Meet Vladimir Potanin, the richest documented man in Russia, who made his $22 billion fortune in the nickel industry, has owned at least 3 yachts, and plays ice hockey with Vladimir Putin

Sovfoto/UIG via Getty ImagesPotanin reportedly has close ties with Vladimir Putin.

Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin is worth an estimated $US22 billion, making him the richest documented man in Russia.

The second-richest person in Russia, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index, is Vladimir Lisin with a $US21.5 billion net worth. What remains unclear, however, is just how much money President Vladimir Putin has: The Washington Post previously reported that financier Bill Browder had put Putin’s potential net worth as high as $US200 billion back in 2015.

The 58-year-old businessman made his fortune in the nickel industry after spearheading Russia’s controversial “loans-for-shares” program. Potanin is the president of Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest producer of refined nickel.

Potanin has owned at least three luxury yachts and spent $US10 million on his daughter’s wedding on the French Riviera. He’s also become known as a philanthropist, having joined The Giving Pledge, the charity organisation founded by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, and promised to donate most of his fortune to charity rather than pass it on to his children.

The Russian billionaire has close ties to President Vladimir Putin – in fact, the pair are ice hockey buddies – and Potanin was named on the infamous “Putin list” of prominent Russian political figures and oligarchs.

Here’s a look at the life and wealth of Vladimir Potanin, the richest man in Russia and the 37th-richest person in the world.


Vladimir Potanin is the richest documented person in Russia, worth, according to Bloomberg, an estimated $US22 billion.

The 58-year-old businessman is the president of Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest producer of refined nickel.


Potanin owns 34.6% of Norilsk Nickel, which brought in $US11.7 billion of revenue in 2018.

Anton NovoderezhkinTASS via Getty ImagesThe nickel plant of Norilsk Nickel’s Polar Division in Norilsk, Russia.

Norilsk Nickel is responsible for almost 22% of the world’s high-grade nickel production and about 40% of its palladium.

Potanin has made more than $US4 billion in dividends from the company as of January 2018, according to Bloomberg.


In addition to his wealth in the metals industry, Potanin also controls Russian pharmaceutical company NPO Petrovax Pharm and has a sizable real-estate portfolio.

Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images

He reportedly owns office spaces, hotel property in Moscow, land in central Russia, and a country club in the Moscow region.


Born in Moscow in 1961, Potanin was the son of a diplomat and a doctor. He studied international relations and then went on to spend eight years working at the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Trade.

In 1990, Potanin formed Interros Foreign Trade Association, a conglomerate that now holds stakes in industries includingmetals and mining, real estate, sports and tourism, and pharmaceuticals.

When he was 30, Potanin metMikhail Prokhorov, who would become his future business partner. The pair founded the International Company for Finance & Investments and then Onexim Bank, which became Russia’s largest private bank at the time.

Potanin became president of the bank in 1992, at age 32.


In 1996, not long after Boris Yeltsin was re-elected president of Russia, Potanin was appointed first deputy prime minister in charge of energy and economy.

While working at the Ministry of Foreign Trade, Potanin masterminded Russia’s “loans-for-shares” programs, where wealthy entrepreneurs and banks loaned money to the Russian government in the 1990s in exchange for equity in the country’s natural resource companies.


The government often could not repay these loans, leaving many of the natural resource companies in the hands of wealthy individuals.

It was through this program that Potanin acquiredNorilsk Nickel, which would go on to make him the richest man in Russia.

In fact, the loans-for-shares program created many of today’s wealthiest Russian oligarchs such as Roman Abramovic, who’s worth about $US16 billion today and also holds shares in Norilsk Nickel.


Yeltsin is not the only Russian president Potanin has rubbed shoulders with. The billionaire has also had close ties to the Kremlin under Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev.

He’s been photographed at various events with Putin dating back to at least 2000.


Potanin is on the infamous “Putin list,” the nickname for a document released by the US Treasury Department listing names of 210 prominent Russians who have close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Sergei SavostyanovTASS via Getty ImagesRussia’s President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the Prosecutor General’s Office Board in March 2019.

The list, released in early 2018, named individuals and companies that the administration was deciding whether or not to sanction with legislation meant to punish Russia for interfering in the 2016 US presidential election, as well as its annexation of Crimea, military operations in eastern Ukraine, and human rights violations, CNN reported.


