|Born||14 April 1957
Drohobych, Ukrainian SSR
|Alma mater||Moscow Transportation Engineering Institute|
|Occupation||Owner of Renova Group|
|Net worth||US$13.1 billion (August 2018)|
Viktor Felixovich Vekselberg (Russian: Виктор Феликсович Вексельберг, Ukrainian: Віктор Феліксович Вексельберг; born 14 April 1957) is a Ukrainian-born Russian businessman. He is the owner and president of Renova Group, a large Russian conglomerate. According to Forbes, his fortune is estimated at $13.6 billion, making him the fourth richest person in Russia, as of August 4, 2015.
Vekselberg is close to the Moscow Kremlin, overseeing projects to modernize the Russian economy. In April 2018, the United States imposed sanctions on him and 23 other Russian nationals. On May 9, 2018, CNN reported that investigators from the Special Counsel investigation have questioned Vekselberg about hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments his company’s US affiliate made to US President Donald Trump‘s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
Early life and education
Victor Vekselberg was born in 1957 to a Ukrainian-Jewish father and a Russian mother in Drohobych, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic(although some reports state that he was born in Lviv). In 1979, he graduated from the Moscow Transportation Engineering Institute. Thereafter, he worked as an engineer and research manager at a state-owned pump manufacturer.
In 1988, after the Gorbachev administration relaxed restrictions on private business as part of his new policy Perestroika and Glasnost, he founded NPO Komvek which did work for the Irkutsk Aluminum Plant and in 1990, he co-founded Renova Group with college classmate, Leonard Blavatnik. KomVek owned 67% of Renova and Blavatnik’s company Access Industries owned the remainder. He benefited financially from the privatization of the aluminum industry in Russia under the Yeltsin administration in 1993. In 1996, he co-founded the Siberian-Urals Aluminium Company (SUAL) via a merger of the Ural and Irkutsk Aluminum Plants. (SUAL would later be incorporated into United Company RUSAL, the largest aluminum company in the world). Using revenues generated from his aluminum business, he purchased a minority interest in Tyumen Oil (TNK), one of Russia‘s largest oil and gas companies. In 1997, he secured a controlling interest in Tyumen and was appointed to the Board of Directors; in 1998, he was appointed Chairman of the Board. Later, he integrated those and other assets under the umbrella of Renova Group, delegating operating responsibilities to managers.
In 2003, the Renova Group, along with Access Industries (owned by Leonard Blavatnik) and the Alfa Group (owned by Mikhail Fridman, German Khan, and Alexei Kuzmichov) announced the creation of a strategic partnership to jointly hold their oil assets in Russia and Ukraine, forming the AAR consortium. In the same year, they merged AAR with British Petroleum‘s Russian oil assets in a 50-50 joint venture named TNK-BP, the largest private transaction in Russian history. Acting as a chairman of the executive board of TNK, Vekselberg was instrumental in negotiating and closing the transaction.
In 2010, Vekselberg was appointed President of the Skolkovo Foundation, a non-profit organization funded by a mix of private investors and the Russian government, with the goal of building a technology research hub in Russia. As its President, Vekselberg signed a deal for Cisco Systems to invest $1 billion over ten years into Skolkovo Foundation projects. The Federal Bureau of Investigations subsequently issued a statement claiming that the Skolkovo Foundation was being used by the Russian government to gain access to classified American technology.
Vekselberg is now[when?] overseeing a vast restructuring of his assets: the division of property with the partner Leonard Blavatnik, the merger of Renova’s aluminum assets with those of Oleg Deripaska, and the integration of various electricity and telecommunications investment.
