Business / #ForbesBusiness



June 12, 2018,   12:00 PM

World Cup 2018 Exclusive: The 15 Russian Billionaires Tied To The Games

Angel Au-Yeung

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Atleast 15 Russian billionaires found a way to get in on the World Cup, which begins in their homeland on June 14. They either received state contracts — just 6 of them control the companies that collected nearly $7 billion to construct or repair facilities and transportation infrastructure — or invested money to do things like run ticketing systems and provide internet availability in stadiums.

An estimated 1.2 million soccer fans will travel to and from 11 host cities for the month-long event. And while watchdog NGOs are calling this period the worst human rights crisis in Russia since the Soviet era due to Kremlin-sanctioned crackdowns on human rights defenders, migrant workers and the LGBTQ community, Putin’s billionaire pals will fare just fine. As the dollar figures alone indicate, in Russia, the same old cronies are getting richer yet again.

[Net worths are Forbes estimates as of June 8, 2018.]

Viktor Vekselberg, aluminum baron tied to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen

Net worth: $13.6 billion

Vekselberg, who reportedly had ties to an investment firm that paid $500,000 to an LLC owned by Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, was sanctioned earlier this year for his alleged role in promoting Russia’s subversive agenda abroad. Back at home, his firm Airports of Regions spent $560 million to renovate airports in four World Cup host cities: Ekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don and Samara.

Arkady Rotenberg, Putin's onetime judo-partner

Net worth: $2.6 billion

No one landed a bigger payday. Rotenberg runs contractor Mostotrest, which owns a subsidiary that received over $4 billion in state contracts for a 425-mile highway connecting St. Petersburg and Moscow. But the highway won't be finished in time for the sporting event. His company also received just another $1 billion to renovate three airports.

Mikhail Fridman, German Khan, Alexei Kuzmichev, Pyotr Aven, tied to the "Trump Dossier"

Net worths: $13.6 billion, $8.8 billion, $6.8 billion, $4.7 billion


Fridman, Khan and Kuzmichev were former college classmates who in 1989 founded Alfa Group, a diversified outfit that controls Alfa-Bank, the largest non-state owned bank in Russia. Aven joined later in 1994 as President of Alfa-Bank. With 745 offices and branches throughout Europe, Alfa-Bank is a sponsor of the event and will support FIFA on all ticketing sales in exchange for billboard advertising during matches.

In late 2017 Fridman, Khan and Aven sued Fusion GPS, the Washington D.C.-based opposition research firm behind the "Trump Dossier," for defamation. The dossier claims the three billionaires worked with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 presidential elections. Fusion GPS filed a motion to dismiss the case in January, claiming the research it conducted was not defamatory. The case is still pending.

Aras Agalarov, met with Trump when Miss Universe was held in Moscow

Net worth: $1.7 billion

His Crocus Group was awarded $580 million in state contracts to erect two stadiums in host cities Kaliningrad and Rostov-on-Don. Agalarov also has a Trump connection: he met with Trump in November 2013 when the Miss Universe competition was hosted in Agalarov’s Crocus City Hall in Moscow. The developer’s son told Forbes there were plans to build a Trump Tower in Russia prior to the 2016 presidential elections, but the Trump Organization denies this.

Gennady Timchenko, sanctioned by the U.S. in 2014

Net worth: $16.6 billion

Timchenko is the majority shareholder of engineering-and-construction firm Stroytransgaz, which received $530 million in state contracts to construct 45,000-seat stadiums in two cities hosting matches: Volgograd, in southern Russia, and Nizhny Novgorod, seven hours east of Moscow. Timchenko was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2014 at the height of the Crimea annexation crisis due to his close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Alisher Usmanov, controls one of Russia's largest phone companies

Net worth: $13 billion

Usmanov, who made his first fortune producing plastic bags in the former Soviet Union, is a main shareholder of USM Holdings, which controls telecommunications provider MegaFon. The telecom company received $680 million in state contracts to provide internet and communications infrastructure to all 11 stadiums and all training camps for the 32 teams descending upon Russia for the games.

Leonid Fedun, former military man turned oil executive

Net worth: $7.3 billion

Fedun is president of FC Spartak Moscow, known as the “people’s team,” one of Russia’s most popular soccer clubs. Fedun spent a reported $500 million to renovate the team’s home stadium in Moscow, where World Cup matches will be hosted. He owns nearly 10% of energy conglomerate Lukoil, which he helped privatize in the 1990s.

Dmitry Kamenschik, airport billionaire

Net worth: $3.4 billion

Kamenschik owns Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport, which invested $690 million on renovations in preparation for the World Cup. The airport will have a special service system for athletes and officials traveling through the airport during the international sporting event, including separate boarding and resting areas for athletes only.

Alexander Ponomarenko, Alexander Skorobogatko, construction partners

Net worths: $3.3 billion, $3.3 billion

The two Alexanders first partnered on a small perfume factory in Ukraine. They moved on to banking and sea ports before winning a tender in 2013 to develop Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, which had the most passenger traffic (nearly 41 million)  of all Russian airports in 2017. They invested a reported $680 million on airport renovations for the influx of soccer fans, including a new passenger terminal and a multi-level parking garage.

Roman Trotsenko, owns 14 airports in Russia

Net worth: $1.6 billion

Trotsenko founded Aeon Corporation in 2007; it manages the Moscow Steamship Line, several river ports and 14 airports around the country. His airport holding company, Novoport, invested $190 million in renovating airports in Volgograd and Kaliningrad, both of which are World Cup host cities.

Dmitry Pumpyansky, controls pipe conglomerate

Net worth: $1.6 billion


The construction subsidiary of his Sinara Group spent $190 million to renovate Ekaterinburg Arena, a 65-year-old stadium that will host matches during the World Cup. Pumpyansky started as a trader before teaming up with billionaires Sergei Popov and Andrei Melnichenko to acquire pipe conglomerate TMK in the early 2000s. He bought out the other two in 2006 and counts Gazprom, the state-owned energy company with the world’s largest natural gas reserves, as one of his customers.





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