Potanin also met on several occasions with former president Dmitry Medvedev, who is now the Prime Minister of Russia.

Medvedev was president from 2008 to 2012 and then supported Vladimir Putin in his re-election campaign. Putin named Medvedev prime minister soon after he was sworn in as president.


Potanin was one of several Russian billionaires who chipped in to fund the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. According to Forbes, he invested $US2.5 billion for a ski resort and other facilities.

IVAN SEKRETAREV/AFP/Getty ImagesPotanin speaks to President Putin at a Sochi Olympics venue in February 2013.

He built a ski resort in Sochi with nearly 50 miles of trails, a freestyle ski center, a snowboard park, one of the two Olympic Villages, and the Russian Olympic University, Forbes reported.


Like other Russian oligarchs, Potanin is a collector of luxury yachts. The Russian billionaire bought the 70-foot yacht Anastasia in 2008, and sold it for about $US84 million in 2018.

Anastasia was first listed for 125 million euros, or about $US140 million, in 2012 when Potanin was delivered his new yacht, Nirvana.

According to Forbes, Anastasia and Nirvana were among a series of three yachts that Potanin had built at Oceanco in the Netherlands.


The 289-foot Nirvana yacht includes a 10-foot-deep plunge pool and a helipad.

NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesThe Nirvana yacht seen in the Dubai International Marina in February 2016.

The boat has six decks which are connected by a main stairwell as well as a glass elevator.

Potanin put the Nirvana up for sale around the same time he first put Anastasia on the market in 2012, but it’s unclear whether the billionaire has sold Nirvana.

In 2018, a new 289-foot yacht called Barbara was delivered to Potanin, according to Yacht Harbour.


Another of the billionaire’s hobbies is ice hockey. Potanin plays at least twice per week, owns his own private rink, and sometimes plays with Putin, he said in a 2018 Financial Times interview.

Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty ImagesVladimir Putin, Vladimir Potanin, and others at an ice hockey friendly match of the Night Hockey League at an ice rink in Red Square in December 2018.

When asked who was the better player, Potanin simply said, “I am younger.”


Potanin was married to Natalia Potanina for 30 years until they divorced in 2014 amid a public dispute over the distribution of the billionaire’s wealth.

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

Potanina told Business Insider in a 2014 interview that she was seeking half of Potanin’s $US15 billion fortune at the time of their divorce.

The Russian Legal Information Agency later reported that Potanina received $US6.8 million for her share of the luxury apartment the couple shared in Moscow (which Potanin kept) and three plots of land in the Moscow region.


As Business Insider previously reported, he married a woman named Ekaterina in 2014.

Photo by Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty ImagesVladimir Potanin and his wife at a gala event in December 2018.

The couple reportedly has a child together.


Potanin has three children from his first marriage. His oldest daughter, Anastasia, was once a Russian aquabike champion and now owns an art gallery in Moscow.

She married a ballroom dance teacher in the South of France in 2018. Potanin reportedly spent $US10 million on her wedding, which took place at a luxury hotel on the French Riviera. The billionaire arranged transfers on private jets and paid for guests to stay at the five-star Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes.

Potanin said in 2010 that he would donate most of his fortune to charity instead of giving it to his five children. Part of his motive was to “help my children avoid the pressure of billions,” he said.


Potanin has become known for his philanthropic endeavours. In 1999, he created the Vladimir Potanin Foundation, “a non-profit charity with a mandate for implementing socially significant long-term educational and cultural projects in Russia,” according to his biography on Norilsk Nickel’s website.

He’s also a trustee of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York.

And in 2016, he donated 250 works of Russian and Soviet art to the Pompidou Center in Paris, which resulted in him being awarded the French Legion of Honour the next year.


In 2013, Potanin joined The Giving Pledge, a global charity organisation started in 2010 by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

Photo by Stanislav KrasilnikovTASS via Getty ImagesPotanin, left, presents a check to children’s sport schools after a charity ice hockey match in February 2018.

“I genuinely believe that wealth should work for public good and, therefore, I am trying to make my own contribution toward a better world, especially toward a better future for my own country, Russia,” Potanin wrote on The Giving Pledge’s website.


Potanin’s fortune has grown by about $US4 billion in the past year, according to Bloomberg. In April 2018, he lost $US2.25 billion in a single day after President Donald Trump announced new sanctions on Russia.

Some of Russia’s top billionaires lost an estimated $US16 billion on that day.

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