bne's Billionaires Club

By bne IntelliNews April 2, 2012

bne -

Name: Timur Kulibayev

Country: Kazakhstan

Estimated wealth: $1.3bn

Kulibayev, son-in-law of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, is probably Kazakhstan's most influential businessman. Since the 1990s, he has held several top positions at state oil and gas company KazMunaiGas and other state energy companies, as well as being chairman of the boards of several of the country's largest state-owned companies including railways operator KazakhstanTemirZholy and atomic energy company Kazatomprom. Together with his wife Dinara, he owns a majority stake in Halyk Bank, Kazakhstan's second largest bank by assets. Until December, Kulibayev headed Kazakhstan's $80bn sovereign wealth fund and state holding company Samruk-Kazyna, but was sacked after the December 16 violence in the oil town of Zhanaozen. However, he remains the most important figure in Kazakhstan's oil and gas industry, which is the backbone of the economy, and has retained his position on the board of directors of Russia's Gazprom. Kulibayev's current position is unclear; he is expected to return to a top position in the government or at one of the state-owned enterprises, but it is not known when or where. Kulibayev is one of several men believed to be a potential successor to Nazarbayev, but he has kept a low profile personally and rarely speaks in public. He also turned down a suggestion that the Atameken business union which he heads be turned into a political organisation.

Name: Nurzhan Subkhanberdin

Country: Kazakhstan

Estimated wealth: $1.1bn

Subkhanberdin is the founder and chairman of Kazkommertsbank, Kazakhstan's second largest bank by assets. He also has holdings in companies across the energy, telecoms, transport and media sectors in Kazakhstan through his shareholding in Central Asian Investment Company. Subkhanberdin attended Moscow State University with President Nazarbayev's son-in-law, Timur Kulibayev, and is known to be close to Kazakhstan's first family. Subkhanberdin's relationship with the top echelons of power led to Kazkommertsbank being considered the "government's bank". When the financial crisis hit Kazakhstan in 2007, Subkhanberdin's powerful connections helped to ensure the bank's survival despite its over-exposure to the real estate sector.

Name: Alexander Mashkevitch

Country: Kazakhstan/Israel

Estimated wealth: $3.3bn

Mashkevitch is one of so-called "ENRC trio" together with long-time business associates Patokh Chodiev and Alijan Ibragimov. The three men started working together during the perestroika era, and after independence scooped up some of Kazakhstan's largest chromium, alumina and energy assets. These were merged together to form Eurasian Natural Resources Company, which listed on the London Stock Exchange in December 2007 with a market capitalisation of around £6.8bn - catapulting the Kazakhstan-based company straight into the FTSE 100. Mashkevitch retains his Kazakh citizenship despite also holding an Israeli passport and rarely spends more than a month of each year in Kazakhstan. He is friendly with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and on occasion has liaised between the Kazakhstani and Israeli governments.

Name: Patokh Chodiev

Country: Uzbekistan/Belgium

Estimated wealth: $3.3bn

Another of the ENRC trip, Chodiev was born in Uzbekistan, made his fortune as a co-founder of ENRC in Kazakhstan, but now lives mainly in London under a Belgian passport. A former Japanese language student, he launched his first business employing the Blind Workers Workshop in Moscow to make plastic bags, before joining up with Ibragimovich and Mashkevitch in the metals and mining sector.

Name: Mukhtar Ablyazov

Country: Kazakhstan

Estimated wealth: could be up to $10bn

The former head of BTA Bank, Ablyazov has been in exile in London since Kazakhstan's largest bank was nationalised in 2009 under controversial circumstances. The Kazakh government and the new management of the bank accuse him of masterminding the embezzlement of around $10bn from BTA before its collapse. BTA is pursuing the lost billions through the courts in the UK and Russia. Ablyazov claims the takeover of the bank was a government ploy to steal his bank, as part of the so-called "Project Superkhan" engineered at the top levels of government. So far, the English high court has been unsympathetic to Ablyazov's defence, and in February sentenced him to two years in prison for contempt of court. Since then, he has been on the run, and is believed to have fled to France. For the last decade, Ablyazov has had an often turbulent relationship with the Kazakh government. He served briefly as minister for energy, industry and trade in 1998, but in 2001 co-founded the opposition Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan movement. The following year, he was sentenced to six years in prison for abuse of power during his spell as a minister, but was released after just 10 months on the condition that he stay out of politics.

Name: Akin Ipek

Country: Turkey

Estimated wealth: $1bn plus

Greeting cards are not the most obvious basis for a business empire, but since taking over his family's printing business, Ipek has succeeded in expanding the group's interests to include gold mining, media, tourism and now oil exploration. Having dominated the Turkish greeting card sector and become a major exporter, Ipek's decision to invest the profits in gold mining ahead of the seismic increase in gold prices now appears little short of prophetic. With four operational mines and a fifth under development, the IPO of his Koza-Ipek gold mining subsidiary in 2010 proved to be one of the biggest of the decade. And having also invested in a daily newspaper and a TV channel, it was little surprise that the group was being seriously tipped to take over all or part of the media assets of Turkey's troubled Dogan Group. Instead, Ipek has taken his group into tourism and oil exploration. As well as opening one of the country's most expensive hotels - which is alcohol free - Ipek has also been building up a portfolio of oil prospects in Turkey's under-explored southeast. Given the success of his gold prospecting ventures, few would bet against a profitable oil strike.

