Roman Abramovich is a Russian entrepreneur. He was born on October 24, 1966 in Saratov, Russia. At the time, Russia was part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Born to Jewish parents, Abramovich was raised by a paternal uncle after being orphaned at a young age. At the end of the 1980s, the USSR was on the brink of political and economic collapse. In a bid to overcome the crisis, President Mikhail Gorbachev pushed through partial market reforms, allowing for the birth of private enterprises in the formerly communist regime. Abramovich seized the opportunity and quickly founded several trading companies specializing in oil and related products.
In December 1991, the USSR ceased to exist and Russia soon after dropped its state-run economy in favor of a free market system. Boris Yeltsin, president of the new Russian Federation, initiated a huge privatization program. In 1995, Abramovich, together with Boris Berezovsky, another businessman, bought the giant oil company Sibneft for around 100 million dollars. Its value quickly skyrocketed, triggering suspicions that the price had been rigged in favor of Abramovich and Berezovsky, both of whom had close ties to Yeltsin. During the same period, Abramovich also bought a sizable stake in Aeroflot, the formerly state-run airline, and invested heavily in the aluminum sector. Abramovich is one of the so-called oligarchs, young entrepreneurs who became fabulously rich by purchasing Russia’s largest public companies for a song after the Soviet Union collapsed and privatization began. A series of inspections carried out after Vladimir Putin became president of Russia found that many of the oligarchs had evaded taxes or cheated. Roman Abramovich was not charged for any crimes.
In early 2000, he sold his share in Sibneft for roughly 13 billion dollars, investing part of the proceeds in his Evraz metals group. Also in 2000, Abramovich was elected governor of Chukotka, a remote region in Siberia with abundant energy resources. He invested more than one million dollars of his own fortune in public works there, securing the population’s support. He was reelected to a second term in 2005. In 2003, he bought one of London’s most important soccer clubs, Chelsea, and moved to the English capital. Thanks to his huge investments in star players, the team won the English Premier League title two years in a row. Embodying a remarkable tale of rags to riches, in early 2008 Roman Abramovich was recognized by the American magazine Forbes as the 15th richest man on the planet, with a net worth of more than 23 billion dollars.