passazh, a business center, and AvtoBank.[16]

By 1997, Kerimov had built a 50% stake in Vnukovo Airlines and used his leverage to take over Fedprombank, buying out his partners’ shares.[14]

Nafta Moskva[edit]

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.[17] By 2000, he had increased his stake of Nafta Moskva to 100%.[16] Kerimov undertook a mass restructuring of the company, selling off all of the oil-related aspects and creating an investment and holding company.

Gazprom and Sberbank investments[edit]

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.[14] 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.[18] Sberbank, now the largest bank in Russia and Eastern Europe, provided Kerimov with a loan of $3.2 billion.[10][19] 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.[14]


In November 2005, Kerimov’s Nafta Moskva acquired JSC Polymetal, one of Russia’s largest gold and silver mining companies.[20] 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.[21][22] In 2008, Kerimov sold control over Polymetal.[23]

Role in the 2008 crisis[edit]

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.[14] 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.[14] In return, it was expected that Kerimov would receive favorable lending terms for future loans.[14]

In 2007, Kerimov invested billions in Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and other financial institutions.[24] 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.[25]

Less than one month after Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008, Kerimov flew a group of Wall Street executives to his villa in Cap d'Antibes, France where they were entertained by singer Beyoncé.[15][25] By the end of the year, Kerimov’s personal fortune had fallen to $3.1 billion.[25]

Polyus Gold[edit]

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.[26] In 2009, Nafta Moskva bought a $1.3 billion stake (37% stake) in OAO Polyus Gold, Russia’s largest gold producer, from Vladimir Potanin.[26][27]

Property developer PIK Group[edit]

In the spring of 2009, shareholders of Russia's construction giant PIK Group sold 25% of their company's shares to Kerimov.[28] 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 December 2013 Kerimov sold his shares to property investor Sergei Gordeev and businessman Alexander Mamut,[29] who owns a stake in precious metals miner Polymetal.


In June 2010, Kerimov and his partners Alexander Nesis and Filaret Galtchev together paid $5.3 billion for a 53% stake in Russian potash giant Uralkali, which, together with Belaruskali, makes up the duopoly that controls 70% of the global potash market: the Belarusian Potash Company (BPC).[16][25][26] Kerimov was able to secure “sizeable loans” from Russia’s VTB bank in order to buy into Uralkali.[25]

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.[25] The immediate consequences on the global economy have been 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.[30][31][32]

Two weeks after Uralkali’s July announcement, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko responded by arresting Uralkali's then-CEO Vladislav Baumgertner in Minsk and issuing a warrant for Kerimov, charging both with “abuse of power”.[33] 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.[34] However the Belarusian authorities later withdrew the case against Kerimov.[35] By December 2013, Kerimov sold 21,75% of Uralkali shares to Prohorov and 19,99 % to Uralchem.[36]

Baumgertner was held in a Belarusian KGB jail until a plan to change ownership of Uralkali was announced. Belarus agreed to extradite Baumgertner to Russia in November 2013.[37] In late 2013, the Uralkali board dismissed Baumgertner as the company’s CEO. In 2014, he also quit the company’s board of directors.[35]

Other investments[edit]

FC Anzhi Makhachkala[edit]

On January 17, 2011, Kerimov purchased FC Anzhi Makhachkala — his hometown football club who competes in the Russian Premier League.[38] Anzhi shortly regained headlines when it acquired, in August of the same year, Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o signed a three-year-deal from Inter Milan, subsequently becoming the world's highest-paid footballer (earning a reported £350,000 per week).[39][40]

“The football team is just a part of a bigger project. There will be new stadia, new infrastructure for the club, a new training ground, an academy for the kids. It will be a social lift for Dagestan. All these projects will change the lives of people in this region.”

— German Chistyakov, Anzhi's chief executive, November 2011.[40]

“A lot of people are asking me: ‘Have you come to sign Cristiano?' And people think so because of Suleyman [Kerimov], because of everything Anzhi are doing. Cristiano is happy here. And we’re thinking more about next season, looking for top level players.”