Name: Roman Karkosik

Country: Poland

Estimated wealth: $1.1bn

Karkosik has made it into the ranks of Polish billionaires thanks to focusing on the grubby businesses of metals and car parts. While they may lack the glamour of high-tech industries, his determination to create a global car parts company is paying dividends. Poland's Wprost weekly estimates his fortune at PLN3.6bn ($1.1bn). His main investment vehicles are Impexmetal, active on the copper, aluminium and zinc markets, and Boryszew, his investment company which is buying up car parts companies. Karkosik, 61, styles himself as a Polish Warren Buffet, an investor who steers clear of expensive advisers and holds companies for the long term, but is always prepared to sell if the price is right. The comparison to Buffet is not completely crazy. Over the last decade, his main investment vehicles - Alchemia, Boryszew, Skotan and Krezus - have each gained several thousand percent. He got his start in the late 1970s, first running a bar, then moving into orange juice. In 1989, he began making cables after he found it almost impossible to buy them while building himself a house. By the early 1990s, he was a significant player on the nascent Warsaw Stock Exchange. He is now using some of those gains to add to yet another area of investment - searching for energy in Asia.

Name: Marek Dospiva

Country: Czech Republic

Estimated wealth: $1bn plus

Dospiva and his two co-founders of Penta Investment, a Czech-Slovak firm started in 1994, saw their business recover well post-crisis; according to the company's website, Penta had revenues in 2010 of €2.1bn and assets worth €3.4bn. 2011 was in all probability a better year than 2010 and only in March the group was snapping up a 40% stake in Polish retailer Empik Media & Fashion for PLN410m (€100m). Despite being embroiled in the huge "Gorilla" corruption scandal in Slovakia, business for Penta appears good.

Name: Frank (Vasile) Timis

Country: Romania

Estimated Wealth: $1.2bn-1.3bn

Timis, a 49-year-old Romanian citizen, is also one of the most controversial Romanian-born billionaires. Now residing in London, he left Romania for Australia at the age of 16, where he started his own transport company, which owned only one truck driven by himself. By 1992, he held investments in the gold mining industry. He went on to set up Regal Petroleum, which owned some oil and gas resources in Romania and Ukraine, and in November 1996 was floated on London's Alternative Investment Market. It became famous after the September 2003 acquisition of 60% in an oilfield located in Greece, where it later reported it may have found up to a billion barrels of oil. Such news pushed up Regal's market value to about £500m, prompting institutional investors to buy shares in it. By mid-2005, however, the bubble burst as it became clear that the oilfield did not contain the amounts the company had claimed. In a few hours, its stock price fell by more than 60%. In 2009, the company was fined nearly $1m by UK authorities for issuing misleading statements about its oil reserves. More promising has been his investment in diamonds and iron ore in Africa. His African Minerals Limited in 2010 announced an initial mineral resource estimate of over 10bn tonnes of iron ore, which is now recognized as the biggest iron ore find in 20 years and has made Timis over $500m.

Name: Ioan Niculae

Country: Romania

Estimated Wealth: $1bn plus

Niculae, 55, has worked in the chemical industry his entire life, first for a state-owned company, later on his own. He is currently a major stakeholder in five of the biggest chemical plants in Romania, but has a diverse portfolio that includes interests in refineries, four-star hotels, consulting firms, restaurants, slaughter-houses, soccer teams and real estate. Niculae has made most of his money in recent years from buying the state-owned ailing fertilizer producers and taking advantage of a government-support scheme that allowed certain industrial companies to use solely domestic natural gas, which is priced at a third of the international market price. Thus, Niculae managed to make money from selling chemical fertilizers at market prices, while benefiting from a government-support scheme. However, his income from fertilizer production in Romania is expected to drop as the government stopped the support scheme under pressure from the European Commission. Nicolae, however, plans to further diversify his business interests by adding power production with two planned plants on the Danube River and in central Romania.

Name: Ivica Todoric

Country: Croatia

Estimated Wealth: $1bn plus

Regarded as the king of the Croatian food industry, Todoric is the founder of Agrokor Group, the largest private company in Croatia. Agrokor is the owner of some of the country's most famous retail brands, including the supermarket chains Konzum, iDEA and KPlus, water and beverages, such as Jamnica, Jana and Juicy, ice cream and frozen foods, and meat production and processing. Todoric also has an ownership stake in mobile operator, "Tele2".

