Russia » Economics
Author`s name Michael Simpson

Know How to Spend Billion of Dollars?

Majority of the RF population hold just 7 per cent of Russia's national riches, the minority hold the rest of the amount
Majority of Russians don't think it is a problem how one billion of dollars can be spent now; the same is about one million of dollars. However, people familiar with the problem say the task of spending one million of dollars is as difficult for a rich man as to hold out with one thousand rubles till the next wage. Those who are rather successful with the task of wise spending of one million of dollars turn their millions into billions and then find themselves in the ratings of the richest people of the world.

International rating agencies count other people's billions following their rather intricate schemes: some of them classify billionaires as American and non-American, young and not very young, people belonging to the former Socialist countries and westerners, etc.

America's Fortune for instance suggests a classification based on the ages and territories where billionaires live: the magazine published a rating of the world's non-American billionaires at the age under 40.

The leader of this rating is Russia's Roman Abramovich, the governor of Chukotka who is known for his love for oil, fish and football. He is said to be a Russian oligarch who is involved in the public life less than other oligarchs.

According to Fortune, Abramovich's fortune makes up $8.3 billion, a sum that sounds mysterious for Russian billionaires. In fact, a month ago Poland's weekly Wprost estimated the fortune of YUKOS President Mikhail Khodorkovsky. At that, the Polish weekly also reported the fortune made by Roman Abramovich; it made up $7.5 billion. This is quite incredible that the businessman might have earned $0.8 billion within a month. If it goes this way the dream of Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev to catch up with the USA and leave it behind, at least in fortunes made up by Russian billionaires, will come true within the next five years. 

What is Microsoft boss Bill Gates with his fortune of $52.8 billion as compared with the Russian oligarchs? While Bill Gates wears a watch for $200 and drives a rather modest auto, Russian oligarchs sail yachts that cost $90 or 900 million (the mass media still cannot report the exact figure).

At that reliable sources state that life of the Russian rich is extremely dangerous. They may be shot by  their rivals, the government from time to time threatens them with jail and creates conditions that make life of oligarchs impossible in Russia; what is more they are traced by special services, compromised by the mass media and envied by their fellow countrymen.

However, let's get back to figures that reveal the dynamics of fortunes made up by Russian oligarchs. According to Wprost data published in August, Alfa-Group President Mikhail Fridman with the fortune of $6.7 billion goes third in the rating after Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Roman Abramovich. But America's Fortune reported Khodorkovsky's fortune as reduced about three times ($2.4 billion) in September.

The fifth position of the Wprost rating published in August is given to Interros leader Vladimir Potanin ($3.2 billion), SUAL Director General Viktor Vekselberg with $3.1 billion is on the 6th position, Mikhail Prokhorov from Nornickel ($2.3 billion) goes seventh, Vladimir Bogdanov from Surgutneftegas ($1.9 billion) is given the 9th position in the rating, Oleg Deripaska (from the Basic Element, $1.8 billion) is on the tenth position and LUKOIL President Vagit Alekperov with $1.3 billion is rated 14th.

However, in September Fortune publishes different information: Mikhail Prokhorov’s fortune makes up $2.1 billion, Oleg Deripaska - $1.8 billion, Evgeny Shvidler from Sibneft - $1.6 billion, Andrey Melnichenko (the MDM Group) - $800 million and Alexey Mordashov from Severstal – $240 million.

As we have a look at the data given by the experts of Wprost and Fortune, we immediately observe some contradictions concerning the fortune of Mikhail Fridman.

However, the above mentioned facts are even more astonishing as compared with the data published in January 2003. In January, EuroBusiness published a list of the planet's richest people. The fortune of Mikhail Khodorkovsky was said to be $8 billion. That is why it is not ruled out that Roman Abramovich will soon have a fortune as big as that of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and may be even higher.

As we compare Fortune's rating published a year ago, we once again find out interesting facts. Mikhail Khodorkovsky's fortune was said to be $7.2 billion; the fortune of Roman Abramovich - $4.2 billion, of Mikhail Fridman - $2.1 billion, of Oleg Deripaska - $1.5 billion and that of Andrey Melnichenko - $380 million.

In August 2002 a magazine of French business circles indulged in a rating of this kind. The rating published by the French magazine resembled the data published by Forbes in March 2002. Then the fortune of Mikhail Khodorkovsky made up $3.7 billion, of Roman Abramovich - $3 billion, of Mikhail Fridman - $2.2 billion, of Vladimir Potanin - $1.8 billion, Vagit Alekperov - $1.4 billion and Oleg Deripaska - $1.1 billion.

Although the experts estimate fortunes of Russian oligarchs with the help of different methods (some estimate the assets and others use confidential information), the dynamics of the situation within the past two years is perfectly obvious. The fortune of Roman Abramovich is speedily increasing; the growth rate of Mikhail Khodorkovsky capital has considerably reduced with the past year's result and the situation about the fortune of Mikhail Fridman is still vague. 

Academician Dmitry Lvov from the economic section of the Russian Academy of Sciences says that only 7 per cent of Russia's national riches fall to the share of 85 per cent of the Russian Federation population. The rest 15 per cent of the population hold 85 per cent of the national riches.  The above mentioned oligarchs surely belong to these 15 per cent of people.