— Roberto Carlos, September 2012.[41]

In April 2011, the club bought Roberto Carlos — who then served as Anzhi's captain — a €1.8 million Bugatti Veyron for his 38th birthday.[42]

In March 2012, it was reported that Kerimov had given Carlos — now Anzhi's director of football — a summer transfer budget of €300 million, in an attempt to qualify for the UEFA Champions League within the next three seasons.[43] Following on from this in September 2012, after Carlos returned from a scouting trip in Madrid, there were even rumours that Anzhi were going to make a move for Cristiano Ronaldo, although Carlos soon cleared up any confusion.[44]

Below is a list of Anzhi's signings since Kerimov's takeover. Players highlighted green are still contracted to the club.

Date Player Signed From Fee Source
January 2011 Russia Shamil Lakhiyalov Russia FC Krasnodar €5 million [45]
January 2011 Brazil João Carlos Belgium Genk €2.5 million [45]
4 February 2011 Uzbekistan Odil Akhmedov Uzbekistan Pakhtakor Tashkent Undisclosed [46]
16 February 2011 Brazil Roberto Carlos Brazil Corinthians Paulista Free [47]
22 February 2011 Brazil Jucilei Brazil Corinthians Paulista £8.8 million [48][49]
8 March 2011 Brazil Diego Tardelli Brazil Atlético Mineiro €5 million [50]
10 March 2011 Morocco Moubarak Boussoufa Belgium Anderlecht £7 million [49][51]
July 2011 Hungary Balázs Dzsudzsák Netherlands PSV Eindhoven £12.3 million [49]
5 August 2011 Russia Yuriy Zhirkov England Chelsea £13.2 million [49][52]
24 August 2011 Cameroon Samuel Eto'o Italy Inter Milan £23.7 million [39][49]
31 August 2011 Russia Vladimir Gabulov Russia Dynamo Moscow €4 million [53]
October 2011 Russia Yevgeny Pomazan Russia CSKA Moscow Undisclosed [54]
October 2011 Morocco Mehdi Carcela-González Belgium Standard Liège €5.7 million [54]
January 2012 Russia Oleg Shatov Russia FC Ural Sverdlovsk Oblast €1 million [54]
January 2012 Russia Georgiy Gabulov Russia Alania Vladikavkaz €3.4 million [54]
24 February 2012 Republic of the Congo Christopher Samba England Blackburn Rovers £12.3 million [49][55]
29 June 2012 Ivory Coast Lacina Traoré Russia Kuban Krasnodar £15.8 million [49][56]
10 July 2012 Russia Serder Serderov Russia CSKA Moscow Undisclosed [54]
27 July 2012 Brazil Ewerton Brazil Corinthians Alagoano €5.4 million [57]
31 August 2012 France Lassana Diarra Spain Real Madrid €5 million [58]
31 August 2012 Russia Nikita Burmistrov Russia Amkar Perm Undisclosed [58]
31 January 2013 Brazil Willian Borges da Silva Ukraine FC Shakhtar Donetsk €35 Million [59]

Business controversies and lawsuits[edit]

Involvement in the Oil-For-Food Scandal[edit]

Kerimov’s Nafta Moskva was one of many companies named in both the UN Volcker Report and a US Senate Subcommittee Investigation for having participated in an illegal kickbacks scheme with Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq during the UN’s Oil-for-Food Programme.[60][61] Though Kerimov is not named in either report, two of his fellow LDPR party members and business partners, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Sergei Isakov were.[62] Moscow-based journalist John Helmer maintains that Kerimov was involved in the kickbacks scheme, noting that Kerimov moved into Nafta Moskva in 1998 and negotiations between Nafta and Saddam Hussein took place between September 1998 and March 1999.[3][63] It has also been alleged that Kerimov himself visited Iraq during the late 1990s.[64]

Criminal conspiracy investigation[edit]

Shortly after his takeover of Nafta Moskva, Kerimov entered a battle for the financial empire of former police chief Andrei Andreyev.[14] Kerimov wrested control of Andreyev’s assets but the former police chief claimed, "I did not sell my business and did not receive a single kopek for it. It was taken away from me in a criminal way, through murder threats and through falsifying documents."[65] Andreyev claimed that nominal shareholders were coerced into signing away their stakes and, in other cases, ownership documents were falsified.[65]

