How Did Roman Abramovich Make His Money?

Roman Abramovich is a Jewish Russian oligarch who gained wealth rapidly after the fall of the USSR. He has diverse business and personal interests, including football (soccer), oil, aluminum, and politics. Although born in Russia, he holds citizenship in three countries: Russia, Israel, and Portugal. So how did Roman Abramovich make his money?

Roman Abramovich Early Life

Roman Abramovich was born in 1966 in Saratov, Russia. He lost his parents at a young age. His mother, Irina, passed away when he was just one. His father, Aaron, died when he was three. His father died in his early 30s but managed to secure a position within the economic council of Komi ASSR, an autonomous region that operated in the USSR.

At four years old, Roman went to live with relatives in northern Russia, where they had been relocated by the government in the 1940s. Many of his relatives died in Nazi-run camps. Others were deported or forced to flee the country.

Roman Abramovich’s Connection to Putin

Roman Abramovich’s has an unclear relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to some, Abramovich has supported Putin for decades. He might have even told Boris Yeltsin that Putin should replace him as president.

Recollections also suggest that Abramovich, known as “Mr. A” at the Kremlin, interviewed every candidate for Putin’s first cabinet. Candidate approvals might have depended on Abramovich’s recommendations.

Abramovich denies that he has a close or positive relationship with Putin. One court determined that Abramovich only had limited influence over Putin.

US intelligence agencies note that Abramovich likely works as a “bag man” for Putin. This unofficial job could include making investments and hiding income for President Putin.

Accusations of a close relationship with Putin and the Kremlin intensified after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The UK sanctioned Abramovich for selling steel and other materials used to make weapons to the Russian government. The UK government froze Abramovich’s assets within the country and issued a travel ban.

US President Donald Trump and Congress named Roman Abramovich in the text of 2017’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

Where Did Roman Abramovich Get His Money From?

After USSR’s fall, it created extraordinary opportunities for some people to enrich themselves. The government offered a loans-for-shares program that would privatize the economy by letting people buy state assets at discounted rates.

Abramovich already had experience in business, so he was positioned to take advantage of the loans-for-shares program. After attending the Gubkin Institute of Oil and Gas, he became a commodities trader with the Swiss company Runicom.

Abramovich and his first wife started a doll-making company that helped legitimize his earlier business activities. Over several years, he funneled money into several economic sectors, including agriculture, energy, and timber. It’s unclear whether all of these activities were legal. In 1992 he was sent to prison for stealing government property.

A short prison sentence didn’t stop Roman Abramovich from accumulating more wealth. After meeting Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, the two formed an offshore company. Later, the two gained controlling interest in Sibneft (now Gazprom Neft), one of Russia’s largest oil producers.

They gained controlling interest in the company through a rigged auction that let them buy shares at enormously discounted prices. The $100 million Abramovich spent had a value much closer to $150 million. The company produces about $3 billion of oil per year.

Abramovich admits that he gained control of the business and grew its success by bribing government officials and gangsters. In 2005, Abramovich sold Sibneft to the Russian government for $13 billion.

Currently, Abramovich serves as the founder and chairman of Millhouse LLC. The holding company was originally registered in London as Millhouse Capital.

How Much Is Roman Abramovich In Debt?

Roman Abramovich’s debts come from previously owning Chelsea, FC, a premier football club in England. When purchasing the team, he also acquired its £80 million (about 96 million USD) in debt.

At least one former Putin ally says that Abramovich bought the team to improve Russia’s image to residents of Britain. Abramovich denies the accusation.

When the British government sanctioned Abramovich, he was forced to sell Chelsea. The deal involved writing off £1.5 billion (about 1.8 billion USD) that the club owed him. Despite the loss, he doesn’t have any considerable outstanding debts known to the public.

Is Roman Abramovich Still Rich?

Roman Abramovich is still very rich.
A recent list from Forbes identifies him as the 142nd richest person in the world.

Roman Abramovich Yacht

Roman Abramovich owns a superyacht called Eclipse. Abramovich purchased the 533-foot-long yacht in 2010. It was the longest personal yacht in use for about three years. Abramovich reportedly spent about €340 million (about 409 million USD) on Eclipse.

Eclipse has several luxurious features, including:

  • 24 guest cabins
  • Two helicopter landing pads
  • Two swimming pools
  • Quarters for up to the 70 employees needed to operate the yacht and serve guests
  • A mini-submarine that can dive 50 meters underwater
  • Three launch boats
  • A self-defense system with missile detectors and missile launchers
Eclipse has a current value of about $438 million.

Abramovich also owns a 459-foot yacht named Solaris. He keeps Solaris in Turkish waters to avoid international sanctions.

Yachts previously owned by Abramovich include:

  • Pelorus, a 377-ft yacht Lurssen yacht originally built for Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Abdulmalik Al-Sheikh. Abramovich included Pelorus in his divorce settlement with Irina, who then sold it to David Geffen for $300 million.
  • Sussurro, a 162-ft Feadship yacht built in 1998 for Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Abdulmalik Al-Sheikh.
  • Ecstasea, a 279-ft built by Feadship and delivered to Abramovich in 2004.
  • Le Grand Bleu, a 367-ft vessel Abramovich gave to his friend Eugene Shvidler in 2006.
  • Luna, a 377-ft Llyod Werft yacht delivered to Abramovich in 2009 and sold to Farkhad Akhmedov for $360 million in 2014.

Roman Abramovich’s Net Worth

Roman Abramovich reportedly has a net worth between $8.7 billion and $14.5 billion. The higher amount makes him the richest person in Portugal, the second-richest person in Israel, and the eleventh-richest in Russia.

It’s possible that Abramovich’s fortune has fell by several billion dollars during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. His role as an oligarch who potentially has the ear of Vladimir Putin and other high-ranking officials has prompted Ukraine’s supporters to levy sanctions against Abramovich.

He might have had a net worth of $14.5 billion in 2020 and currently has a net worth closer to $8.7 billion. Regardless, he still counts as one of the 3,311 billionaires in the world. No matter how much he might have lost, he’s still an extremely wealthy person with the potential to continue growing his wealth.

Some recent actions that might have lowered his net worth include:

  • Selling Chelsea FC at a significant loss
  • European countries refusing to buy fossil fuels from Russia
  • Getting listed as the world’s most significant polluter
  • Donating at least $100 million to an organization that establishes Israeli settlements in Palestine
  • Moving his yachts around the world to avoid sanctions
The United States has resisted sanctioning Roman Abramovich at the urging of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Zelenskyy says Abramovich could help negotiate peace between Russia and Ukraine. Abramovich has acted as an unofficial diplomat. He also has family that fled Ukraine when Germany invaded at the beginning of World War II, which could make him more sensitive to the plight of Ukraine and its people.

Roman Abramovich Family

Abramovich’s parents died when he was a boy, so his relatives raised him in northern Russia.

Roman Abramovich has been married and divorced three times. His wives were:

  • Olga Yurevna Lysova
  • Irina Malandina
  • Dasha Zhukova

Abramovich has five children with Irina Malandina. He has two children with Dasha Zhukova.

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