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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Forbes List's Rich Russians Get Richer

Oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been named the richest man in Russia for the second year running by Forbes magazine, which released its annual list of the world's billionaires Friday.

Khodorkovsky, 38, the head of the Yukos oil giant, saw his personal wealth grow by $1.3 billion over the past year to $3.7 billion, earning him the No. 101 spot on the list of 497 billionaires.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who has topped the list since 1998, lost an amount almost double Khodorkovsky's net worth but held on to the title of the world's wealthiest man with $52.8 billion.

Six other Russians are on the Forbes list, which suggests Russia's wealthy bucked the global economic slump that chipped away at the fortunes of most billionaires. The Russians managed either to maintain or increase their wealth.

Oil and media tycoon Roman Abramovich was named the second-wealthiest man in Russia, with $3 billion that put him in 127th place. Abramovich's fortune more than doubled from last year, when Forbes ranked him No. 363 with $1.4 billion.

Alfa Group's Mikhail Fridman leapfrogged to 191st place with $2.2 billion, up from No. 387 with $1.3 billion last year.

Abramovich, who is the governor of Chukotka, and Fridman overtook Interros head Vladimir Potanin, whose fortune of $1.8 billion remained unchanged from last year. He ranked No. 234.

Last year's newcomer to the Forbes billionaires' club Vladimir Bogdanov, who heads Russia's fourth-largest oil producer Surgutneftegaz, took 277th place with $1.6 billion, and LUKoil president Vagit Alekperov rang in at No. 327 with $1.4 billion.

Aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska made the list for the first time, with $1.1 billion in 413th place.

This year's list of seven Russians is one less than the eight named last year. Gone are two gas executives, former Gazprom CEO Rem Vyakhirev and former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who last year ranked 336th and 452nd with $1.5 billion and $1.1 billion, respectively.

Vyakhirev, who is widely thought to have amassed a fortune during his years at Gazprom, was fired from the post in May amid accusations that he had been involved in asset stripping at the state-controlled company. He was immediately named chairman of the board.

Chernomyrdin, once the head of the Soviet gas industry, was appointed Russia's ambassador to Ukraine shortly before Forbes released its list last year.

It was unclear why the two men had been dropped. Forbes did not respond to requests for comment.

Kommersant cautioned that such an exclusion did not mean that the list was the last word on Russia's billionaires. "It should be noted that the data used by the magazine's analysts is quite relative," the daily wrote. "So the indices [used to define billionaires] do not always correspond to reality."

With the list, Forbes profiles Khodorkovsky's climb from the rags of a tiny communal apartment to the riches of Bank Menatep and then Yukos.

"Khodorkovsky has an earnest demeanor and a high-pitched voice that is often difficult to hear, but appearances are deceiving," the story says. "This is a tenacious and ruthless businessman."

Forbes revisits the collapse of Bank Menatep in 1998, which led foreign creditors to claim a 29 percent stake in Yukos for $266 million in debt. The creditors later dumped those shares -- analysts say at a steep loss -- when Yukos announced a share issue that would have diluted their stake to almost nothing.

Forbes also re-examines Khodorkovsky's acquisition of Yukos during the notorious loans-for-shares auctions of the mid-1990s in which many businessmen snapped up assets for a song.

The magazine goes on to point out that that was then. "The financial free-for-all is yielding to an ethic of reinvesting in your business. And among the old-time oligarchs, Khodorkovsky is leading the charge," Forbes said.

Yukos is Russia's No. 2 oil company with a market capitalization of about $15 billion. Yukos is also the fastest-growing oil firm. Khodorkovsky said in January that the company increased output 17 percent in 2001 and plans to boost it 17 percent to 20 percent this year.

Abramovich's Sibneft oil company was also a growth leader in 2001.

Russians first appeared on the Forbes list in 1997, with Boris Berezovsky in the No. 1 spot with $3 billion. As a result of the 1998 crisis, no Russians made the list in 1999 and 2000.

The billionaires on this year's list were all but mum about the report, and the Russian press did little more than sum up the rankings.

Asked what he thought about the country's billionaires, Anatoly Aksakov, deputy chairman of the State Duma committee on economic policy and entrepreneurship, told the Izvestia newspaper Saturday that he harbored no "negative feelings."

"The most important thing is that they bring some benefit to the country and use their wealth in its interests rather than just their own," he said.

Billionaires

Eleven years after the fall of communism, post-Soviet Russia is home to seven billionaires, with an average age of 41. In a mostly down year for billionaires, all seven Russians managed to equal or increase their last year's net worth.
RankNameNet worth ($bln)SourceAge
101Mikhail Khodorkovsky3.7oil38
127Roman Abramovich3.0oil35
191Mikhail Fridman2.2oil37
234Vladimir Potanin1.8metals40
277Vladimir Bogdanov1.6oil50
327Vagit Alekperov1.4oil51
413Oleg Deripaska1.1aluminum33
Source: Forbes