Russian Oligarchs

Alexander Ponomarenko: Biography, Net Worth and Real Estate Ventures

Early Life and Education

Alexander Ponomarenko was born on October 27, 1964, in Crimea, Belogorsk City, Soviet Ukraine. In the late 1980s, he achieved recognition as the junior boxing champion of Ukraine. Ponomarenko pursued higher education, earning a bachelor’s degree from Simferopol State University and later obtaining a master’s degree from the Russian State Academy of Management. His early career also saw him serve in airborne divisions of the armed forces from 1983 to 1985.

Entrepreneurial Ventures with Aleksandr Skorobogatko

Life of Alexander Ponomarenko
Life of Alexander Ponomarenko

In the late 1980s, Alexander Ponomarenko, in partnership with fellow billionaire Aleksandr Skorobogatko, founded an enterprise in Crimea focusing on perfume products and building materials. The duo later moved to Moscow, establishing the Russian General Bank in 1996. Following the financial crisis in 1998, they strategically invested in cargo companies, eventually forming Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port (NCSP), which became Russia’s largest seaport.

Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port

Novorossiysk Sea Port
Novorossiysk Sea Port

Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port (NCSP Group) stands as a major player in European and Russian port operations, claiming the title of the largest commercial seaport operator in Russia. The company oversees the bustling Port of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea, along with the Baltic ports of Primorsk and Baltiysk. In 2019, NCSP Group managed a substantial cargo turnover of 142.5 million tons, securing a noteworthy 17% market share of the total cargo turnover at Russian seaports.

The company’s repertoire includes stevedoring services for diverse cargo types like oil and oil products, liquid cargo, dry bulk cargo, and general cargo. Additionally, NCSP Group extends its services to tug, towing, and mooring operations, as well as emergency and hazardous materials response and waste management services at the Port of Novorossiysk.

The Port of Novorossiysk, nestled on the Black Sea coast in Tsemes Bay, stands out as one of the largest in the region and takes the lead in Krasnodar Krai. Boasting an impressive berthing line stretching 8.3 km, it holds the record as the longest among all Russian ports. It serves as the final stop for key international transportation routes, including the Trans-Siberian Railway, TRACECA, North-South International Transport Corridor, and Pan-European International Transport Corridor No. 9. While the port predominantly handles crude oil, it also efficiently manages dry cargo such as metals, cement, sugar, grain, and containers.

As a public company (OAO), Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port reported total assets of $2.2 billion and total equity of $1.65 billion in 2019. Notably headquartered in Novoport Holdings Ltd., Russia, the majority shareholder holding a 50.1% stake is Novoport Holdings Ltd. Leading the helm is Alexander Anatolievich Ponomarenko, who serves as the company’s chairman.

Brief about the partnership between Alexander Ponomarenko and Aleksandr Skorobogatko

Business Partnership
Business Partnership

Aleksandr Ivanovich Skorobogatko stands as a prominent Ukrainian-Russian billionaire entrepreneur, amassing his wealth through strategic investments in Russian shipping ports, airports, and the financial markets. Notably, he played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Russian General Bank of Moscow alongside his esteemed business partner, Alexander Ponomarenko.

The collaborative efforts of Skorobogatko and Ponomarenko extend beyond the financial sector, dating back to the late 1980s when they ventured into diverse business domains. This included the inception of a perfume manufacturing company and a construction material enterprise in Crimea. Their joint endeavours reflect a longstanding partnership marked by innovation and business acumen.

Skorobogatko, a family man, is married and blessed with three children. His residence is situated in the vibrant city of Moscow, where he continues to navigate the intricate landscape of entrepreneurship, leaving an indelible mark on the Russian business scene.

Leadership at NCSP and IPO

In 2004, Alexander Ponomarenko assumed the role of Chairman of NCSP, which, in 2007, went public with an initial offering on the London Stock Exchange, listing 19.3% of equity for US$955 million. In 2011, the majority stake of NCSP was sold to Summa Capital and Transneft for US$2.5 billion. The proceeds were used to establish TPS Real Estate, focusing on shopping and entertainment complexes.