The organized crime unit of the Interior Ministry investigated Andreyev’s allegations, searching Nafta Moskva’s offices. All charges were eventually withdrawn.[10]

Accusations of silent partners[edit]

Kerimov’s ability to continually secure massive loans from state-owned banks with little collateral has regularly been greeted with suspicion.[10] John Helmer claims that Kerimov is a “front-man” for committees of powerful Russian individuals who do not invest under their own names because the do not wish to or are not able to for conflict of interest reasons.[15][66]

Others suspect that Kerimov is a front for none other than the Kremlin.[14] Chris Barter, former co-chief executive of Goldman Sachs’ Moscow office, has stated that “Many of the things [Kerimov does] seem to be in tandem with the government.”[14]

Kirill Vishnepolsky, former deputy editor of Forbes Russia, has stated of Kerimov, “All of his money to the last cent has been made through connections.”[10]

Kerimov, for his part, has maintained that he only invests his own capital.[14]

Moskva Hotel lawsuit[edit]

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 Hotel Moskva project, a multibillion-dollar project to construct a replica of the enormous Stalin-era luxury hotel demolished in 2004.[14] 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.[67][68] 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.[69]

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.[70][71] 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.”[72] According to Egiazaryan’s lawyer, Andreas Haviaras, the Cyprus ruling was based on “technicalities” and did not prejudge the merits of the case.[72]

Political life[edit]

Member of the State Duma[edit]

From 1999-2003, 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 2003-2007, 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.[14]

Member of the Federation Council[edit]

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.[4]

Ties to Russian authorities[edit]

Over the years, Kerimov has strengthened his ties to many powerful figures. Zumrud Khandadashevna Rustamova, wife of President Vladimir Putin’s chief economic advisor Arkady Dvorkovich, serves as director on the board of Kerimov’s company, Polyus Gold.[14] Kerimov also enjoys close relationships with First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev.[14][26]

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”.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Kerimov's father was a lawyer at a criminal investigation institution, while his mother was an accountant for the Savings Bank of Russia.[7] He is married and has three children.

Suleyman Kerimov's yacht, Ice

On November 26, 2006, in Nice, France, Kerimov was seriously injured after losing control of his Ferrari Enzo on the Promenade des Anglais.[73] He and his purported companion, television presenter Tina Kandelaki, suffered severe burns as a result of the accident, which influenced him to donate €1 million to Pinocchio — a charity who work with children suffering from burns.[74]

Kandelaki initially denied being in the Ferrari with Kerimov (both are married with children), though she was later contradicted by French police and her own husband.[75] Kerimov wears skin-colored gloves to hide his burns[14] while Kandelaki has tattooed Mayan symbols over burns on her hand and thigh.[76]

Known for spending much of his fortune on parties, the Russian billionaire has paid for celebrities such as Christina Aguilera, Shakira,[77] Amy Winehouse[14] and Jessie J[78] perform at his events.

Kerimov also owns one of the world's largest private yachts, which is known as Ice. Previously known as Air, she was built by German company Lürssen back in 2005.[79] Ice measures 295 feet (90 metres) in length, and can reach a speed of 18.6 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph).[80] She was acclaimed Superyacht of the Year at the World Superyacht Awards in 2006, and is currently the 37th largest yacht in the world.[81]


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.[82] Unlike most charities in Russia, the foundation work closely with the government, meaning their projects have much better long-term prospects.

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.

In 2007 Kerimov became a sponsor of the Kennedy Kennedy Center Honors in Washington: annual awards for a lifetime achievement in the arts.[11]

Suleyman Kerimov is head of the supervisory board of the Russian Wrestling Federation, and is a member of the Gorchakov Foundation's supervisory board.[83] The International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) honored Kerimov the "Gold Medal".

On December 17, 2010, the press reported that Kerimov will spend $100 million on the construction of 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.[84]

The Kerimov Foundation also donated to mosque and church constructions and sends thousands of pilgrims to Mecca on Hajj annually.[85]

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.[86] This way, the he retained both his position in the Federation Council and beneficiary rights to his business assets.[87]

See also[edit]


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