Russian businessman Alisher Usmanov has a lot cash coming in with the announcement last week that MegaFon one of the public companies he controls was declaring a dividend – its’ first since going public on the London and Moscow stock exchanges with an IPO almost six months ago in 2012, when it raised US$ 1.7 billion of new money.
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MegaFon is Russia’s second largest mobile phone company by revenue, though recently actually became its largest by market cap, and it has now just declared a dividend of US$ 1.3 billion of which US$ 380 million will accrue to him as its largest and controlling shareholder. Since going public the company’s shares have done very well gaining over 50% – a story that makes just about everyone happy including the company, the purchasers and all the investment bankers who picked up very large fees to do the deal. In contrast the Facebook IPO left a very bitter taste in people’s mouths after pricing its shares too high and its stock is still trading below its IPO price – so Usmanov clearly knows a thing or two about markets and relationships.
About a month ago Usmanov also bought about US$100 million of Apple Inc. stock, and then very shrewdly publicized the fact stating it was an excellent company with a terrific future. Nobody will quarrel with his judgment there and after the MegaFon dividend he is still ahead about US$280 million!
Usmanov was born in Uzbekistan and became one of the group of Russian oligarchs who benefitted from the break-up of of the former Soviet Union when state assets were sometimes privatized at give-away prices to local elites. In his case this included what ultimately became Russia’s largest iron ore company, Metalloinvest, which took over Gazprom’s metal interests. However he has nevertheless since parlayed this business foundation into a huge fortune based on excellent judgments on technology – which is about as far away from mining as you can get. Apart from MegaFon he was also an early investor in Facebook and still holds a large holding there even after selling some of his stock for over $2.4 billion.
According to the 2011 edition of Forbes magazine, Usmanov is Russia’s richest man, with a fortune estimated at more than US$18 billion, and the world’s 28th richest person. Alternatively, according to the December 2012 Bloomberg Billionaires Index, his net worth at the end of 2012 was over US$17 billion, making him the 39th richest person in the world. In both cases the difference is too small to matter except, possibly, to him if he cares about such things – billionaires have different worries than people like you and me. In April 2013, the Sunday Times listed him as the richest person in Britain, overtaking Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal for the top position.
With a love for football he owns 30% of the Arsenal Premier League football club and his company also sponsors the Moscow Dynamo football club. When he needs to relax he can do so in his US$70 million London home, together with his wife Irina Viner a former top athletics coach; she is Jewish he is Muslim.
Usmanov also gives substantially back to his community; in 2007 he paid more than US$30 million for an art collection owned by the late Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, which he then gave to the Russian state, where it is housed in the Konstantinovsky Palace St. Petersburg. Also that year he purchased the rights to a large collection of Soviet cartoons, which had belonged to Russian-born actor Oleg Vidov who emigrated to the United States in 1985. Usmanov then donated these to a new Russian children’s television channel.