In February 2004, Vekselberg purchased nine Fabergé Imperial Easter eggs from the Forbes publishing family in New York City. The collection was transported to Russia and exhibited in the Kremlin and in Dubrovnik in 2007. Vekselberg is the single largest owner of Fabergé eggs in the world, owning fifteen of them (nine Imperial, two Kelch, and four other Fabergé eggs). In a 2013 BBC Four documentary, Vekselberg revealed that he had spent just over $100 million purchasing the nine Fabergé Imperial eggs from the Forbes collection. He claims never to have displayed them in his home, saying he bought them because they are important to Russian history and culture, and he believed them to be the best jewelry art in the world. In the same BBC documentary, Vekselberg revealed plans to open a museum to display the eggs in his collection. The result was the Fabergé Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, which had its official opening ceremony on November 19, 2013.
In September 2006, Vekselberg agreed to pay approximately $1 million in expenses to transport the Lowell House Bells from Harvard University in the United States back to their original location in the Danilov Monastery and to purchase replacement bells. The historic bells returned to Moscow on September 12, 2008, with the assistance of the U.S. director of the organization, Edward Mermelstein.
Vekselberg had paid £1.7 million at a Christie’s auction in 2005 for Odalisque, a nude said to be the work of Russian artist Boris Kustodiev. However, soon after the purchase, experts working for Vekselberg’s art fund, Aurora, began to cast doubt on the picture’s authenticity. They claimed that Kustodiev’s signature, dated 1919, was done in aluminium-based pigment not available until after the artist’s death in 1927. Vekselberg sued Christie’s, and the judge ruled in July 2012 that he was entitled to recover the £1.7 million that he paid for the painting, plus Christie’s was ordered to pay around £1 million in costs.
He donated $4.5 million to the construction of the $50 million Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, and is the chairman of the museum’s board of trustees. He finances the restoration and construction of synagogues in Russia, including the construction of the Choral Synagogue in Saratov.
He is married to Marina and has two children, a daughter and a son. His father is Jewish, and his mother Christian. He identifies himself as multi-national and does not attend weekly synagogue or church services.
Vekselberg is a longtime friend and business partner of British-American billionaire and major Republican Party donor Leonard Blavatnik, who is close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
- In April 2009, Swiss Federal Finance Department initiated a criminal investigation against Vekselberg in connection to alleged violations of securities law. As a result of the investigation, Vekselberg was fined $38m by Swiss authorities.
- In 2008, Vekselberg proxied a deal between Russian and Hungarian governments, buying the former embassy building from Hungary for $21m and immediately selling it to the Russian government for $116m, while the market price of the building was estimated at $50m. Investigation of the paper trail by Alexey Navalny and the Rospil project has found several invalid and backdated documents, thus suggesting a collusion (e.g. the tender held by the Hungarian side was totally fictive, as the building was already sold by that time). Hungarian officials responsible for the deal (Tátrai Miklós, Marta Horvathne Fekszi and Arpad Szekely) were detained in February 2011. On the Russian side, a criminal investigation was only started in August 2013.
- In March 2018, members from Robert Mueller‘s team of special counsel investigators questioned Vekselberg at a New York area airport.
- In April 2018, the United States imposed sanctions on him and 23 other Russian nationals.[why?]
- Forbes: The World’s Billionaires – Viktor VekselbergMarch 2013
- Presentation of state decorations 26 January 2017, kremlin.ru
- Viktor Vekselberg: Tracking Down Russia’s secret billionaire 03 August 2013 By Stephen Smith, Esquire
- Vekselberg denies Kremlin influence by Matthew Allen in Thun for Swissinfo, 27 May 2008
- Russian ‘Silicon Valley’ to be self-sufficient in 5-7 years – Vekselberg 19:44 23/03/2010, RIA Novosti
- Exclusive: Mueller’s team questions Russian oligarch about payments to Cohen
- Abigail Tracy. “Why Did Michael Cohen Receive $500,000 from a Russian Oligarch?”. vanityfair.com. Retrieved May 17,2018.
