Early Life and Education
Mikhail Gutseriev was born on March 9, 1958, in Akmolinsk, Kazakhstan. His family, originally from Chechnya, had been displaced during World War II. At the age of three, they were able to return to their homeland in Grozny. Despite facing financial challenges in a large family, Gutseriev’s upbringing instilled pride in his Ingush heritage.
In his early years at Grozny, he was involved in attending school No. 23, where he also pursued music studies, mastering the violin and piano. Even in his youth, Gutseriev displayed an entrepreneurial spirit, co-founding a postcard-making venture at the age of 13. However, during hostilities in Grozny, his school was bombed, prompting him to restore it in 2005 and later fully.
After completing his secondary education in 1975, Gutseriev worked as a loader. Subsequently, he moved to Dzhambul, becoming an evening student at the local technological institute while working at a garment factory. His diligence led to quick promotions, eventually becoming a shop foreman.
Early Career and Entrepreneurship
Upon receiving his diploma in Technology of Fur and Leather in 1982, Gutseriev returned to Grozny and secured a position at the Grozny Production Association of the Ministry of Local Industry of the RSFSR as a process engineer. Remarkably, within four years, he ascended to the role of general director, becoming the youngest to hold such a position in the USSR.
In 1988, Gutseriev initiated his first entrepreneurial endeavour, establishing the Chiital joint venture, a furniture manufacturing enterprise. Simultaneously, he founded one of the first cooperative banks in the USSR, Kavkaz. With the onset of political changes, he moved to Moscow, creating the BIN corporation, encompassing industrial, financial, and trade organizations.
Political Careers and Public Services
In 1995, Gutseriev shifted his focus to politics, representing the LDPR party in the State Duma. Known for his integrity, he coordinated committee activities and became deputy chairman of the faction. His concerns about the Chechen conflict demonstrated his engagement with broader political issues.
However, Gutseriev’s political career was short-lived as he resigned from the State Duma in January 2000 after being appointed president of Slavneft Joint Stock Company.
Philanthropy in Chechnya
Mikhail Gutseriev played a key role in helping the Russian special services release a large number of hostages kidnapped in the North Caucasus by various criminal groups between 1996 and 2006.
He was also elected Chairman of the Businessmen Association of Checheno-Ingush ASSR in 1991. In 2007, he left Russia following his unsuccessful attempts to fend off Russian investigators who accused him of tax evasion. In 2023, the school in Chechnya, which was destroyed during the First Chechen War, was rebuilt with Gutseriev’s financial support.
Gutseriev’s impact extends beyond business, notably through the SAFMAR Charitable Foundation. Over a decade, the foundation donated over 12 billion rubles to diverse projects, including education, medicine, culture, and sports. He actively supports the restoration and construction of religious sites and serves on the board of trustees for institutions like the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center.
Presidency at Slavneft Joint Stock Company
Mikhail Gutseriev served as the President of Slavneft Joint Stock Company from January 2000 to July 2002.
During his tenure, he played a crucial role in the company’s management. In 2002, the stocks of Slavneft were sold to the Sibneft Consortium (now Gazpromneft) and Tyumen Oil Company for US$1.86 billion, and Gutseriev established and became the head of OJSC NK “RussNeft.”
Slavneft was a Russian and Belarusian state oil and gas company, and Gutseriev’s leadership marked a crucial phase in his career, leading to the founding of RussNeft.
Entry into the Oil Business
In 2000, Gutseriev entered the oil sector, taking the helm at Slavneft and later founding his own oil company, Russneft. Despite initial scepticism, he transformed RussNeft into a major player through strategic acquisitions and business growth.
Slavneft: Brief overview and history
On August 26, 1994, SLAVNEFT established itself as an oil and gas company under the RF Government Ordinance No.305 dated April 8, 1994, and Regulation of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus (RB) No.589-р dated June 15, 1994. The key founders of SLAVNEFT were the State Property Committee of the Russian Federation, the State Property Ministry of the Republic of Belarus, and approximately 4,000 individuals.
The company is among the top ten oil producers in Russia and has a vertically integrated structure that covers the full operational cycle from exploration and hydrocarbon production to refining. It holds licenses for exploration, oil, and gas production in 36 licensed areas located in West Siberia and East Siberia.