Name: Danko Koncar

Country: Croatia

Estimated Wealth: $1bn plus

Dubbed the 'King of Chrome', Koncar's Kermas Group manufactures and distributes ferrochrome and chrome chemicals in Russia, Germany, and Turkey. Koncar has also been linked to mining interests in South Africa, along with investments in shipyards, real estate and a liquefied natural gas terminal in Croatia.

Name: Philip Zepter

Country: Serbia

Estimated Wealth: $5bn

Zepter, real name Milan Jankovic, has an estimated net worth of $5bn, primarily derived from Zepter International, a global conglomerate that producers, sells and distributes exclusive, high-quality consumer goods. Zepter sued the International Crisis Group for defamation following a 2003 report which described him as "an arms dealer, money launderer and crony of brutal Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic."

Name: Miroslav Miskovic

Country: Serbia

Estimated Wealth: $1bn plus

Miskovic is Serbia's best known businessman. A former deputy prime minister during the Slobodan Milosevic years, Miskovic established Delta M (a sort of abbreviation of his initials - double M) that prospered in the late 1990s. Today, Miskovic's Delta Holding has an array of business interests in agriculture, retail, distribution, financial brokerage, real estate and insurance. In April 2001, Miskovic was kidnapped for 18 hours, before a ransom payment - estimated at 7m deutschemarks - secured his release.

Name: Saulius Karosas

Country: Lithuania

Estimated wealth: $1.5bn

Currently residing in Geneva, Karosas owns the SK Impex group in Lithuania. He started in the oil business in 1990 as a mediator between Swiss banks and Russian oil extraction companies. Later he established (and subsequently co-owned) Switzerland-based oil management company Western Petroleum. According to Karosas, annual revenues of Western Petroleum had reached $6bn by the time it was liquidised in 2010, mostly because oil trading moved online. He has since compiled a diverse portfolio of assets, including tanker ships (now sold), charter flight company Aurela (recently sold to Cyprian company Servolian Investments), Medicinos bank, real estate company Turto Garantas, and Sugihara Beauty Therapy And Surgery Clinic. Karosas also owns luxury properties in Switzerland, Spain, Czech Republic, Austria and Lithuania. He has a vast collection of vintage cars, a private jet, and several exclusive wine cellars. He is a rally enthusiast and formerly a successful participant. Karosas graduated as mechanical engineer from Vilnius Construction Engineering Institute.

Name: Dmitrijus Buriakas

Country: Lithuania

Estimated wealth: $1.2bn

Currently living in Nice, Buriakas holds Lithuanian and Russian citizenship. In 1996, he established Vision International People Group, which specialises in health products. Buriakas owns B&S Holding Group, which counts Russian, Austrian, Swiss, Ukrainian, Cyprian and Lithuanian companies under its holdings. Most of his business in Ukraine is under DeVision company, which operates in the construction and real estate sectors. Its current projects include a 19,000-seater sports and entertainment arena, in which the finals of the upcoming European Basketball Championship of 2015 will take place. There have been repeated reports over Buriakas' alleged links with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and the world of organised crime.

Name: Nerijus Numavicius

Country: Lithuania

Estimated wealth: $1bn plus

Numavicius, the youngest Lithuanian billionaire and the only one not living abroad, is the largest shareholder of Vilniaus Prekyba group. Last year, the group was reorganized into four different enterprises: Entaras, NVP Projektai, Patria Holdings and VP Ltd. Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Competition Council allowed Numavicius to increase his amount of shares in the group from 36.9% to 73%. VP group has the largest retail stores' network in Lithuania, Maxima grupė, and a pharmacies' network, Euroapotheca. Maxima grupė also owns retail networks in Latvia, Estonia and Bulgaria, a construction and decoration retailer Ermitazas, and several real estate enterprises. They are also reported to have recently acquired Polish retail network Aldik Nova. The man himself keeps a low profile. It is known that he gained a BA in Medical sciences from Vilnius University in 2001. He also is chairman of International Business School at Vilnius University and a congress member of the Lithuanian Business Confederation.

Name: Valery Kargin and Viktor Krasovicky

Country: Latvia

Estimated wealth: ?

The only real contenders for oligarch status in Latvia in recent years were the twin-headed hydra of 'K&K' who were valued at around €0.5bn each in 2008 just before their wildly successful bank Parex became the wildly unsuccessful bank Parex. The bank's spectacular collapse dragged the entire country to the edge of bankruptcy. Though forced to hand over their ownership of the bank for a token 1 lat in order to effect a €7.5bn IMF/EU bailout and then seeing assets such as Rolls Royces sold off, the size of their fortunes remains a subject of some speculation. The fact that the Latvian privatization agency and Parex's liquidators slapped K&K with a demand for €140m in late 2011 suggests they think there is still lots of cash stuffed under the mattress. Two property deals worth around €6m in February involving palatial Kargin family seaside properties suggest he hasn't yet been reduced to going through rubbish bins.

Ian Bancroft, Ieva Barauskis, Jan Cienski, Mike Collier, Clare Nuttall and Bogdan Preda contributed to this article

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