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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deripaska Tops Russia Rich List

bloombergDeripaska, left, and Abramovich attending a Kremlin meeting last March.
Russian Aluminum owner Oleg Deripaska has overtaken Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich as the country's richest man, according to a new survey.

Deripaska has taken the top spot with his $21.2 billion fortune, surpassing Abramovich with his reported $21 billion, Ekho Moskvy said on its web site, citing an advance copy of Finans magazine's Monday issue. Deripaska's fortune has nearly doubled from $12.7 billion since last year. Over the same period, Abramovich has increased his holdings from $18.7 billion.

Although the aluminum trade is not very transparent, it is possible that last year's strong commodity prices helped Deripaska increase his riches, MDM Bank analyst Michael Kavanagh said.

Deripaska, Abramovich and the two tycoons tied in third place, former Interros partners Mikhail Prokhorov and Vladimir Potanin, both worth $14.2 billion, all have substantial metals interests.

Prokhorov and Potanin jumped a few places in the rankings since last year, when the magazine estimated their wealth at $6.7 billion (eighth place) and $6.6 billion (ninth) respectively.

Both have profited from the growth in value of Norilsk Nickel and Polyus Gold, Ekho Moskvy cited Finans as saying. MDM Bank's Kavanagh said he would not be surprised if the share prices of Norilsk and Polyus were instrumental in the two men doubling their fortunes. Prokhorov and Potanin are currently in the process of splitting up these and other Interros assets.

Finans had listed London-based Abramovich as the country's richest man for three years straight since starting its survey in 2004. Deripaska was second in 2006 and 2005, up two places from 2004.

Deripaska took control of RusAl in 2000, buying Roman Abramovich out of the company in October 2003. In addition to owning a 100 percent stake in RusAl, he also has controlling shares in automaker GAZ, aircraft manufacturer Aviacor, and insurance company Ingosstrakh. Deripaska has continued to invest in his Russian business empire, unlike Abramovich who has been liquidating his holdings. As well as yielding control over RusAl, he sold Sibneft to Gazprom for $13 billion in 2005.

But Deripaska is also eyeing investments outside the country. On Feb. 1, European Union regulators agreed to the merger of RusAl with SUAL, controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, and the aluminum assets of the commodities trader Glencore, creating the world's largest aluminum company. The merger should be completed by April. RusAl will own 66 percent of the new firm.

In a separate development, Deripaska is trying to block a British lawsuit targeting a 20 percent stake in RusAl, Bloomberg reported Friday. His former business partner Mikhail Chyorny claims that Deripaska agreed in 2001 to pay him the value of a 20 percent share in RusAl in a series of installments, as payment for Chyorny's stake in a Siberia-based rival.

But Deripaska's lawyer argued Friday that the case should be heard in Russia because the agreement, drafted in Russian, would involve questions of Russian law and language that could not be resolved in Britain, Bloomberg said.