The oligarch who cost Royal Bank of Scotland £1bn

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The Independent Online

The foundation set up by Leonid Blavatnik, the oligarch at the centre of a £2.5bn loan row with Royal Bank of Scotland, is backing the Babylon exhibition at the British Museum. As the once opulent city in modern-day Iraq was obliterated, Mr Blavatnik will be hoping parts of his own empire, which are creaking under the credit crunch, do not come crashing down as well.

Mr Blavatnik was penniless when he emigrated from Russia to America with his family, aged 21. Three years later, he was a US citizen, and would graduate with a master's from Columbia University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

He founded Access Industries in 1986, and last year was listed the 28th richest person in America by Forbes. It estimated his fortune at $11bn (£7.6bn). He travels between Moscow, New York and London, and has a £41m house in Kensington.

He built his wealth through natural resources, such as coal and aluminium, and chemicals, and later media, telecommunications and real estate assets. He teamed up with schoolfriend Viktor Vekselberg and oligarch Mikhail Fridman to win control of Tyumen Oil Company following a privatisation auction. In 2003, their AAR venture sold a 50 per cent stake to British Petroleum to create TNK-BP, Russia's second largest oil company.

In 2007, Access took over Lyondell Chemical Company for $19bn. As demand for chemicals fell, Lyondell struggled with its debt burden. Earlier this month, LyondellBasell Industries filed for bankruptcy in a bid to restructure the $26bn debts in the company. Lenders to the group could lose more than 90c on the dollar. As a result, RBS yesterday wrote down £1bn of its £2.5bn loan to Mr Blavatnik, who had looked to shore up LyondellBasell.

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