Alicher Ousmanov possède une fortune de plus de 15 milliards de dollars, soit la septième de Russie selon le dernier baromètre de Forbes.

Usmanov, the shepherd who was besieged by sanctions

In the press and on social networks, his yacht and villas caused many fantasies. In his house and under his tree, between frankness and playfulness, Alisher Usmanov interacts like the good swordsman he has long been. It’s all in tricks, his defense is preparing to counterattack.

The businessman rejects the term “oligarchy” because he “purchased my assets and developed them myself, acquiring them in a competitive market at current prices.” Reassuringly weight gain, responds by rounding corners. But the beating in the end. It has been put on Western sanctions lists since the beginning of the Russian “special military operation” in Ukraine, according to the Kremlin’s downgrade, it is developing its defense.

Exciting investments in metallurgy

At the end of the 1980s, Alisher Usmanov had begun to make his fortune by producing plastic bags, a commodity so rare in the former Soviet Union that people washed and reused them. Today, enriched by profitable investments in metallurgy and communications, Usmanov assures us that the assets confiscated in Europe, yachts and villas, do not directly belong to him.

Married, but in the process of separation (friendly divorce without scandal unlike other billionaires), especially without children, since 2006 he began to put everything in the family’s credits. He argues that his sisters, nephews, and nieces can, now and after his death, benefit from his fortune (more than $15 billion, or the seventh wealth of Russia according to the latest Forbes scale). Aberration maneuver, suspected European prosecutors and sanctions architects. To the reaction of the head of the family, 68-year-old Alisher Usmanov is angry and at the same time in pain to get stuck in his supposed connections with the Kremlin led by Vladimir Putin.

Good job for the services provided

“As a businessman, I have met many heads of state. But I do not think that I have a close relationship with any of them. And I have never performed tasks on their behalf or influenced political decisions ”, this is what the billionaire defends. His opponents point out that his activities, which are prudent and efficient, have nevertheless been accompanied by some good deals for the services rendered.

In question, in particular, the acquisition and control of the newspaper “Kommersant” and then the acquisition of the first social network created by Pavel Durov, the troubled founder of Telegram. Since then, the newspaper has definitely lost its luster but has remained a relatively independent medium. And under the indirect control of the Kremlin, VKontakte has established itself as the main social network for Russians.

Far from the luxury of his yacht and European possessions, Alisher Usmanov entertains in the shade of trees in his Tashkent yard. Back to this Uzbek origin, who graduated in international law in Moscow. In the outskirts near the bustling capital of this Central Asian country, a former Soviet republic in perfect openness to the West, his home contrasts with the population’s poverty. But it is not a huge golden palace of glamorous luxury.

Uzbek “Perestroika”

With piercing eyes, an inquisitive mind, open to debate and contradiction, Alisher Usmanov knows how to remain humble. He jokes about these videos that he once exchanged with Jean-Paul Belmondo, a former neighbor on the Riviera Côte d’Azur. But it is Uzbekistan that he wants to talk about first of all. The country, besieged for a long time by an authoritarian and closed-door regime, began six years ago, under the leadership of Shavkat Mirziyev, a sudden liberation in the style of “perestroika”. With freedom of speech and economy. And with the end of the stranglehold of the powerful intelligence services.

The reformist president knows how to count on the friendly and financial support of a businessman who says he now spends much of his time in Uzbekistan. In his native country, Alisher Usmanov initially accompanied the launch of reforms, which in particular covered the costs of reports commissioned by Western consulting firms. Then his company, which has a strong presence in Russia in the field of metallurgy, invested in the construction of metallurgical plants in Tashkent. Its digital division, together with local partners, has developed the leader in the national mobile phone market. The businessman, who had to undergo a series of complex eye operations in Europe, had medical facilities built in Uzbekistan.

practicing muslim believer

In 2020, the collapse of a dam in Serdoba led to the evacuation of about 100,000 people, highlighting the quality of infrastructure and an entire system plagued by corruption, Alisher Usmanov unbanned emergency aid to victims. In a country that relies heavily on tourism, he has renovated Bukhara, a major cultural site designated by UNESCO.