The company’s refining complex consists of two large enterprises: Slavneft-Yanos PJSC (Yaroslavl region, Russian Federation) and Slavneft-Megionneftegaz, which is based in Megion, Russia. SLAVNEFT’s current key objectives include further upgrading the process units, restructuring the business, and creating an effective interaction model for the holding enterprises.
The history of SLAVNEFT dates back to 1994 when it was established as a result of a joint effort between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus.
Over the years, the company has grown to become one of the leading oil and gas producers in Russia, with a strong focus on exploration, production, and refining. Its strategic objectives include the sustainable and balanced development of its oil production and refining assets, as well as the optimization of its operational expenses.
Russneft is a Russian oil company that was founded in 2002 by Mikhail Gutseriev, a Russian businessperson and philanthropist, with support from the Swiss company Glencore.
It is a member of SAFMAR Industrial and Financial Group. Russneft focuses on the upstream segment of the oil industry, with over 120 oil and gas fields in its portfolio. The company’s oil reserves were estimated at 600 billion tons.
Russneft purchased oil processing and distribution plants in the Orenburg Oblast and Krasnodar Krai regions in 2006, becoming a vertically integrated oil company. The company has over 10,000 employees.
In 2022, Glencore sold out of Russneft, capping two decades of investments that saw the Swiss commodities firm trade millions of barrels of the Russian group’s oil.
Mikhail Gutseriev’s Journey from Slavneft to Russneft
- Privatization of Slavneft: When Slavneft was privatized, Gutseriev ended up owning some of its assets, which formed the foundation of his oil company, Russneft.
- Building Russneft: Gutseriev built the firm with help from Swiss commodities giant Glencore, which lent him billions in exchange for a minority stake in Russell’s subsidiaries and the right to export its crude. He also received loans from Sberbank.
- Tax evasion allegations: In 2006, Gutseriev’s company was accused of tax evasion, and he was forced to sell Russneft at a fraction of his estimates for its value. He fled to London when criminal charges were brought against him over the alleged tax evasion.
- Return to Russia: Gutseriev was allowed to return to Russia in 2010 and even fully regained control of Russneft. He has always denied any wrongdoing.
- Political considerations: Gutseriev’s refusal to sell Russneft to a state company for billions in 2006 and his financing of opposition to Ingush president Murat Zyazikov were reportedly reasons for pressure on him from the Kremlin.
Safmar Group details
Safmar Group is a Russian conglomerate with diverse business interests spanning heavy industry, oil and gas production, and retail. It was founded in 2015 by Mikhail Gutseriev, currently Chairman of the Group’s Board of Directors.
- Business Sectors: The group operates in multiple sectors, including heavy industry, oil, coal, financial services, construction, development, property, media, and retail. This diversified portfolio contributes to its robust presence in the market.
- Key Assets: Safmar Group holds significant assets, with major stakes in key entities such as PJSC “RussNeft,” an oil-producing holding, and Kuzbasskaya Toplivnaya Company PJSC, emphasizing its substantial role in the oil and gas sector.
- Founder and Leadership: Mikhail Gutseriev, the founder and main shareholder, plays a pivotal role in shaping the conglomerate’s development strategy as the Chairman of the Board of Directors. His influence underscores the cohesive direction of Safmar Group’s business endeavours.
- Financial Overview: As of 2023, Safmar Group reported substantial revenue ranging between .4 billion and billion, highlighting its significant economic impact and presence in the global business landscape.
- Sanctions and Controversies: Despite its business success, Safmar Group has faced international sanctions from the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Switzerland, and Australia. These sanctions are attributed to the conglomerate’s connections with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, reflecting the geopolitical challenges and controversies associated with its operations.
Mikhail Gutseriev, a Russian billionaire of Ingush descent, has a prominent family with a notable presence in business and entrepreneurship. He is married and has two sons and a daughter. Unfortunately, his elder son, Chingiz, passed away in 2007. His surviving son, Said, follows in his father’s footsteps as a businessperson.
Mikhail Gutseriev has been married three times and has two daughters from his previous marriages. The family is recognized for their significant contributions to the business world, with a particular focus on Said, who is a Russian-British businessperson based in the UK.