TPS Real Estate and Airport Development

The trust formed by Ponomarenko and Skorobogatko invested funds from the NCSP sale in TPS Real Estate, creating shopping and entertainment complexes across major Russian cities. In 2013, they established TPS Avia Holding to invest in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport’s infrastructure. Ponomarenko joined the Board of Directors in 2015 and later became Chairman in 2016. TPS Avia secured a 68% stake in Sheremetyevo Airport, committing to invest US$840 million for upgrades.

TPS Real Estate Holdings

TPS Real Estate
TPS Real Estate

Following the sale of shares in NCSP, a trust was established to serve the interests of the Ponomarenko and Skorobogatko families. This led to the creation of TPS Real Estate Holding, boasting an authorized capital of $1.5 billion dedicated to investing in the development of shopping centres. Despite a crowded market, TPS Real Estate swiftly identified and secured a significant niche. Alexander Ponomarenko assumed the role of Chairman of the Board of Directors for TPS Nedvizhimost, a subsidiary of TPS RE, focusing on constructing and operating large shopping and entertainment centres.

In an interview, Ponomarenko highlighted the company’s ambitious goal of erecting shopping malls in the heart of major, investment-worthy cities. Acknowledging the challenges posed by intense competition, he expressed confidence in the enterprise’s success. This confidence was well-founded, as the company currently oversees 700 thousand square meters of commercial real estate. Notable among these are:

  • Gallery Krasnodar shopping and entertainment centre in Krasnodar, covering 145 thousand square meters.
  • More mall shopping and entertainment centres in Sochi, spanning 169 thousand square meters.
  • Gallery Novosibirsk shopping and entertainment centre in Novosibirsk, encompassing 134 thousand square meters.
  • Khorosho! shopping and entertainment centre in Moscow, with an area of 114 thousand square meters.
  • Oceania shopping and entertainment centre in Moscow, extending over 130 thousand square meters.

It’s worth noting that Arkady Rotenberg initially held a 33% share in the real estate development business but withdrew in 2014.

Personal Investments and “Putin’s Palace”

In 2011, Alexander Ponomarenko purchased a controversial property known as “Putin’s Palace” allegedly constructed for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s private benefit. He indicated plans to transform it into a hotel complex but reportedly withdrew from the project in 2016.

Banking Ventures

Russian General Bank

In the early 1990s, Alexander Ponomarenko ventured into banking, co-owning Yalosbank and later founding the Russian General Bank. He served as Vice-President of Nikoil Bank from 1998 and chaired the board of directors of JSCB Russian General Bank from 2000 to 2005. The consolidation of retail banks resulted in the creation of Investsberbank, acquired by the Hungarian OTP Bank in 2006.

Stevedoring Business and NCSP Leadership

Since 1998, Ponomarenko and Skorobogatko invested in Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port (NCSP) and related stevedoring companies. Ponomarenko’s leadership from 2004 to 2011 saw substantial investments in port infrastructure, modernization, and expansion, significantly increasing cargo turnover.

Outdoor Advertising Ventures

In 2003, Alexander Ponomarenko, along with Vladimir Yevtushenkov, was a major beneficiary of the outdoor advertising agency Olympus, securing lucrative contracts with the Moscow government. The agency’s revenue and market share grew significantly during this period.

Real Estate Development

The discretionary trust, funded by the NCSP sale, invested in shopping and entertainment complexes through TPS Real Estate. Notable assets include “Gallery Krasnodar,” “Gallery Novosibirsk,” and “Oceania” in Moscow.

Sheremetyevo Airport Development

In 2013, Alexander Ponomarenko and partners established TPS Avia Holding to invest in Sheremetyevo Airport’s infrastructure. The holding secured a 68.44% stake in Sheremetyevo Airport in 2016, with Ponomarenko serving as chairman of the Board of Directors.

