Meet the Russian oligarchs who own the West's most famous brands

Russia’s wealth disparity is off the charts. Just over 100 billionaires hold a third of the country’s wealth.

That’s largely down to Russia’s chaotic 1990s. Enterprising and ruthless men (and they are practically all men) took hold of huge chunks of the former Soviet Union’s rapidly privatised industries, or made millions bringing in highly sought-after exports from the west.

More recently, they haven’t limited their interests to Russia. In the past 15 years, a handful of oligarchs have been snapping up companies in the West, too.

Some of the oligarchs no longer call Russia home: They have moved to the UK and US, or other post-Soviet countries. But they have all gained major interests in Europe and North America, controlling flashy organisations like football clubs, and huge, under-the-public-radar industrial groups.

Alisher Usmanov - Arsenal

Usmanov is Russia's richest man, with most of his wealth coming from mining interests. He also owns Mail.ru, Russia's largest internet firm, and its second-largest mobile network operator.

Usmanov's holding company, Red & White, owns about 30% of Arsenal's shares. He splits that with Farhad Moshiri, another steel magnate.

That share has climbed from 14.65% when the holding company first bought in, slowly accelerating. He's made comments in the past that indicate he'd like an even bigger stake. For now, US billionaire Stan Kroenke is the majority shareholder.

Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev - Evening Standard/Independent

34-year old Evgeny Lebedev and his father, Alexander Lebedev, are joint owners of British newspapers with a combined circulation of more than one million copies per day: The Independent, i, and the free Evening Standard make up an impressive UK media empire.

Russian oligarchs have made a big deal of expanding their influence in their home country (Alexander Lebedev is part owner of Russia's liberal Novaya Gazeta), but foreign media empires are rarer. Lebedev built his fortune in banking, navigating Russia's turbulent 1990s.

Oleg Deripaska - Strabag SE

Oleg Deripaska is chairman of RUSAL, the world's largest aluminium company, and is closely connected with Russian politics. He made major investments in the construction of the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

Deripaska now has a blocking minority of shares in Strabag: It's not one of the most glamourous companies on the list, but it's massive. It's one of Europe's biggest construction companies, with revenues of over €10 billion, and more than 70,000 employees.

Yuri Milner - Facebook, Twitter

Milner's wealth soared in the mid-1990s as CEO of an investment brokerage owned by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who famously fell out of favour with Vladimir Putin and spent eight years in prison.

He's made some extremely astute bets on US social media companies. Milner bought shares in Facebook back in 2009, and held 5.5% of the company as it went to IPO, turning a $US200 million investment into well over $US1 billion in a few years.

Similarly, on the day of Twitter's IPO, Milner's investment in Twitter, (about $US400 million in 2011, when it was valued at $US8 billion) surged when it floated. The company is currently worth about $US26 billion.

Dmitry Rybolovlev - AS Monaco, Bank of Cyprus

Rybovlev owned a majority stake in London-listed Potash firm Uralkali until 2010.

One year later, he picked up a two-thirds stake in AS Monaco, a major European football club. He's made Monaco a huge spender, buying players like Radamel Falcao (who later moved to Manchester United) and James Rodriguez, winner of the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot.

At the time of Cyprus' crisis in 2013, Rybovlev owned just less than 10% of Bank of Cyprus, making him the largest single shareholder.

Roman Abramovich - Chelsea

Unlike Arsenal stakeholder Alisher Usmanov, Abromovich owns a majority stake in Chelsea, which he picked up in 2003.

He's an oligarch in the truest way, enjoying the political-business revolving door that's open to a certain class of Russian multi-billionaires (he was governor of Chukotka, a region in the very north east of Russia, for eight years).

Football clubs are a labour of love as much as a cash cow for global billionaires, and Chelsea makes up only a small portion of Abramovich's empire. But it did post a record profit of £18 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Alexei Mordashov - Lucchini

Mordashov snapped up shares offered to workers in state industries as they were privatised in the 1990s, and quickly became wealthy. Like many of the other oligarchs on the list, he's made his money in metals.

In 2010, Mordashov bought Lucchini, one of Italy's largest steel producers, but the company went into receivership in 2012, and he's still looking for a buyer. It's not his only European interest: He owns a quarter of German travel group TUI.

Mikhail Prokhorov - Brooklyn Nets

Prokhorov is one of the most famous names on the list. He's another oligarch who made a fortune in the metals industry, and ran as a candidate in the 2012 Russian presidential election.

In 2010, Prokhorov bough the then New Jersey Nets, and moved them to Brooklyn in 2012. As of January 2015, it looks like he wants to sell.

Alexander Abramov - Oregon Steel Mills

Abramov is one of Roman Abramovich's business partners, and controls a huge amount of Russia's steel through industrial giant Evraz.

In 2007, he started picking up interests in the United States. These included Oregon Steel Mills and Claymont Steel. The latter is now closed, but with revenues of more than $US1 billion, his mills in North America generate a fifth of their income, according to the WSJ, and the American interests may be floated.

Len Blavatnik - Warner Music Group

Blavatnik, a US citizen, is apparently very unhappy at being referred to as an oligarch.

He began his career in business in the US, before the collapse of the USSR. But he's also undoubtedly raked in a lot of money in the immediate aftermath of the collapse, snapping up newly-privatised assets with another Russiam, Viktor Vekselberg.

Access Industries, the company he set up in New York in the 1980s and still owns today, bought Warner Music for $US3.3 billion in 2011. It may be the largest oligarch-owned company in North America.

Mikhail Fridman - RWE Dea

Mikhail Fridman founded Alfa-Eco in 1989, which eventually became Alfa Group, an investment firm that holds a hodgepodge of different interests in Russia.

Fridman's purchase of RWE Dea last year cost him $US7.1 billion according to Bloomberg, perhaps the largest purchase of a European company by a Russian. It's the oil and gas subsidiary of Germany's RWE, the country's second-largest energy firm. Russia has its own oil and gas industries, but the purchase gives Fridman a huge presence in the sector in the rest of Europe.

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