Oleg Deripaska

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Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska born January 2, 1968 is a Russian oligarch of Jewish descent, aluminium magnate and philanthropist.  He is the founder and owner of one of the largest Russian industrial groups Basic Element. He was the president of En+ Group and United Company Rusal, the second largest aluminium company in the world, until 2018. He was once Russia’s richest man, worth $28 billion, but nearly lost everything due to mounting debts amid the 2007–08 financial crisis. As of June 2019, his wealth was estimated by Forbes at $3.3 billion. Deripaska is also known for his close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin, as well as his connection to American political consultant Paul Manafort, whom Deripaska employed from at least 2005 to 2009.

Deripaska is also the founder of Volnoe Delo, Russia’s largest charitable foundation and is reported to have donated more than $250 million to mostly educational causes. He is married to Polina Yumasheva, step-granddaughter of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and daughter of Valentin Yumashev, Yeltsin’s son-in-law and close advisor.

Deripaska was also granted Cypriot citizenship in 2017.

Deripaska was born in Dzerzhinsk, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Soviet Russia and grew up in Ust-Labinsk, Krasnodar Krai. His parents were from Kuban. He is of Russian-Jewish ancestry. Deripaska grew up on the family’s small farm, where from the age of 5 or 6, he learned how to live off the land from his grandparents, who primarily raised him after his widowed mother, an engineer, had to leave to find work.  Deripaska credits his grandparents for teaching him the discipline of hard work along with farming. Deripaska acquired a passion for reading; his favorite authors were Mayne Reid and Jack London.  Today, Basic Element’s headquarters contain walls of books, reflecting Deripaska’s lifelong love of reading.  His talent for math allowed him to enroll at the physics faculty of Moscow State University in 1985.  One year into his studies, he was conscripted into the armed forces and served in the Soviet army’s Strategic Missile Forces in the Trans-Baikal area, Siberia, from 1986–1989.

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In 1993, Deripaska graduated with honors in physics from Moscow State University; however, the collapse of the Soviet Union greatly eliminated academic funding and made it impossible for him to continue his studies as a theoretical physicist.  There were no stipends or grants for students either. “We had no money. It was an urgent and practical question every day. How do I earn money to buy food and keep studying?” he recalls.  In 1996, he earned a master’s degree from the Plekhanov University of Economics.

Deripaska’s first job was at the Ust-Labinsk plant where his mother worked. At age 11, he became an electrician’s apprentice doing maintenance on electrical motors.  At the age of 25, teaming up with fellow physicists, engineers and rocket scientists, Deripaska set up his first metal trading company, VTK. He adopted a systematic, scientific approach to commodity trading. “I represented companies that were buying and selling raw materials”, Deripaska said.  Deripaska undertook export arbitrage, buying metal at low Russian prices and selling it abroad at significantly higher international market prices.

Deripaska traded primarily through the Baltic state of Estonia as the Russian system of export licenses was in disarray. “I started my business at an unusual moment in history. The country in which I was born raised had disappeared, although the new country was not fully formed. The first one gave me an excellent education; the second one gave me the chance of success”, Deripaska recalled in an interview with Metal Bulletin. He used nearly all his arbitrage and trading profits to acquire his initial package of shares in the Sayanogorsk Aluminium Smelter in Southern Siberia.  Between 1993 and 1994, Deripaska bought vouchers and shares in Sayanogorsk, and accumulated a 20% stake in the factory, becoming the biggest individual shareholder after the Russian State — to the annoyance of the plant’s Communist-era bosses.In 1994, he was appointed director general of the Sayanogorsk Aluminium Smelter in Eastern Siberia. Under his leadership, the smelter became an industry leader for labour safety, environmental standards, product quality, technological development and profitability. In 2000, Russian Aluminium (RUSAL), a partnership between Sibirsky Aluminium and Roman Abramovich’s Millhouse Capital (Russia’s largest aluminium smelters). That same year, Oleg Deripaska became a CEO of RUSAL.

RUSAL went on to become the largest aluminium producer in the world, until the China Hongqiao Group surpassed it in 2015. In 2010, under Deripaska’s leadership, Rusal became the first Russian company to be listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.  In 2007, Rusal merged with SUAL Group and Glencore International AG to form UC Rusal, with Deripaska as chairman.

Deripaska was a part of the team that founded EN+ Group in 2006, with Oleg Deripaska as President and controlling shareholder. The EN+ Group is a diversified mining, metals and energy groups. It owns a majority stake in UC Rusal (48.13%) and in EuroSibEnergo. EN+ also holds interests in SMR, one of the world’s largest ferromolybdenum producers. A number of companies of Basic Element group play a significant role in Russia’s economy and industrial sectors e.g. En+ Group, GAZ Group, Basel Aero etc.

Oleg Deripaska has other investments.  He holds 10% of Ingosstrakh’s ordinary shares. The company is a leading insurer of complex risks such as insurance for ship owners, ship hull insurance, insurance against aviation and space-related risks, and insurance of transportation companies and has over 83 branches in Russia. Oleg Deripaska fully owns Kuban Agroholding, a massive agribusiness in southern Russia. It is one of the top-20 largest agribusinesses and top-5 most efficient land users in Russia.Kuban Agroholding is one of the few agrocompanies in Russia involved in embryo transfer technology that allows for the reproduction of high-yielding milk cows out of less productive recipients.

The company has also gained significant media attention about its corn-seeding program, deploying several dozen corn brands selected by its genetic specialists.

In 2004, Deripaska was appointed by the President of Russia to represent the country in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Advisory Council (ABAC). He has been Chairman of ABAC Russia since 2007. Deripaska is the vice president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, chairman of the executive board of the Russian national committee of the International Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Council, an agency of the Russian government.

He has been a permanent participant at World Economic Forum sessions since 2007, when RUSAL became a WEF strategic partner.

In May 2007, Magna International chairman Frank Stronach announced that Deripaska was becoming a strategic partner in Magna. Deripaska is also a member of the International Council at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.Deripaska personally initiated construction of the Centre for Epidemic and Microbiological Research and Treatment in the Guinean Kindia province. The Centre was designed and constructed by RUSAL specialists with the assistance of Rospotrebnadzor scientists (RUSAL has invested $10 million).

His achievements have attracted several honours to his name.

Deripaska was named Businessman of the Year in 1999, 2006, and 2007 by Vedomosti, a business publication partner to the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal.  In 2000, Oleg Deripaska was awarded the Order of Friendship, a state award of the Russian Federation. In 2013, Oleg Deripaska was honored as Industry Ambassador of the Year by the Metal Bulletin Global Awards for Aluminum Excellence.

In 2014, Mr. Deripaska was awarded Russia’s highest civilian decoration order “For Merit to the Fatherland” by President .