Elections are to be held in Chukchi Peninsula (Chukotka) on 13 March. Roman Abramovich, the most celebrated speaker of Russia’s regional parliaments, is once again running for Duma deputy and by law must disclose to voters information about his assets and income, as well as those of his family. Novaya Gazeta correspondents investigated which assets the well-known lover of yachts, villas and planes could include in his declaration and which ones he could leave out.
Roman Abramovich, the former governor of the Chukotka autonomous district and the current speaker of the local parliament, is running independently and not representing any party. We won’t call Abramovich a businessman, oligarch or entrepreneur, since the local election commission’s website officially describes his primary line of employment as chairman of the Duma.
The media portrait of Abramovich consists of several different images. European and American journalists frequently report on his latest posh purchases and create the image of a billionaire who can spend the kind of money that is available only to a small circle of people on this planet while barely batting an eye. Chukotka journalists paint the image of a caring benefactor, an exemplary civil servant, a former governor, the regional parliament speaker and a philanthropist. The Russian national media tends to use both images in their depiction of Abramovich, trying to find some sort of arithmetic mean.
On top of all the various media portrayals, there is also Roman Abramovich the man, who, by all appearances, is forced to continuously juggle his many images; while attempting to hold on to the business and property that the press claims he owns, he must also maintain secrecy over the ownership schemes he uses in several Cyprus-based trusts. His children are often the end beneficiaries of these trusts, according to the authors of the book Abramovich’s Principle. All of this is unfolding in a constantly changing legal reality that requires more and more transparency. Today this reality is such that civil servants (which Duma deputies are also considered), and especially Duma candidates, are required by federal and local laws, presidential decrees and election commission provisions to publish information about their own income and assets in addition to those of their family on the websites of applicable agencies and in the press.
Following the release of a presidential initiative under which government officials must declare their income, the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM) conducted a poll in 2009 showing that 5% of respondents were interested in seeing the declarations of all government officials, 3% wanted to view the declarations of their local authorities and 1% explicitly expressed a desire to see information on Abramovich’s earnings (meaning at least 9% of Russian citizens are interested in the disclosure of his income as required by law).
The Chukotka autonomous district’s elections commission passed decree 82/350 on 26 October 2010, stating that candidates must provide the local newspaper Krainy Sever with information on their personal income and assets as well as those of their family members within 48 hours after they officially register as candidates. All the candidates for the Chukotka Duma had been officially registered as of 2 February. But since we have been unable to find such information on the websites of Krainy Sever or the Chukotka elections commission, Novaya Gazeta decided to fill in the blanks by using available information from open sources. While Abramovich’s representatives traditionally do not comment on anything related to his personal spending since they do not deem it public information, we nevertheless hope that comments will be forthcoming in this case. We also expect that his current income will exceed the 12,390,950 roubles (approximately $420,000) he declared in the late 1990s and that his assets will include more than a single VAZ-2106 automobile this time around (Abramovich ran for the State Duma in 1999, marking the first and only time that official information about his income and assets was published in the press – Editor’s note).
Abramovich basically has three options:
1. Release a declaration similar to the one he published in the late 1990s pretending to be “poor”. The main drawback of this option is obvious: it is not comme il faut considering most of his assets are already a poorly kept secret.
2. Declare nothing publicly as he has done the last decade. The downside of this decision is that it would be a clear violation of the law and a presidential decree as well as a move that even the most confident of power players, as a rule, would try to avoid doing so blatantly in public.
3. Declare everything in full. The advantages of this option are that he would considerably strengthen his position from a transparency standpoint and create the image of someone who is setting a positive trend as Russia’s first civil servant immune to corruption. The drawback is that it would set off another firestorm in the tabloids and draw criticism from his colleagues who would also inevitably be forced to make their own activities more transparent. In this case, Abramovich would need a plethora of convincing arguments, a solid public-relations team and serious courage to turn the drawbacks into advantages.
If Abramovich agreed to the third option and declared everything, this is what the breakdown of his income might look like.
Net worth ranging from 328.720 billion roubles to 348.762 billion roubles last year according to Forbes and The Times (all figures presented in roubles based on the current exchange rate of the dollar, pound and other currencies).
Average annual growth of 15.161,721 billion roubles according to The Times.
Note. Following Abramovich’s divorce with Irina Malandina, several media outlets reported that she received a villa in West Sussex, two apartments in London and a castle in France. Some analysts, however, maintain that when real estate might be registered in children’s names, this status-quo could continue after a divorce. Therefore, they were left on this list.
Chateau de la Croe, Cap d'Antibes, Côte d’Azur, France – 880 m roubles (plus a comparable amount for restoration and redesign).
Fyning Hill estate in West Sussex, England, 420 acres of land (about 1,7 square kilometres) – 998 m roubles.
Two apartments on Lowndes Square, Knightsbridge, London – 56.556 m roubles and 235.650 m roubles, respectively.
An eight-storey, nine-apartment building on Lowndes Square, Knightsbridge, London – estimated cost of 5.655,600 billion roubles.
A penthouse in Kensington, London – 1.584,900 billion roubles.
A multi-storey mansion on the corner of Eaton Square and Lower Belgrave Street, London – 1.319,640 billion roubles.
Note. The book Abramovich: The Billionaire from Nowhere mentions that the purchase of this mansion was never finalised; however, the London media later reported that Roman Abramovich is indeed the owner.
Hotel du Cap Eden-Roc, Cannes, France – 29.350 billion roubles.
A villa in Saint-Tropez near the Hotel Byblos, France – 1.605,200 billion roubles.
An apartment in Soho, London – 118.250 m roubles.
A villa in Punta Volpe, Emerald Coast, Sardinia, Italy.
