Connect to share and comment

Russia's Teflon 10

While Russia's billionaires lost an astounding amount last year, the richest stayed on the Forbes list, with Mikhail Prokhorov even moving up.

Top Russian business leaders meet then-Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's Kremlin Feb. 6, 2007. (Denis Sinyakov/Reuters)

MOSCOW — They're aggressive, captivating, mysterious and they lost about $120 billion last year. Meet Russia's 10 richest men, according to Forbes' annual list of the world's billionaires.

(An impressive number of Russians dropped off the Forbes list last year, including the country's only female billionaire.)

1. Mikhail Prokhorov

Mikhail Prokhorov is Russia’s richest man and most eligible bachelor. After selling his holdings in Norilsk Nickel, the Russian metals giant, on the eve of the financial crisis, he was sitting on a pile of cash just as the world began to crumble under a mound of debt. Sources say the sale was encouraged by the Kremlin following Prokhorov's high-profile arrest in the French ski town of Courchevel for involvement in an alleged prostitution ring (the charges were later dropped). He now focuses his efforts, mainly through his Onexim investment vehicle, on gold miner Polyus Gold and a newly acquired 50 percent stake in Renassaince Capital, a leading Russian investment bank.

At his peak in 2008, he was worth $19.5 billion, according to Forbes.

This year, his wealth stands at $9.5 billion, meaning a $10 billion loss that has still boosted his overall ranking on the Forbes list from 40 to 24.

2. Roman Abramovich

Media-shy Roman Abramovich quietly built a fortune through key alliances that have kept him Russia’s second richest man for two years in a row. First taken under the wing of now self-exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, Abramovich built his wealth in the chaotic 1990s by acquiring stakes in oil giant Sibneft and metals company RusAl. After Berezovsky fell out with the Kremlin, Abramovich sold his stake in Sibneft and allied himself with the state, quietly building his fortune through metals holdings in Evraz Group, holding the governship of the remote Chukotka region until last year, and publicizing Russian wealth and power through his acquisition of English football club Chelsea.

At his peak in 2008, Abramovich was worth $23.5 billion, according to Forbes.

This year, his wealth stands at $8.5 billion, meaning he lost $15 billion.

3. Vagit Alekperov

Vagit Alekperov is the powerful head of Lukoil, Russia’s second largest oil company and its most successful private one. Born and raised in Soviet-era Baku, the oil-rich capital of Azerbaijan, Alekperov worked his way up to become the USSR’s deputy oil minister. He then managed to snag a number of fields as the Soviet Union unravelled in 1991. Lukoil, in which U.S. oil company ConocoPhillips holds a 20 percent stake, was Russia’s largest oil firm for several years until state-run Rosneft built its holdings by buying assets from the bankrupt Yukos oil company of jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

In 2008, Alekperov was worth $13 billion, according to Forbes.

This year, he is worth $7.8 billion, meaning he has lost $5.2 billion.

4. Mikhail Fridman

Mikhail Fridman is one of Russia’s most influential oligarchs and one of its most feared. Fridman built his fortune through Alfa Group, a conglomerate with holdings in banking (Alfa Bank), oil (a stake in TNK-BP) and telecoms (Altimo). Close to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Fridman burst onto the front pages last year as he and his Russian partners in TNK-BP forged a ruthless campaign to win more influence in the oil firm, whose ownership is split 50 percent with British oil major BP. Fridman is now embroiled in a shady shareholder dispute with Norway’s Telenor over the firm’s stake in Russian telecom VimpelCom.

In 2008, Fridman was worth $20.8 billion, according to Forbes.

This year he is worth $6.3 billion, meaning he lost $14.5 billion.

5. Vladimir Lisin

Vladimir Lisin worked his way up from the engineering rooms of coal mines and steel factories to become the chairman of Novolipetsk Steel, known as NLMK. On the way, he formed, with associates, TransWorld Group, a powerful Russian aluminum and steel trader. NLMK is now Russia’s fourth largest steelmaker.

Last year, Lisin was worth $20.3 billion, according to Forbes.

This year, he is worth $5.2, putting his losses at $15.1 billion.