Exit from Sheremetyevo Airport and Current Status

On March 1, 2022, Alexander Ponomarenko resigned as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sheremetyevo Airport due to EU sanctions.

Brief details of Sheremetyevo International Airport

Sheremetyevo International Airport stands as the largest airport in Russia, a key player in Moscow’s bustling aviation landscape alongside Domodedovo International Airport and Vnukovo International Airport. Nestled 29 km northwest of Moscow, Sheremetyevo boasts an impressive quartet of terminals—Terminal C, Terminal D, Terminal E, and Terminal F. Its pivotal role is underscored by its status as a central hub for the passenger operations of Russia’s flagship international airline, Aeroflot.

The financial tapestry of Sheremetyevo weaves a tale of prosperity, with reported revenues in 2018 soaring to €194.9 million, signifying a commendable 6% surge from the preceding year. This robust financial performance aligns with the airport’s elevated stature, further accentuated by its designation as the official airport for the prestigious 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The roots of Sheremetyevo trace back to 1991, a pivotal year that saw the dissolution of the Soviet Union. During this transformative period, Sheremetyevo attained legal status as a state-owned enterprise, solidifying its place in the annals of the region’s aviation history. This institutional evolution underscores the airport’s enduring legacy, reflecting its resilience and adaptability to the dynamic landscape of air travel.

Timeline of the career of Alexander Ponomarenko

YearEvent
1964Alexander Ponomarenko was born on October 27 in Crimea, Belogorsk City, Soviet Ukraine.
1983-1985He served in airborne divisions of the armed forces.
Late 1980sHe achieved recognition as the junior boxing champion of Ukraine.
Late 1980sHe co-founded an enterprise in Crimea with Aleksandr Skorobogatko, focusing on perfume products and building materials.
1996He established the Russian General Bank in Moscow with Aleksandr Skorobogatko.
1998After the financial crisis, he strategically invested in cargo companies and formed Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port (NCSP).
2004He assumed the role of Chairman of NCSP.
2007NCSP went public on the London Stock Exchange, listing 19.3% of equity for US$955 million.
2011The majority stake of NCSP was sold to Summa Capital and Transneft for US$2.5 billion. Proceeds were used to establish TPS Real Estate.
2013He established TPS Avia Holding to invest in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport.
2015He joined the Board of Directors of TPS Avia Holding.
2016He became Chairman of the Board of TPS Avia Holding.
2011He purchased the “Putin’s Palace” property and planned to transform it into a hotel complex.
2016He reportedly withdrew from the “Putin’s Palace” project.
Early 1990sHe ventured into banking, co-owning Yalosbank and later founding the Russian General Bank.
1998-2006He invested in Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port (NCSP) and related stevedoring companies.
2000-2005He chaired the board of directors of JSCB Russian General Bank.

Alexander Ponomarenko’s Net Worth

Wealth of Alexander
Wealth of Alexander

According to Forbes, as of August 2022, Alexander Ponomarenko’s net worth is estimated to be around $3.3 billion. According to another source, his net worth is estimated to be $3.3 billion as of June 1, 2023.

YearNet Worth (in Billions)
20142.3 Billion
20152.4 Billion
20162.3 Billion
20173 Billion
20183.4 Billion
20193.2 Billion
20203.3 Billion
20212.9 Billion
20221.9 Billion
20232.6 Billion

Sanctions and Citizenship Controversy

In 2017, it was reported that Ponomarenko acquired Cypriot citizenship in 2016 through a “golden visa” scheme. Despite his contributions to the business landscape, Ponomarenko faced sanctions from the EU, the U.K. in March 2022, and the U.S. in August 2022.

Sanctions on Alexander Ponomarenko

European Union Sanctions and UK Sanctions

In March 2022, the European Union and the United Kingdom jointly imposed sanctions on Alexander Anatolyevich Ponomarenko. These measures were implemented due to his close affiliations with affluent individuals associated with Vladimir Putin and Sergey Aksyonov, the leader of the self-proclaimed “Republic of Crimea.”

