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17 Feb, 2009 09:16

Russia’s most eligible bachelor rises above crisis

While the economic crisis causes havoc among Russia’s super rich, there’s one man who has bucked the trend. Mikhail Prokhorov has risen to the top of the wealthy list with a multi-billion dollar fortune.

The global financial crisis has sunk many billionaires’ fortunes, but not the man many call ‘Russia’s Warren Buffet’. But this is a Warren Buffet who can jet-ski, and make billions of dollars at the same time.


Mikhail Prokhorov once said: “You’re not a billionaire if you are able to tell how much money you have.” Well, maybe he didn’t count it, but the Russian magazine ‘Finance’ claims it has. They’ve put him on top of Russia's rich-list, estimating him to be worth US$ 14.1 billion.

He successfully sold his largest asset in the Russian mining company Norilsk Nickel in spring last year, before the crisis struck. Now he has got a lot of cash at a time when many of his fellow billionaires are in debt.

Good timing perhaps, but did he sense the crisis coming or not? The chief-editor of ‘Finance’ magazine Oleg Anisimov says it has more to do with luck than financial genius.

But it was under Prokhorov's guidance that the world's biggest nickel miner increased its worth fifteen-fold in just seven years.

Last year he sold his 25 per cent share in the company to metals mogul Oleg Deripaska, the man he’s now replaced at the top of the rich-list. Before the global financial crisis struck, Deripaska was worth an estimated US$ 40 billion. The magazine claims that Deripaska's fortune has since shrunk to an eighth of this.

According to ‘Finance’, the crisis has hit Russian billionaires so hard that their number has halved in just a year. They are not quite an endangered species, but there are only 49 left.

Big game – over?

Prokhorov who is in pole position on the rich-list is also a handsome bachelor whose money has made him possibly Russia’s most eligible one, too. While his financial success is well-known, his private life is shrouded in secrecy.

Socialite and society columnist Bozhena Rynska says many women would like to say he was theirs, but they have given up the chase.

“No one is hunting for him any more,” Rynska said. “No one in society circles has ever heard about him having an affair with someone. All we know is that he likes the company of young beautiful models.”


Prokhorov was furious when he was dragged into the so-called Courchevel scandal. Two years ago he was detained with a group of his friends by French police who were investigating an alleged international prostitution ring at the Alpine ski resort.

However, Prokhorov was not charged or found to be connected in any way to anything illegal. French prosecutors never came up with any charges, and Prokhorov is still waiting for apologies from the French authorities.

Back home Prokhorov is also known for investments which help others along the way, as well as ploughing money into sports and charity projects. He is also investing heavily in cutting-edge technologies, which are seen as key to Russia’s scientific future. So it looks as if it is for these, and not the gossip about his private life, that Russia’s richest man would prefer to be known.