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Oleg Deripaska (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Oleg Deripaska (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

The Lunch

At home with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska Add to ...

Iask what motivates him and I get elliptical responses. As far as I can make out, he considers himself a Russian patriot who wants to combine the best of the old Soviet Union - superb science and engineering training, infrastructure development, pride of country - with modern capitalism to drag Russia into a new industrial age.

"We are not investors," he says. "We run businesses. I am living here, of course and I care. I know we have a unique opportunity for my [country]to be developed."

The implication is that he doesn't want to be like the oligarchs who invest in portfolios of companies, as if they were buying mutual funds, or taking their fortunes overseas to load up on trophy assets. He will even criticize the men who made huge profits from the "loans-for-shares" scheme in the 1990s, when the cash-strapped government traded equity in state-owned enterprises, from telecommunications to energy, for loans. A small group of Russians got exceedingly rich by taking control of valuable - though epically mismanaged - companies on the cheap (Mr. Deripaska was not involved in the loans-for-shares).

The problem is that some of the industrialists, he says, "did not fulfill their promises" to reinvest back into Russia. Mr. Deripaska, the stay-at-home industrialist (minus the occasional yacht tour) considers Russia an obligatory market, as well as one that can earn him billions as he fixes up the decrepit economy.

At one in the morning, Mr. Deripaska has work to do and escorts me to the door. He says goodbye. I expect him to reach for his BlackBerry or phone. Instead Leo comes thundering into the foyer and I watch through the window as the unshaven billionaire laughs as he plays with his pet.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story that appeared online and in Saturday's newspaper incorrectly stated that Britain's Chelsea football club paid £50-billion ($79-billion) for Spanish striker Fernando Torres. The correct figure is £50-million ($79-million).




- born Jan. 2, 1968, in Dzerzhinsk, and grew up in Krasnodar, a Cossack village in southern Russia

- raised by grandparents after his widowed mother had to move away to find a job

- told the Financial Times his mother, an engineer, helped him get his first job when he was 12, doing "electrical work" at her factory during the summer

- once drafted into Soviet army, spends two years in the Strategic Missile Forces

- graduates from Moscow State University with degree in physics in 1993. In 1996, a master's degree from Plekhanov Academy of Economics.

Career highlights

- becomes metals trader and in 1994 purchases a 20-per-cent stake in Sayanagorsk Aluminium Smelter in Siberia; later the smelter's director general

- establishes Sibirsky Aluminum Group and serves as its president in 1997.

- company renamed Basic Element in 2001; serves as chairman of supervisory board until 2009, when he becomes chief executive officer.

- serves as director general of Russian Aluminium (Rusal) 2000 to 2003

- Rusal, the Sual Group and alumina assets of Glencore International AG merge and become United Company Rusal in 2007; appointed CEO in 2009.

- Forbes magazine names him Russia's richest citizen in 2008

Business commitments

- Basic Element is a Russian investment company with holdings in sectors spanning energy, manufacturing, financial services, construction and aviation, among others.

- its more than 100 companies include such notable names as Rusal, Gaz Group, Transstroy and Ingosstrakh.

- Basic Element has assets in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, South America and the Caribbean.

Family life

- marries Polina Yumashev in 2001; they have two children.

- wife is daughter of a chief of staff to former Russian president Boris Yeltsin.

- is also Yeltsin's grandson by marriage as his father-in-law is to married Mr. Yeltsin's daughter.

Political connections

- wins the Order of Friendship from the Russian Federation in 1999.

- former Russian president Vladimir Putin appoints him to represent the Russian Federation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Advisory Council in 2004

Recent setbacks

- global financial crisis hurts his business interests; forced to give up his $1.5-billion (U.S.) stake in Canadian auto parts maker Magna International after a margin call by a group of banks led by Paris-based BNP Paribas.

- also gave up a $500-million stake in Hochtief, Germany's biggest construction company and another stake in Austrian construction company Strabag. (He has since repurchased an interest in Strabag.)

- crisis also put a serious dent in his personal fortune. His net worth fell to an estimated $11-billion from about $28-billion prior to the crisis, according to Forbes.

Rita Trichur

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