A villa on Saint-Barthelemy Island, Caribbean coast, overseas collectivity of France, 70 acres (0.28 square kilometres) – 2.642,500 billion roubles.
A ski lodge and Wildcat Ridge ranch in a mountain resort near Aspen, Colorado, U.S.A., 1.7 and 200 acres (6900 and 809,400 square metres, respectively) – 346.33 m roubles and 1.068 billion roubles.
A dacha in the exclusive Sareyevo community on Moscow’s Rublevo-Uspensky highway – 300-400 m roubles.
An apartment on Otka Street, Anadyr, Chukotka.
Properties on the Sochi coasts, the Corfu islands in Greece and Montenegro.
A property in a prestigious district of the Moscow region near Skolkovo, 397 hectares (3.97 square kilometres) in the Bakovsky forest area – 24.385,725 m roubles (the Eco West company, which is registered to Abramovich’s asset management company Millhouse, won an auction for the long-term lease of this property in 2008).
Note. Following Abramovich’s divorce with Irina Malandina, several media outlets reported that she retained the right to use the Pelorus yacht and Boeing 737, but no official change in ownership was reported. Therefore, they were left on this list.
Boeing 767, registered in Aruba (Caribbean Sea island, overseas collectivity of the Netherlands) – 3.052,400 billion roubles.
Boeing 737 Business Jet, also registered in Aruba – 1.885,200 billion roubles.
DC-10 airliner, typically used to carry 220 passengers.
Helicopters of various makes and configurations with total value of 1.5 billion roubles.
Sussurro yacht, 50 metres, Cayman Islands flag – 1.438,150 billion roubles.
Ecstasea mega yacht, 86 metres, port of registration Hamilton, Bermudas – 3.610,500 billion roubles.
Pelorus mega yacht, 115 metres, port of registration Hamilton, Bermudas – 4.109 billion roubles.
Luna mega yacht, 115 metres, a new acquisition in 2010, port of registration Hamilton, Bermudas – 5.419,950 billion roubles (launched and handed over to the owner just before he took possession of the Eclipse yacht).
Eclipse mega yacht, 170 metres, took possession in December 2010 – 17.61 billion roubles.
American submarines with length of 36 and 20 metres valued at 754.08 m roubles.
A collection of luxury automobiles (Bentley, Jaguar, a custom-made Rolls-Royce, a Ferrari FXX race car and others) worth more than 2 billion roubles.
Shares and other stakes in commercial organisations:
Chelsea Football Club, London, England, acquired for 6.598,200 billion roubles with total investment in recent years of 35.818,800 billion roubles (including the recent purchase of Spanish striker Fernando Torres).
A group of companies managing Abramovich’s assets united by a common history and the name Millhouse:
MHS Services Ltd. (Millhouse Capital UK Ltd. until August 2008), office located in London on the fifth floor of Chelsea Football Club headquarters. Parent company is Electus Investments Ltd. (Cyprus).
Millhouse LLC (spun off into separate company in April 2006, prior to this it was the Russian representative office of Millhouse Capital UK Ltd.), office located in Moscow in building that housed Sibneft headquarters prior to the oil company’s sale to Gazprom. Parent company is Tristan Holdings Ltd. (Cyprus).
The Millhouse Group manages or owns the following assets, shares and bonds:
– Evraz Group S.A., 36 per cent (steel, mining, coal and vanadium businesses in Russia, the United States, Canada, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Italy and South Africa. Evraz produced 15.3 m tonnes of steel in 2009 and ranks 15th among global steel producers in terms of output. Evraz owns Carbofer, one of Russia’s biggest distribution networks for steel sales);
– Bonds (subordinated bonds) in Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS), undisclosed value;
– Channel One OJSC, 24 per cent;
– Courier Publishing House (magazines about alcohol), 60 per cent;
– The meat-producing assets of the Prodo group of companies, stake unknown;
– Highland Gold Mining (HGM), 31 per cent;
– Pharmstandard pharmaceutical producer, approximately 30 per cent;
– The Balchug Plaza office complex, the Krylatsky Hills business park, land plots and other real estate in Moscow and the Moscow region with total value of approximately 30 billion roubles;
– The Snegiri development company, 16 per cent;
– Canada’s Kinross Gold, 1.5 per cent (received in a swap for the sale of gold fields in Chukotka);
– Mangazey LLC, Severo-Vosctochnaya GGK LLC, Klen LLC and Nedra Severa LLC, which won auctions in November 2010 for the right to develop four fields in Chukotka with total resources of 185 tonnes of gold and approximately 2,000 tonnes of silver.
Thus, according to experts and the media, Roman Abramovich’s net worth is currently a little more than 300 billion roubles. The Chukotka parliament member and global entrepreneur, however, accumulated this wealth under different circumstances than other contemporary billionaire inventors such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates or Google founder Sergey Brin. The phenomenon that is Roman Abramovich took shape amidst the Russian political and economic realities of the last twelve years with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his inner circle of colleagues serving as the architects.
One of the main keys to survival inside this model was to play by the rules and understandings established by this small circle of players. It appears Roman Abramovich always had a clear grasp of this concept as evidenced by his role in transactions to sell Sibneft on two separate occasions. The first was to Yukos for $3 billion in 2003, but Abramovich backed out of the deal after legal proceedings were initiated against Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Sibneft was ultimately sold to Gazprom for $13 billion, enabling the gas monopoly to strengthen its positions and Abramovich to become a multibillionaire with cash to purchase new assets and follow his own path. Another notable event occurred recently when Abramovich’s blocking stake in Channel One was transferred to a media group affiliated with Premier League businessman Yury Kovalchuk.
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