A fortune built on friendship with Berezovsky

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The Independent Online

The moustachioed Badri Patarkatsishvili was Georgia's richest man who made his fortune in Russia from the great sell-off of state assets launched by President Boris Yeltsin in the early 1990s.

His partner then was Boris Berezovsky, the Russian oligarch exiled in London who yesterday described the flamboyant Mr Patarkatsishvili as his "closest friend".

The Georgian and the Russian businessmen forged their partnership over two decades. Mr Patarkatsishvili was a senior executive in Mr Berezovsky's LogoVAZ car dealer group which imported foreign cars after the fall of the Soviet Union, and he went on to take a controlling stake in the ORT television station.

In 2006, he briefly owned the Kommersant publishing house after Mr Berezovsky fled to London to seek political asylum. He told The Sunday Times: "I was given a clear choice: to stay in Russia and side with the Kremlin and to leave and stay loyal to Boris. Friends are friends, so my choice was easy."

Mr Patarkatsishvili returned to Georgia with the help of the then president, Eduard Shevardnadze, where he built a media empire. He also became chairman of the football team Dinamo Tbilisi. But corruption allegations pursued him: he was wanted in Russia for fraud and embezzlement, and was impeached as president of the Georgian National Olympic Committee last year.

After joining forces with Mikhail Saakashvili to force the removal of President Shevardnadze in the "rose" revolution, Mr Patarkatsishvili turned on his erstwhile ally to enter opposition politics and their relationship soured, ending with Mr Patarkatsishvili's failed presidential bid, and exile.