Ponomarenko, personally financing the construction of an opulent palace complex near Gelendzhik, has drawn attention for its reported use by President Putin. Furthermore, he holds a substantial stake in a company that possesses almost 70% ownership of Sheremetyevo International Airport, while the Russian State maintains the remaining share.

His involvement in the airport extends beyond ownership, as Ponomarenko plays a pivotal role in its management. Notably, he has been actively providing both material and financial support to Russian decision-makers connected to the annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of Ukraine.

These sanctions signal a concerted effort by the EU and the UK to address the role of influential individuals like Ponomarenko in activities that undermine regional stability and international norms. The measures underscore a commitment to holding accountable those contributing to actions perceived as detrimental to the principles of sovereignty and peaceful coexistence.

Details of sanctions on Alexander Ponomarenko

Place of SanctionsDates
European Union14/09/2022
United Kingdom14/06/2022
USA02/08/2022
Canada19/04/2022
Switzerland04/03/2022
Australia14/03/2022
Japan27/01/2023
Ukraine19/10/2022
New Zealand05/04/2022

Controversies

The Controversial Rise of Alexander Ponomarenko

Prominent rise of Alexander
Prominent rise of Alexander

Alexander Ponomarenko and his business partner, Alexander Skorobogatko, started their journey as athletes and members of the infamous Crimean Salem gang in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Journalist Konstantin Chernetsov detailed their involvement in his book, “The Gangsters’ Crimea,” noting that this gang, allegedly controlled by the local KGB, engaged in various criminal activities on the peninsula. Notably, some politicians and businessmen, including the head of the occupation administration of Crimea, Sergei Aksenov (nicknamed Goblin), emerged from this group. Ponomarenko, a former boxer, was known by the nickname “Ponomar” (Sexton).

Upon their arrival in Moscow and assuming leadership roles at Yalosbank, more than two trillion rubles from depositors mysteriously disappeared. Moscow Mayor Luzhkov called for criminal proceedings for fraud, but Ponomarenko and Skorobogatko managed to evade justice. The fate of the bank’s founders took a grim turn: Babek Seruf was poisoned, Alexander Goltsov was shot dead in Moscow, and Roman Frumson was found dead in a villa in Spain. Investigations into these killings have reached a stalemate.

Ponomarenko and Skorobogatko had a close partnership with Arkady Rotenberg, one of Vladimir Putin’s closest associates. They accumulated over $2 billion through transactions with the Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port. In 2011, Ponomarenko acquired a hotel complex near Gelendzhik, known as Putin’s Palace. Businessman Sergei Kolesnikov, who alleged that the luxury construction was intended for Putin’s personal use, argued that reselling the property wouldn’t change its purpose.

Ponomarenko is part of the same circle as members of the Lake Cooperative and shareholders of Rossiya Bank, constituting Putin’s inner circle. The proximity to Russia’s ruling elite is not surprising, as the conglomerate of Chekists, criminals, corrupt officials, and oligarchs appears to be a unified power organism in Putin’s Russia. In this framework, the country, its resources, and the population serve as sources of income and self-satisfaction for this influential group.

Summary

Alexander Ponomarenko, born in 1964 in Crimea, achieved recognition as a junior boxing champion before pursuing higher education and serving in the armed forces. In the late 1980s, he partnered with Aleksandr Skorobogatko, founding enterprises in Crimea and later establishing the Russian General Bank in Moscow. Their strategic investments in cargo companies led to the formation of Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port (NCSP), becoming Russia’s largest seaport operator.

Ponomarenko’s leadership at NCSP resulted in substantial cargo turnover, and the company went public in 2007. The majority stake was later sold, funding the creation of TPS Real Estate and investment in Sheremetyevo Airport. Ponomarenko’s net worth is estimated at $3.3 billion. However, he faced sanctions in 2022 for his close affiliations with individuals linked to Putin and alleged involvement in activities undermining regional stability.

Alexander Harris

Alexander Harris began his career as a journalist. He is one of the founders of the " Russian Oligarchs Tracker Unit ".

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