Wealth and Recognition
Mikhail Gutseriev consistently features on Forbes’ list of the wealthiest Russians. In 2016, his fortune was estimated at $5.9 billion, securing his position among the top 200 entrepreneurs in Russia.
Continued Ventures and Cultural Pursuits
Gutseriev’s business interests expand beyond oil, encompassing real estate, retail giants like M.Video and Eldorado, and international holdings such as GCM Global Energy Inc. His involvement in cultural pursuits, including songwriting, led to a grand concert at the State Kremlin Palace in 2018, showcasing performances by renowned artists.
Mikhail Gutseriev’s Net Worth
|Net Worth (in billions)
In 2007, Gutseriev faced accusations of tax evasion, prompting him to relocate to England. During his time abroad, he diversified his interests, notably acquiring radio stations through Krutoy Media Holding.
Kremlin Accuses Former Oil Tycoon Mikhail Gutseriyev of Tax Fraud
Mikhail Gutseriyev, the head of Rusneft, was embroiled in a heated controversy as the Kremlin levelled accusations of tax fraud against him. A Moscow court issued an arrest warrant after Gutseriyev’s resignation, during which he decried what he termed “unprecedented bullying” by the government.
The billionaire businessman, who fell out of favour with Vladimir Putin, contended that the Kremlin orchestrated his departure from Rusneft through purportedly fabricated tax claims. The dispute traces its roots to Gutseriyev’s acquisition of assets from the bankrupt oil firm Yukos.
In response to these allegations, Moscow’s Tverskoy district court issued a warrant for Gutseriyev’s arrest, placing him on its wanted list. The development followed closely on the heels of the enigmatic demise of Gutseriyev’s son, Chingiskhan Gutseriyev, who was educated in Britain.
Gutseriyev’s accusations echo the tactics witnessed in the infamous Yukos affair, which culminated in the imprisonment of former Yukos Oil chairman Mikhail Khodorkovsky on charges of tax evasion and fraud.
As one of Russia’s most prosperous Muslim businessmen, boasting an estimated fortune of $3 billion, the former president of Rusneft now faces asset freezes and allegations of owing $800 million in taxes. Gutseriyev asserts that government pressure coerced him into selling his firm to Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire tycoon with close ties to Putin.
As legal proceedings unfolded, many observers drew parallels between Gutseriyev’s case and the Yukos affair, raising concerns about governmental interference in Russia’s oil and gas industry. The recent Swiss court determination that the Yukos case was “political” lends weight to suspicions that legal proceedings are being manipulated to control affluent oligarchs and sideline potential political adversaries.
Gutseriev returned to Russia after being acquitted in 2010. Three years later, he regained sole ownership of RussNeft. Over time, his business empire expanded to include companies such as “RussNeft,” “Neftisa,” “Russian Coal,” GC “A101,” and extensive commercial real estate holdings.
Sanctions on Mikhail Gutseriev
Mykhailo Gutseriev, mainly through various companies, holds a majority stake of (99%) in the media company “RU FM” LLC, possessing a broadcasting license granted by Roskomnadzor. It’s worth noting that such licenses are typically awarded to media outlets aligned with the Putin regime in Russia.
These outlets often disseminate narratives in line with Kremlin propaganda, justifying Russian military actions and downplaying the severity of the situation in Ukraine, including civilian casualties. Gutseriev’s involvement showcases support for policies that challenge Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence.
|Place of sanctions
Mikhail Gutseriev, born in 1958 in Kazakhstan, overcame early challenges and displayed an entrepreneurial spirit from a young age. His career began in the technology and garment industries, leading to rapid promotions. In 1988, he entered entrepreneurship, founding Chiital and a cooperative bank. Gutseriev briefly entered politics, representing the LDPR party, but resigned in 2000 to lead Slavneft.
He played a crucial role in its management until its sale in 2002, after which he founded RussNeft. Facing tax evasion accusations, he sold RussNeft, fled to London, but returned in 2010, regaining control. Gutseriev’s Safmar Group spans the industry, facing international sanctions. His family, marked by tragedy, remains influential. Forbes consistently lists him among Russia’s wealthiest. Legal challenges, including tax fraud accusations, characterized his career, with Gutseriev returning and expanding his business empire.