Russian Oligarchs

Mikhail Prokhorov: Biography of Russian Oligarch and Politician

Childhood and Early Years

Mikhail Prokhorov was born in Moscow on May 3, 1965, to Dmitry Ionovich Prokhorov, the head of the International Relations Department of the USSR State Committee for Sports, and Tamara Mikhailovna Kumaritova, who worked in the polymer department of the Moscow Institute of Chemical Engineering. He is the second child in the family, with his sister Irina becoming a well-known literary critic and magazine publisher.

Growing up in an ordinary high-rise building in northeast Moscow, Prokhorov, nicknamed “giraffe” due to his height, attended English special school No. 21. Despite the family’s financial stability, he maintained a strong work ethic, excelling academically and participating in sports.

After completing school with a gold medal, Prokhorov entered the Moscow Financial Institute in 1982. However, his studies were interrupted when he was drafted into the army for missile force duty. Despite the interruption, Prokhorov returned to complete his studies at the Faculty of International Economic Relations of the IFI, graduating with honours in 1989. Unfortunately, during this time, he lost both his parents to heart disease.

Early Career and Business Ventures

Prokhorov took on the responsibility of providing for his family, engaging in various jobs, including working as a loader. Alongside his friend Alexander Khloponin, he ventured into selling fashionable washed jeans, which proved successful and allowed him to support his family and acquire a Zhiguli car.

His entry into the business world continued with a managerial position at the International Bank for Economic Cooperation, providing him with invaluable experience. In the early ’90s, Mikhail Prokhorov partnered with Vladimir Potanin to establish the International Finance Company, later founding ONEXIM Bank. This marked the beginning of their joint ownership of major assets, including Norilsk Nickel and Novolipetsk Metallurgical Plant.

Overview of ONEXIM Bank

Onexim Bank, also known as Onexim Group, is a private investment fund headquartered in Moscow, Russia.

It was founded by Russian businessman Mikhail Prokhorov and has made strategic investments in various industries, including mining, real estate, media, utilities, and technology.

Onexim Group has a strong presence in the financial sector, with its subsidiaries providing services in areas such as banking, finance, and investment.

In 2021, ONEXIM Group increased its holding in Commercial Bank Renaissance Credit (LLC) to 100%.

The bank was previously owned by Russian businessman Mikhail Prokhorov, who increased his stake in the bank to 86% in 2019. In May 1994, Onexim Bank, another institution associated with Prokhorov, focused on large clients in foreign economic activity, particularly in the sectors of oil, chemical, and metallurgical industries.

Onexim Bank also became a depository and payment agent for Russian Treasury obligations and an authorized bank for federal agencies dealing with bankrupt enterprises. Prokhorov, the founder of ONEXIM Group, has a net worth estimated at $17 billion.

He launched the private investment fund in 2008, which has since made significant investments in various companies.

Prokhorov’s wealth has been affected by the value of his remaining interests in various companies, including Rusal and Open Investments.

Expansion and Wealth Accumulation

During the ’90s, Prokhorov’s fortune grew significantly as the bank expanded its holdings. In 2006, he bought a controlling stake in a gold mining company, establishing Polyus Gold, which he led. However, differences with Potanin in 2007 led Prokhorov to sell his share of the business for nine billion dollars.

Utilizing the proceeds, Prokhorov invested in various projects. He acquired RBC’s media holdings in 2009 and ventured into sports ownership by purchasing the New Jersey Nets basketball team, later relocating them to Brooklyn. Additionally, he initiated the “Yo-mobile” project, a hybrid car that gained attention but had limited production.

In 2013, Prokhorov acquired a stake in the company Uralkali and subsequently divested it from Russian assets, sparking rumours of a complete exit from the country.

Connections between Mikhail Prokhorov and Polyus Gold

Mikhail Prokhorov entered the business with a focus on Polyus Gold, a big player in Russia’s gold production sector. The year 2012 saw active discussions surrounding the possible sale of his stake in Polyus Gold, valued at $4 billion. By the following year, 2013, Prokhorov successfully closed the deal, parting ways with his entire ownership interest, which accounted for 37.78% of Polyus Gold. The transaction, culminating in the sale of this significant stake, amounted to a considerable $3.6 billion and involved two Russian buyers.

