From Russia with steel, oligarch Usmanov arrives at the Emirates

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The Independent Football

The Russian steel baron Alisher Usmanov, who yesterday bought a 14.6 per cent stake in Arsenal, is an ultra-wealthy businessman who is mainly known to the man in the street in Russia for his ownership of the country's successful business daily Kommersant.

His fellow billionaire Russian, Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea, who has just become his Premier League rival, shares Usmanov's steel interests. Abramovich's private holding company bought a 41 per cent share in Russia's biggest steel producer Evraz Group SA two years ago. Presumably, the two men also share an interest in football.

Usmanov is the 23rd-richest businessman in Russia and the 278th-richest businessman in the world, according to the Forbes rich list. Abramovich came in at No 40 this year, with a net worth of $18.7bn (£9.3bn).

Usmanov was once described as "probably one of the best" businessmen in Russia, by Boris Berezovsky, a London-exiled Russian oligarch who is President Vladimir Putin's sworn rival. He "doesn't let political passions get the better of him," Berezovsky once said.

Usmanov, who was born in the central Asian republic of Uzbekistan, is one of the top 10 steelmakers in Russia and had gobbled up shares in the Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus. He heads Gazprominvestholding, part of the state-run Gazprom giant which supplies gas to Europe, which is run by close allies of Putin. He also owns the massive Gazmetall/Metalloinvest, which controls 40 per cent of iron ore production in Russia.

When he took over the Kommersant publishing house last year, a chill ran through the newsroom of its flagship newspaper as Usmanov was known to be close to Putin, and there were fears he would be a "hands-on" owner at the paper, which had been a fierce critic of Putin.

Usmanov met staff and said that he would not interfere with the paper's editorial policy. But he added, without seeming to realise the contradiction, that Kommersan would support the Kremlin, according to a former journalist on the paper.

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