Biography and Facts
Mikhail Fridman is the only member of the “seven bankers” who, since the early 1990s, managed to keep his bank – Alfa Bank, which for many years now has been the largest private bank in Russia. Of all the bankers who helped Boris Yeltsin win the 1996 elections, three others became billionaires: these were Fridman’s Alfa Group partner Pyotr Aven, Vladimir Potanin and Bidzina Ivanishvili. Potanin and Ivanishvili, unlike Boris Berezovsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky, Alexander Smolensky and Vladimir Vinogradov, managed to keep their businesses, but not their banks – their Onexim Bank and Russian Credit Bank collapsed during the 1998 crisis.
Friedman was born in Lvov to a family of engineers. “I am proud that I was born and grew up in a city where the center is not Lenin Square, but Market Square. And there is a monument not to Lenin, but to Neptune. And there is a building of the embassy of the Venetian Republic of the 15th century,” he told Vladimir Pozner in an interview in 2019.
The future billionaire studied at the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys (MISiS). After graduation, he went to work in the town of Elektrostal near Moscow, but very soon he received a Moscow residence permit. In 1988 along with some friends from the Institute he organized the cooperative “Courier”, which dealt with the delivery of products and washing windows, and “Alpha-photo”, where he invited Mikhail Alfimov, Academician of the Institute of Chemical Physics, as its scientific director. In honor of the academician, the cooperative was named “Alpha. In July of the same year Friedman’s personal earnings amounted to 10,000 rubles. A year later, the friends founded the Soviet-Swiss joint venture Alfa-Eco, on the basis of which the Alfa Group was created. Initially the company had six founders: Fridman himself, Oleg Kiselev (then a teacher at MISIS), German Khan, Mikhail Bezelyansky, Andrei Shelukhin and Alexei Kuzmichev. They were later joined by Petr Aven and Andrei Kosogov. Kiselev left the founders back in 1992, while Shelukhin and Bezelyansky left in 2000.
In 1991 Fridman, together with Alfa-Eco, registered Alfa Bank, which in 1997, together with Access/Renova of Leonard Blavatnik and Viktor Vekselberg, bought at an auction 40% of the shares of Tyumen Oil Company. In 2003, the British BP and TNK shareholders merged their Russian assets and created a joint company TNK-BP. Alfa Group, subsequently renamed “A1”, bought other Alfa assets, in particular, Vympelcom. Later, a special company Altimo was created for telecommunications assets.
After selling his stake (25% of shares) in TNK-BP for $14 billion in 2013, Fridman and his partners created the investment company LetterOne in Luxembourg, which began investing the proceeds from the sale outside of Russia. The main assets of LetterOne are the German oil and gas company Wintershall DEA (33%), the English chain of health food stores Holland & Barrett, VEON (former Vympelcom, 56.2%) and the Turkish telecommunications company Turkcell (19.8%). In Russia, Alfa Group still has Alfa Bank, the insurance company AlfaStrakhovanie, X5 Retail Group (47.9%) and A1.
Friedman has Israeli citizenship. He visits the Promised Land on Jewish holidays, and lives mostly in London, and has been a resident of the UK since 2015, where he bought Athlone House in 2016 for 65 million pounds.
First business In 1988, together with his friends from MISIS, he organized the cooperative “Courier”, which was engaged in the delivery of products to the population. He earned his first money washing windows.
Equity Principal owner of LetterOne Holdings (L1, German oil and gas company Wintershall DEA (33%), VEON – 56.2%, Turkcell – 19.8%) and assets of Alfa Group consortium (Alfa Bank – 90.1%, AlfaStrakhovanie, X5 Retail Group – 47.9%) (as of February 24, 2022).
Sanctions In February 2022 the European Union imposed sanctions against Friedman, and in March 2022 the UK imposed sanctions against him. The businessman, together with his partner Peter Aven, plans to challenge them.
The figure of $14 billion Alfa Group received in March 2013 from the sale of its stake in TNK-BP to Rosneft.
Deal In 2019 the merger of two German companies, DEA and Wintershall, was completed. As a result, Europe’s largest independent oil and gas company was created, with L1 shareholders (33% of shares) and BASF (former owner of Wintershall) – 67%.
Purchase In 2017-2019, LetterOne invested more than $1.8 billion in the Spanish supermarket chain Dia. During this time, the company’s capitalization fell by 90%. In October 2019, a Spanish court opened an investigation in this regard, and in January 2021 ruled that “neither Friedman, his company Letterone, nor third parties related to them carried out actions aimed at dropping the value of Dia’s stock price that would allow them to acquire the firm on more favorable terms.”