Political Aspirations and Civic Engagement

Prokhorov’s success in business prompted a shift toward politics. In 2011, he joined the Right Cause party and briefly led it, planning a substantial financial investment in the election campaign. However, internal disputes led to his departure from the party.

Undeterred, Mikhail Prokhorov announced his candidacy for the Russian presidency in 2011, advocating for integration into Europe and the abolition of the visa regime. Despite finishing third in the election with 8% of the vote, he remained active in politics, leading the Civic Platform party in 2012.

However, differences over Andrei Makarevich’s criticism of Ukraine strained relations within the party, leading Prokhorov to propose its closure. Eventually, he withdrew from politics in 2015.

Right Cause party: History and background

Prokhorov as a member of the Right Cause Party
Prokhorov as a member of the Right Cause Party

The Right Cause Party, officially recognized as the All-Russian Political Party Right Cause, emerged on November 16, 2008, through the amalgamation of three right-liberal parties: the Democratic Party of Russia, Civilian Power, and the Union of Right Forces. The parties were facing a decline individually by 2008, prompting their strategic merger.

The Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation formally registered the party on February 11, 2009, marking it as the sole registered political force from 2006 to 2011. This official recognition solidified its position in the political landscape.

Throughout its existence, the Right Cause Party experienced key developments. The merger of the Union of Rights Forces, Civilian Power, and the Democratic Party of Russia, all facing decline, was a pivotal event. The subsequent official registration on February 11, 2009, underscored its status as a significant political entity.

A notable turning point occurred on March 26, 2016, when the party dissolved. Following this dissolution, it underwent a transformation into the Party of Growth, with Boris Titov assuming the role of chairman.

Ideologically, the Right Cause Party embraced a fusion of liberal conservatism, conservative liberalism, economic liberalism, and pro-Europeanism. However, during the period spanning 2012 to 2016, the party shifted its focus toward national democracy and national patriotism.

These shifts reflect the dynamic nature of the party’s identity and goals over its existence, embodying a blend of liberal and conservative elements. The subsequent reorganization into the Party of Growth highlights the adaptability and evolution of political entities in response to changing circumstances and priorities.

Links between the Right Cause party and Mikhail Prokhorov

Mikhail Prokhorov was the leader of the Right Cause Party in Russia. He became a member of the party at an extraordinary congress on June 25, 2011, and was immediately elected its leader.

The Right Cause Party emerged on November 16, 2008, as a result of the unification of three right-liberal parties: the Democratic Party of Russia, Civilian Power, and the Union of Right Forces.

However, Prokhorov was ousted from the party on September 15, 2011, after he described Russia’s party system as an elaborate sham orchestrated by a “puppet master.”

Philanthropy and Social Activities

A picture of Vladimir Putin and Prokhorov
A picture of Vladimir Putin and Prokhorov

Prokhorov’s philanthropic endeavours include the establishment of a charitable foundation in 2004, supporting cultural, educational, and scientific initiatives with approximately two billion rubles allocated.

A sports enthusiast, he headed the Russian Biathlon Federation in 2008, contributing to the development of youth teams. Prokhorov’s involvement extended to social causes, including supporting the Golden Mask Festival and the Great Cartoon Festival.

Personal Life and Assets of Mikhail Prokhorov

What are the details of Prokhorov's personal life?
What are the details of Prokhorov’s personal life?

Despite never officially marrying, Prokhorov’s personal life remains private. Rumours link him to various models and actress Monica Bellucci. Notably, he has been involved in controversies, such as a scandal in Courchevel, where he was suspected but not charged with involvement with “ladies of easy virtue.”

As of the Forbes 2023 ranking, Prokhorov is the 12th richest Russian billionaire, with an estimated fortune of $11.3 billion. His assets include superyachts, aircraft, and significant investments in various sectors.

Connection between Brooklyn Nets and Mikhail Prokhorov

Mikhail Prokhorov with Brooklyn players
Mikhail Prokhorov with Brooklyn players

Mikhail Prokhorov, a prominent Russian businessman and former owner of the Brooklyn Nets, brought a unique blend of ambition and vision to the NBA during his ownership tenure from 2010 to 2019. Beyond his role as a Russian oligarch, Prokhorov contributed to American basketball, injecting his passion for the sport into the heart of Brooklyn.