Not to mention charitable donations, notably a program with the World Bank to develop rural housing, among the world’s poorest. While Central Asia in the post-Soviet period, adjacent to Afghanistan and the Taliban, lives under the threat of transformation into an Islamic cauldron, the businessman, a faithful and committed Muslim, established study centers on Islamic civilization in Tashkent, and on Islamic scientific and spiritual heritage. in Samarkand. Open spaces reject fundamentalism.

I will invest as much as I can in Uzbekistan. These funds are there to stay in the country, and not for personal profit ”, emphasizes Alisher Usmanov, convinced that “the stabilization of relations between Central Asia and Europe will open mutual economic opportunities.” Without severing ties with Moscow, the big brother of the post-Soviet Union, Tashkent also tried to liberating itself from its Russian tutelage in the tense context of the conflict in Ukraine. But far from the indirect criticism initially issued by some of Russia’s famous business tycoons, Alisher Usmanov is trapped in silence on the matter. “In the end, there will only be two winners: United States and China. Europe has a lot to lose.” In the heart of Central Asia, Ukraine seems far away.

Defamation suit against Navalny

This Uzbek dive is not just a return to Alisher Usmanov. It is the revenge of history. At the beginning of his career, he received a heavy prison sentence in Tashkent for fraud and embezzlement. In 2000, the Uzbek Supreme Court ruled that the case was fabricated. The conviction was overturned. The criminal record is empty.

But these six years of imprisonment (out of eight of the first sentence) left their mark. A reference point in the life of a billionaire. “It was illegal and unfair,” he insists today, speaking of a plot he claims to have been a victim of. Forty years later, he does not hesitate to make a comparison with the “injustice” of Western sanctions against him, which in his eyes have no basis. He says he is ready for lengthy legal proceedings against the European Union.

Invest up to $9 billion in a copper mine

Alisher Usmanov is a regular player in arm wrestling on the court. In 2017, the billionaire won his defamation lawsuit against Alexei Navalny, an anti-Kremlin opponent against whom he is now making very harsh statements. The lawyer and blogger, now imprisoned, had accused him of corruption in favor of then-Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, accused of being at the helm of a real estate empire funded by a number of the country’s oligarchs. Alisher Usmanov denied that he was offered a four-hectare property in the prestigious Moscow suburbs, an area that was actually sold as part of a real estate exchange. But, in the eyes of the opposition, this legal confrontation confirmed that Alisher Usmanov was on the side of the Kremlin.

If today the billionaire is personally on the lists of Western sanctions, then his companies are not targeted. Its assets have long been incorporated into USM, a holding company controlled by a few friends. Alisher Usmanov is today one of the main Russian metallurgists.

Starring Metalloinvest, one of the world’s leading suppliers of iron ore-based products, is now beginning to produce more environmentally friendly products. In central Siberia, the billionaire also bet on Russia’s “new oil”: copper. In full permafrost, he plans to invest up to $9 billion in a giant mine and plant dedicated to this mineral, which is needed due to its thermal and electrical conductivity. His company, Oudokan Copper, anticipates a rapid rise in strength.

One of the first major investors in Facebook

This is not the first time that Alisher Usmanov wants to be a visionary. It was he who, after plastic bags, continued to engage in interbank activities and debt collection for gas, and then invested in new technologies and telecommunications. He entered the high-tech fund DST, the mobile phone company MegaFon and the Mail.ru Internet group. In 2009, he was one of the first major investors in Facebook.

Alisher Usmanov bought shares from Mark Zuckerberg, while transferring voting rights to him. With his partners, he controlled up to 8% of Facebook. Before pulling back through its IPO in 2012, the gradual sale of shares and dividends were more than five times the initial outlay. Alisher Usmanov also had a tendency after the death of Steve Jobs in 2011: he bought Apple shares at a low price in 2013 and then sold them at a high price a year later.

A contributor from various times from Twitter, Airbnb or Uber, investor, financier and industrialist, today at the height of his fortune sees himself “no longer an entrepreneur but a fascinated patron of charities.” He claims personally and through his foundations or companies that in sixteen years he has donated about $6.4 billion to support various charitable, social and environmental projects around the world. Half, however, covers the environmental construction sites of its companies, especially minerals. From his courtyard under the Uzbek sun, Alisher Usmanov runs his empire with multiple ramifications, far from the turmoil surrounding his confiscated assets in Europe.

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