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Founders of online retailer Wildberries take lead in Russia's rich list, beating out politically connected tycoons & ex-oligarchs

Founders of online retailer Wildberries take lead in Russia's rich list, beating out politically connected tycoons & ex-oligarchs
Teacher-turned-CEO Tatiana Bakalchuk and her husband Vladislav are now firmly leading the pack of connected business tycoons and glitzy socialites in the newest edition of Forbes' rankings of Russia's most well-off families.

The league table, which was updated on Monday, places the duo above the family of Andrei Guryev, an agriculture billionaire who worked for disgraced ex-oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and the relatives of Arkady Rotenberg, a gas and electricity tycoon currently on a US blacklist. The couple is understood to have a combined fortune of $13.1 billion.

Bakalchuk's financial success is chalked up to the explosive growth of her company Wildberries, Russia's largest online retailer. She started the business while on maternity leave back in 2004, saying there was room for a company working to simplify shopping for mothers of newborns.

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While the couple have repeatedly said Wildberries is a family company, Bakalchuk gave her husband 1% of the business late last year, putting them on Forbes' radar for the list. This year marks the pair's debut for the ranking, on which they instantly took the number one spot.

Wildberries' website traffic is said to exceed two million visitors each day. A spike in online transactions over the course of the coronavirus pandemic meant the e-commerce site has shot the Bakalchuks to immense financial success, increasing their fortune by 1,200% since 2019.

However, left in the dust by the wealth shift is a litany of other affluent families or former associates of uber-wealthy businessmen and relatives of influential politicians. Aside from the Bakalchuks, Guyryevs and Rotenbergs, the top five also includes the Gutsiriev family, who own the $3.7 billion SAMFAR oil, coal and potash conglomerate; and the Yevtushenkovs, who control the $3.2 billion AFC Sistema telecommunication empire.

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Also named on the list are the sons of a former president of Russia's Tatarstan region, Radik and Airat Shaimiev ($3 billion); the Rakhimkulovs (Kafijat Investment Company, $1.95 billion); the Bazhaevs (Alliance Holding, $1.7 billion); and the Sarkisovs (RESO Group, $1.65 billion).

Earlier this month, Tatyana Bakalchuk was named by Forbes as Russia's wealthiest woman, surpassing Elena Baturina, the ex-president of Inteco Management, as well as Lidiya Mikhailova, the general director of Russian meat producer Cherkizovo.

However, despite the growth in Wildberries' sales, recent estimates put its share of the Russian e-commerce market at just 14%, compared to Amazon's 40% dominant position in the US.

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