Introduced by Vladimir Frolov
Last week, President Dmitry Medvedev called on the leaders of big business to contribute to the modernization of the economy. Medvedev asked Russia’s business leaders to come up with a list of specific innovation projects involving cutting-edge technologies that would open new markets for Russian-made high-tech products. The list of such projects will be reviewed by the Kremlin’s Commission on Modernization in May, in order to determine which projects will receive state funding or a special tax regime. Will this approach to innovation succeed in Russia, where others did not? Can the state actually force private companies to innovate? What kind of incentives does the state have to encourage private investment in innovation?
Since the Russian government started seizing control over the oil and gas industry, TNK-BP’s days as an independent private company with vast foreign investments seemed to be numbered. The inevitable came in 2008, when the shareholder structure started to crumble. Oddly enough, the government has not been involved in any way. However, now that the Russian shareholders are engaged in a bitter corporate war with their partners from BP clearly making it virtually impossible for them to co-exist, the state looks like the biggest beneficiary from the ordeal.
Introduced by Vladimir Frolov
For nearly two months, Russia’s third largest privately-owned oil company TNK-BP (a joint venture between the international oil major BP and four Russian billionaires), has been sliding into a nasty shareholder brawl, just as the Medvedev-Putin team embarks on a major campaign to warm up Russia’s investor-friendly climate. Are the Russian owners of the company simply fighting for control to drive up the value of their stock before its eventual sale to state-owned Gazprom or Rosneft? Are the Russian tycoons freelancing for the Kremlin? What does the current stand-off mean for Russia’s image among international investors?
Viktor Vekselberg (Виктор Феликсович Вексельберг) was born April 14, 1957, in the town of Drogobych in the Lvov region of Ukraine. He amassed a large fortune in the metals and oil industries following the collapse of the Soviet Union and remains one of Russia’s richest men.
Vekselberg graduated in 1979 from the Moscow Railway Transport Engineering Institute, specializing in systems engineering. In the 1980s he worked as an engineer before moving into business in the late 1980s. In 1988 he founded KomVek, a research and production company, linked to the Irkutsk Aluminium Plant.
In 1990 alongside Leonard Blavatnik, he founded conglomerate Renova. Two thirds of the company’s shares were owned by KomVek and one third by Blavatnik’s investment fund Access Industries.
Having already accumulated assets in the aluminum industry, in 1996 Vekselberg was involved in the establishment of Siberia-Ural Aluminum (SUAL) which comprised Irkutsk and Ural Aluminum Plants. During the 1990s, SUAL acquired further aluminum plants and bauxite mines. Vekselberg was president of the company from 2000 to 2003.
Also beginning in 1996, Renova under Vekselberg’s management, began purchasing shares in oil companies. In September 1997, Vekselberg became a member of the board of directors of the Tyumen Oil Company (TNK) and was named chairman of the board in 1998. In this role he negotiated a 50-50 joint venture with British Petroleum and is currently a member of the board of directors and the vice-president of TNK-BP.
In March 2010 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev appointed Viktor Vekselberg as the head of the Russian section of the coordination council of the Innovation Center Project in Skolkovo.
In February 2004 Vekselberg purchased nine Faberge eggs from the Forbes family in a Sotheby’s auction. Along with the eggs, he purchased various other items of Faberge jewelry and sent them all back to Russia to be displayed at the Kremlin. Vekselberg also financed the return of the Lowell House Bells from Harvard University to the Danilov monastery in Moscow, their original home, in 2008.
Vekselberg is married and has two children. Forbes magazine ranked him as the 16th richest man in Russia in March 2010, with an estimated fortune of $ 6.4 billion.