In 2010, Prokhorov acquired the Brooklyn Nets and helped them move from New Jersey to the vibrant borough of Brooklyn. The construction of the state-of-the-art Barclays Center served as a tangible testament to his commitment to transforming the Nets into a powerhouse within the NBA.

Prokhorov’s ownership era was characterized by a remarkable upswing in the team’s fortunes. His strategic maneuvers in the player market, marked by the acquisition of star players, played a crucial role in propelling the Nets into the national spotlight. The team not only became a formidable force on the court but also carved out a distinct place in the rich culture of Brooklyn.

Despite the team’s success, Prokhorov decided to sell his majority stake in 2019, ushering in Joseph Tsai, co-founder of Alibaba, as the new owner. Speculation surrounds the reasons behind Prokhorov’s choice to sell, with some reports suggesting external pressure, potentially from Russian President Vladimir Putin, influenced his decision. This intriguing aspect adds a layer of complexity to Prokhorov’s legacy with the Nets, hinting at challenges beyond the confines of the basketball court.

Looking back, Mikhail Prokhorov‘s ownership of the Brooklyn Nets emerges as a transformative chapter in the team’s history. His ambitious initiatives, from relocating the team to overseeing the construction of a modern arena, left an indelible mark. The rise of the Nets to prominence under his stewardship underscored a period of growth and change, solidifying Prokhorov as a notable figure in the narrative of the franchise. Beyond the realm of business, he became part of the fabric of Brooklyn’s basketball identity, leaving a lasting impact on the team and its fans.

Brooklyn Nets: Background and details

Details of Brooklyn
Details of Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Nets stand as a prominent professional basketball team, rooted in the vibrant borough of Brooklyn, New York. Their affiliation lies within the NBA, competing fiercely in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division. The team traces its origins back to 1967 when it was established as a New Jersey American. Over the years, a series of name and location alterations unfolded, ultimately leading the team to its current residence in Brooklyn in 2012.

The spirited ambiance of the Nets’ home games is encapsulated within the walls of the Barclays Center, a venue that resonates with the passion of devoted fans. Symbolizing their identity, the team proudly dons black and white colors. Steering the team on the courts is Jacque Vaughn, the adept head coach, complemented by the strategic prowess of Sean Marks, who serves as the general manager. At the helm of the organizational leadership is CEO Sam Zussman, and the visionary owner charting the course for success is Joseph Tsai.

In the annals of their storied past, the Nets have etched their mark with two championships in the ABA, demonstrating a legacy woven with moments of triumph. The pursuit of an NBA championship remains an ongoing journey, with notable appearances in the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003, though the elusive title has yet to grace its hands.

Embodying the essence of gratitude and recognition, the Nets have immortalized the contributions of distinguished players by retiring six numbers. Each retirement number stands as a testament to the indelible impact made by these individuals, weaving a rich tapestry of history that continues to unfold on the courts of Brooklyn.

Net Worth

Mikhail Prokhorov is a prominent Russian businessman and political figure. With a keen business acumen, Prokhorov gathered his huge wealth through various ventures in the banking and natural resources sectors. Prokhorov’s journey to wealth began in the Russian banking industry, where he co-founded the Interros Holding Company and assumed the role of Chairman of the Board of Onexim Bank in 1993.

Among his notable holdings, Norilsk Nickel and Polyus Gold stand out. These ventures played a crucial role in contributing to his substantial net worth. Beyond the business realm, Mikhail Prokhorov ventured into the political arena. In 2012, he took a remarkable step by running as an independent candidate in the Russian presidential election.

His engagement in politics continued with the establishment of the Civic Platform Party, showcasing his commitment to influencing the political landscape in Russia. It’s important to note the fluctuations in the estimates of Prokhorov’s net worth over the years. In 2014, Forbes estimated his wealth at $10.9 billion, while as of December 1, 2021, Bloomberg Billionaires Index valued it at $14.0 billion, ranking him as the 148th richest person globally.