- Der Spiegel: “Im Westen wartet keiner auf mich” by Walter Von Mayr and Gerhard Spörl March 6, 2006 (in German) | “Der alltägliche Antisemitismus ist nicht zu leugnen. Ich habe ihn selbst häufig zu spüren bekommen, obwohl ich unter Juden nicht als Jude gelte, da meine Mutter Russin ist. Die Russen wiederum halten mich nicht für einen Russen, weil mein Vater Jude ist” – “The everyday anti-Semitism is undeniable. I myself often get to feel it, even though I don’t count as a Jew among the Jews, as my mother is Russian. The Russians in turn do not think I’m a Russian because my father is a Jew.”
- The Guardian: “The richer they come …Can Russia’s oligarchs keep their billions – and their freedom?” By Luke Harding July 1, 2007
- Norris, Stephen M. “Blockbuster History in the New Russia: Movies, Memory, and Patriotism” p. 251-253]
- “With $7.5 billion in his pocket, Viktor Vekselberg to increase his shareholdings in Switzerland” By Stanley Green, Jewish Business News, April 9, 2013
- Russia Profile: “VEKSELBERG, Victor Feliksovich”Archived August 24, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. retrieved August 25, 2013
- Yenikeyeff, Shamil, “BP, Russian billionaires, and the Kremlin: a Power Triangle that never was”, Oxford Energy Comment, November 23, 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-24.
- The Daily Telegraph: “BP in Russia: a timeline” October 22, 2012
- Burke, Garance; Braun, Stephen (July 5, 2018). “Sanctioned Russian oligarch linked to Cohen has vast US ties”. The Associated Press.
- Forbes, February 4, 2004: Russian Tycoon Buys Forbes Faberge Eggs
- “The World’s Most Beautiful Eggs: The Genius of Carl Faberge” BBC FOUR
- The Fabergé Museum has officially opened in the Shuvalov Palace in St. Petersburg, Official website of the Link of Times Foundation, retrieved March 6, 2015
- High Court Drama, Art News, retrieved March 6, 2015
- Russian oligarch wins £1.7m refund, www.telegraph.co.uk, retrieved March 6, 2015
- “Special counsel probing flow of Russian-American money to Trump political funds“. ABC News. September 26, 2017.
- Bloomberg: “Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center Peres Inaugurates Jewish Museum Funded by Putin, Vekselberg” By Ilya Arkhipov & Henry Meyer November 8, 2012
- Vekselberg headed the board of trustees of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center Interfax, July 18, 2013
- Вексельберг построит синагогу в Саратове Izrus, 03/02/2015 13:55
- The Guardian: “Rosneft deal makes Viktor Vekselberg Russia’s richest man” by Simon Goodley and Luke HardingOctober 23, 2012
- Кого в России считать евреем? Archived March 10, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. Александр Рогаткин, Выпуск от 31.10.2004
- May, Ruth (3 August 2017). “GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia”. Dallas News.
- “Kremlin-linked Billionaire, Netanyahu Friend Donated to Trump’s Private Legal Fund“. Haaretz. September 25, 2017.
- Strafverfahren gegen Vekselberg im Fall Sulzer. 6.4.2009
- Russian tycoon fined $38M in Switzerland, set to appeal fine. Sputnik News. 01-02-2010
- “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on June 25, 2012. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
- Hungary: detentions linked to the sale of property in Moscow. OSW. 2011-02-16
- Возбуждено уголовное дело по факту хищения при приобретении Минрегионом здания в центре Москвы. Interfax. 8 августа 2013.
- Goldman, Adam; Protess, Ben; Rashbaum, William K. (May 4, 2018). “Viktor Vekselberg, Russian Billionaire, Was Questioned by Mueller’s Investigators”. New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2018.
- “Ukraine-/Russia-related Designations and Identification Update”. United States Department of the Treasury. 2018-04-06. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
- “США ввели санкции против семи российских олигархов и 17 чиновников из “кремлевского списка”” [The US imposed sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs and 17 officials from the “Kremlin list”]. Meduza (in Russian). 2018-04-06. Retrieved 2018-04-06.