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March 15, 2009

Russia’s Richest Oligarchs Losing Billions and Billions

Moscow has lost the title of billionaire capital of the world.  New York is now the billionaire capital with London coming in second.  Russian billionaires lost more than $250B and approximately two thirds of its billionaires due to the world financial crisis.

In 2008 there were 87 Russians billionaires with a total estimated wealth of $471.4B.  Today there are 32 Russian billionaires with an estimated wealth of $102.1B.

In 2008 there were 1,125 billionaires worldwide; today there are only 793.

Russia’s descent into its economic predicament began when the heavily oil-dependent economy was hit by falling crude prices. Russia’s stock market is down by 67% over the past year and their currency, the ruble, has depreciated 29% against the dollar.

Russia’s government has already spent $250 billion to prop up its currency so that it can avoid a sharp devaluation of the ruble. Russia has even helped private businesses refinance their foreign debt so that foreigners don’t take over several Russian businesses. Even with help from the government dozens of Russians fell from billionaire ranks, including the very wealthy investment banker Ruben Vardanian who owns Troika Dialog.  He allegedly got a substantial cash injection from the state owned Sberbank.

Even Russia’s richest woman Yelena Baturina has financial problems.  Baturina had a vision of building one of the most outrageous buildings in Moscow called ‘Project Orange’an avant garde complex shaped like slices of fruit, with a tinted facade that would cast an orange glow over the Moscow River.  Last week Ms. Baturina applied for about $1.4 billion in government loan guarantees for her construction company. In 2008 Ms. Baturina’s wealth was estimated at $4.2 billion.

The credit crunch has brought Russian real estate to a halt. Russian’s Donald Trump — Kirill Pisarev — and his partner, Yuri Zhukov each lost 90% of their wealth as shares of their real estate firm lost nearly all of its value. Russian analysts say that real estate is expected to remain the worst part of the Russian market, impacted by the dramatic slowdown in property sales and construction.

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