War is expensive and no one understands this better than Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin who have borne the full weight of Western sanctions as the world retaliated against Putin’s attack on Ukraine. Forbes estimated that more than 10 Russian billionaires lost their three-comma status in March when the EU, UK and US placed sanctions on Russian banks, state corporations and oligarchs. What most people don’t know are the names behind these sanctions and how heavy a blow each billionaire got. Here are 10 billionaires whose losses have been made public since the sanctions started biting.
Roman Abramovich was once the richest man in Russia thanks to the fortune he made in the giant steel company Evraz as well as Norilsk Nickel. Abramovich also made $13 billion in 2005 when he sold his stake in the oil firm Sibneft to Gazprom. Coming into 2022, Abramovich had assets worth over $14 billion. After the Canadian, EU, UK and Swiss sanctions, Forbes estimates that he is worth a meagre $9 billion with most of his assets stuck in Western banks.
He also had to sell Chelsea FC, one of his most prized assets to the American billionaire Todd Boehly for over $5 billion and doesn’t get to take any of the proceeds. He also seems to have fallen out with the Kremlin as he spoke against the invasion and promised to donate the proceeds of the Chelsea sale to a charity supporting war victims in Ukraine.
Fridman, a Russian Jewish billionaire was one of the unluckiest victims of the sanctions list. He was actually born and raised in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union before moving to Moscow where he made his fortune in the retail industry. Fridman complained that he is a personal friend to the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and that he opposed the invasion from the beginning. With his assets in London frozen, Fridman was unable to pay for a £200 ($250) visit to a doctor which prompted him to meet the CBS News correspondent Seth Doane to explain his situation. He said that the sanctions wouldn’t work and that his only crime was doing business in Russia. His net worth has since dropped to $11.8 billion as of May 2022 from $14 billion before the invasion.
Tinkov was an unlucky man even before the US, EU and the UK placed sanctions on Russian oligarchs. He was arrested in March 2020 for US federal tax evasion for which he settled with the US government for $509 million in 2021. In April 2020, he stepped down as the chairman of Tinkoff Bank, the bank he started in 2006. He said he had been diagnosed with leukaemia. His true problems came in March 2022 after Russia attacked Ukraine when he lost his billionaire status. As the stocks of Tinkoff bank plummeted from a net worth of $23 billion to just a billion in one day, Forbes estimated that Tinkov’s net worth shrank from over $5 billion to just about $800 million.
Mikhelson made news on May 13 2022 when his superyacht the Pacific stopped sending out signals while on its way to the Bahamas. It was one of the yachts expected to be seized by the US authorities after both the US and Canada placed sanctions on the billionaire. Mikhelson who owns the Russian gas giant Novatek was the second richest man in Russia by the end of 2021 with a net worth of $34 billion. He saw his wealth drop by over $10 billion when the sanctions came in reducing his wealth to $22 billion. He is still rich because many countries in Europe buy gas from Novatek but he just can’t float his yacht on the coast of any country that has a working relationship with the US, UK, Australia, Canada or the EU which is a long list.
Known as Russia’s richest self-made woman, Bakalchuk is a real entrepreneur who started her e-commerce giant Wildberries while on maternity leave. The mother of seven hit her all-time highest net worth in 2021 at $13 billion before Putin’s war saw her company’s operations banned almost everywhere in Europe. The company’s value fell by more than half and Bakalchuk’s net worth dropped to $2.1 billion as of May 2022. That made her one of the biggest losers on the billionaire list in Russia. Hers is a sad story because she is one of the few non-controversial billionaires in Russia.
Suleiman Kerimov also made news when his $300 million superyachts were seized by the police in Fiji at the request of the FBI after sailing nonstop from Mexico while trying to escape sanctions. The ship was believed to have documents that would implicate Kerimov in a scheme that laundered money through western banks. Kerimov’s Amadea yacht is large enough to hold two helicopters. The yacht capture came just a few months after the oligarch’s wealth dropped by $11.4 billion from $15.4 billion in 2021 to $4.4 in March 2022. Kerimov who made most of his wealth from the government-supported takeover of struggling companies now owns 79% of Russia’s largest gold producer Polyus.
Petr Aven is the long-term co-owner of the Alfa Bank which was accused of working closely with the Russian government since 1994. Petr Aven was even photographed with Vladimir Putin in Moscow a day before the Kremlin declared war on Ukraine in February. When the UK government declared sanctions on him in March, he found himself in trouble as he didn’t have any cash and his wife had to run around London ATMs trying to withdraw cash for their household expenses. He complained that he couldn’t afford to pay his driver and servants despite having lots of money in the bank. His wealth also shrank from $5.3 billion to about $4.3 as the sanctions started biting.
Eugene (Evgeny) Shvidler is close friends with Roman Abramovich and also owns shares in his companies Evraz Metals and Norilsk Nickel. When Abramovich was sanctioned in March of 2022, Shvidler found himself in the same boat as his big brother and with that came financial losses. Shidler was worth an estimated $1.9 billion by the time the sanctions-hit and he couldn’t afford to lose as much as his richer multibillionaire friend Abramovich. As Shvidler’s net worth plummeted to $1.3 billion, the UK government impounded his two private planes. He was left suffering worse consequences than Abramovich.
This was one of the worst-hit Russian oligarchs by the sanctions as he lost nearly half of his net worth in 2022. He is a close confidant of Vladimir Putin’s, a relationship that earned him a huge stake in the gas giant Novatek and the petrochemical company Sibur Holding. He also started the investment firm Volga group. The US sanctioned Timchenko in 2014 and extended the sanctions to his wife and daughter in 2022. The EU and the UK sanctioned him after the invasion of Ukraine as well. He lost $11 billion from his net worth seeing it nose dive from $22 billion in 2021 to $11.3 in 2022 after the invasion. Italian authorities also seized his superyacht named “Lena” in March 2022.
The US wasn’t so quick to sanction Mordashov which helped tame the bleeding for his empire which was losing value very fast after EU and UK sanctions set in. He has his superyacht seized by the Italian authorities followed by his $116 million building complex on the island of Sardinia. He immediately moved to move a $1.1 billion stake in the mining company Nordgold to his wife to save it from being seized. Mordashov was estimated to be the richest Russian at the end of 2021 with a net worth of $29 billion. His wealth shrank by $5.6 billion after the invasion as sanctions were imposed on him making him one of the biggest losers on the billionaire list.