YearNet worth (in billions)
201410.9 Billion
20159.9 Billion
20167.6 Billion
20178.9 Billion
20189.6 Billion
20199.8 Billion
202011.2 Billion
202111.4 Billion
202210.3 Billion
202311.3 Billion

Controversies and Escape

Controversial Image

Prokhorov’s public image took a hit in 2007 when he faced accusations of pimping during an incident in Courchevel, France. This, coupled with extravagant parties, contributed to a less-than-favorable perception of Russian business figures in Europe.

‘Yo-mobile’ Project and Political Aspirations

The Yo-mobile project, an attempt at creating the first Russian electric car, aimed to improve Mikhail Prokhorov‘s image. However, it turned out to be a PR-driven venture with no real substance. Prokhorov’s entry into politics in 2012, running for the presidency, was part of a strategy to shift attention away from previous controversies.

Gradual Shift to Cash

Since 2008, Prokhorov has been gradually transitioning from industrial assets to cash. Notable exits include the sale of Norilsk Nickel shares in 2008 and divesting from its development business and land bank in 2016. The sale of Vedomosti and the attempts to find buyers for various businesses, including Uralkali and IC Soglasie, marked his ongoing departure from the Russian economic landscape.

Tax Issues

In 2016, tax authorities uncovered offshore schemes linked to ONEXIM, accusing them of potential tax evasion. Despite initial demands of around 2 billion rubles, the case eventually fragmented. Recent reports indicate a renewed interest from tax authorities in 2019. Prokhorov’s most recent major deal involved selling the Kvadra energy company to Rosatom, with the transaction’s price undisclosed but likely in the tens of billions of rubles.

Exit Strategy: Selling Renaissance Credit and Closing International Branches

Prokhorov’s business move to Russia involved putting Renaissance Credit Bank up for sale, owned through an offshore company in Cyprus. Additionally, the closure of branches in the US and the UK signalled a further step in distancing himself from Russian assets. The move served as a strategy to safeguard his wealth from both Russian tax authorities and international scrutiny.

Financial Status and Current Holdings

Despite his controversial past and business exits, Mikhail Prokhorov has reportedly amassed around $10 billion in cash. This substantial wealth provides him with the means to lead a luxurious lifestyle, as evidenced by recent reports of obtaining Israeli citizenship and his ability to avoid Western sanctions targeting other Russian oligarchs.

Sanctions on Mikhail Prokhorov

Mikhail Prokhorov is subject to sanctions, as he is considered a politically exposed person.

However, he has not been sanctioned by the United States, and his name is not mentioned on the list of sanctioned oligarchs compiled by the US Treasury.

Prokhorov, a former owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, made his wealth through his mining and smelting company, Norilsk Nickel.

He has not been sanctioned by the US, UK, or EU.

He has been able to move assets and unwind holdings as authorities in Italy, France and Spain have moved to seize yachts and ground private jets.

Recent Years and Global Citizenship

In recent years, Prokhorov has maintained a low profile, avoiding public appearances and minimizing interactions with the media. Notably, he acquired Israeli citizenship in 2022, allowing him to navigate Western sanctions successfully.

Summary

Mikhail Prokhorov, born in Moscow in 1965, overcame personal tragedies and financial challenges to become a prominent Russian businessman and political figure. His early ventures included successful forays into fashion and banking, leading to the establishment of ONEXIM Bank and joint ownership of major assets with Vladimir Potanin. Prokhorov’s wealth surged in the ’90s, marked by Polyus Gold and Norilsk Nickel acquisitions. Engaging in politics, he briefly led the Right Cause party and ran for the Russian presidency in 2012. Philanthropically, he supported cultural initiatives and sports development.

Controversies, including a Courchevel incident, impacted his public image. Prokhorov’s “Yo-mobile” project and political pursuits are aimed at reshaping perceptions. Gradually transitioning to cash, tax issues emerged in 2016, prompting strategic exits from various businesses. Despite sanctions and controversies, his wealth, estimated at $11.3 billion in 2023, allowed him to acquire Israeli citizenship, navigate international scrutiny, and maintain a discreet profile in recent years.

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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