Recent research into the wealthiest women in Russia has revealed notable transformations over the past year. The number of female Wives and Daughters of Russian oligarchs in terms of US dollars has surged from three to seven, amassing a collective wealth of an impressive $25.7 billion. Yet, amid this prosperity, a nuanced trend is discernible.
The ascendancy of Tatyana Bakalchuk
At the zenith of this list, as in previous years, sits Tatyana Bakalchuk, the visionary behind Wildberries, with a fortune of $7 billion. This figure is particularly striking when contrasted with her estimated wealth of $4.7 billion in 2022. However, a year prior to that, her wealth had reached a staggering $13 billion. Analysts attribute this fluctuation not solely to the overall depreciation of Russian assets on the global investment stage but also to various controversies surrounding the marketplace’s operations.
Legacy Wealth of Wives and Daughters of Russian oligarchs
The majority of the list comprises what could be described as “legacy wealth,” a concept that holds relevance to some extent within Russian business circles. It includes individuals such as Elena Baturina, the widow of the former Moscow mayor who once held the top spot on the billionaire list, Evgenia Guryeva, the wife of the founder of the Phosagro group, and Lidia Mikhailova, the former spouse of Igor Babaev, the founder of the Cherkizovo group. Nevertheless, what sets this updated ranking apart is the emergence of new names.
Securing the second position is Tatyana Litvinenko, the wife of Vladimir Litvinenko, rector of St. Petersburg Mining University. She currently possesses an estimated wealth of $2.8 billion, representing 20.6% of Phosagro’s shares. These shares were bestowed upon her by her husband in the previous year, following his inclusion in foreign sanctions owing to his previous role as Vladimir Putin’s Ph.D. thesis advisor and his leadership of Putin’s election headquarters.
Another entrant to this elite group is Marina Mordashova, the wife of the oligarch and co-owner of Severstal, Alexei Mordashov, who now claims the fourth position in the rankings. Mordashov astutely transferred a controlling stake in Nordgold, valued at $1.1 billion, to her just before being placed on the EU sanctions list. He also made an attempt to execute a similar maneuver with a stake in the German tourism operator TUI, but the German authorities intervened, foiling the transaction. Subsequently, Marina Mordashova herself ended up on the US sanctions list.
Leonid Mikhelson, a prominent figure in the gas industry, followed suit by transferring his stake in Optima, a company holding valuable NOVATEK assets, to his daughter, Victoria. This strategic move positioned her at the seventh spot on the list, with a wealth estimated at $1.2 billion. It’s worth noting that she also owns the prestigious “GES-2” exhibition hall located near the Kremlin, which underwent an opulent renovation costing over 30 billion rubles—a gift from her father, owing to her profound interest in art.
Strategic Wealth Preservation
The actions taken by these business magnates to protect their wealth appear judicious, especially given the immediate asset freezes imposed by US and EU authorities on Russian billionaires. This practice is not entirely unprecedented, as evidenced by Varvara Skoch receiving a 15% ownership stake in the $2.5 billion USM holding in 2020 and speculations surrounding Roman Abramovich’s billion-euro settlement with Daria Zhukova during their divorce, suggesting the presence of concealed motives.
In conclusion, the landscape of wealth among Russian women has experienced significant shifts in the past year. The rise of new Russian billionaires, often through strategic asset transfers, underscores the dynamic nature of the Russian business world. While traditional sources of wealth still play a dominant role, the emergence of fresh names reflects the adaptability and resilience of female entrepreneurs in Russia’s evolving economic environment. As the global financial landscape continues to change, it remains to be seen how these trends will evolve further in the years to come.