Fall of the Russian billionaires

The publication of a rich list will show that the economic downturn has hit the average oligarch hard, although they are not exactly facing poverty
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The Independent Online

Russia's army of more than 100 oligarch billionaires has been slashed in half by the global recession, a new rich list will reveal this week.

According to the Russian business magazine Finans, as a result of brutal financial markets and the slide of the rouble, 52 Russians have lost their status as billionaires. "Absolutely everybody has become poorer," Finans' editor-in-chief, Oleg Anisimov, said. "Russian fortunes have grown faster and deflated faster, too."

Overall, the Finans research showed the net worth of last year's 10 richest had been slashed by a combined 66 per cent. Among the main losers were reportedly the property developer Sergei Polonsky – whose firm Mirax has a major role in the building of a new 52-storey tower planned for central London – and Alexander Mamut, who has a home in Kensington and recently invested in the blogging website LiveJournal.

Oleg Deripaska, the metals tycoon, leapfrogged Chelsea Football Club's owner Roman Abramovich as the richest Russian in lists compiled by both Finans and the US magazine Forbes last year. Mr Deripaska's face is almost as familiar as Mr Abramovich's. He owns a £20m house in Belgravia and a private yacht on which he has entertained Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, and George Osborne, the shadow Chancellor. But last week he told a seminar in Moscow: "We need to be ready for tough times."

His company, the aluminium group UC Rusal, recently turned to the Kremlin for a loan to help refinance some of its debts.

Mr Deripaska could be replaced at the top of the rich list by Mikhail Prokhorov, one of his partners at UC Rusal. Mr Prokhorov sold off assets before prices began to crash last year. Mr Abramovich is also thought to have avoided the worst of the economic pain by selling shares at the right time.

Suspicions that the oligarchs running Russia's steel, aluminium and oil industries have been hit financially have been whipped up by the Russian banking group Troika Dialog. Its managing director, Andrei Sharonov, said: "In terms of public opinion these guys are not heroes, so it's not something that arouses much pity."