Roman Abramovich, Russia’s eighth-richest person, is the country’s most charitable billionaire.
The 46-year-old owner of London’s Chelsea Football Club donated about $310 million of his $12.7 billion fortune to philanthropic causes from 2010 through 2012, more than any of Russia’s 15 richest citizens, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. About a third of Abramovich’s gifts went to social works projects in the Chukotka region near Alaska, where he was once governor.
Alisher Usmanov, Russia’s wealthiest man, gave $247 million to charity in the period, a Bloomberg survey of the country’s richest people shows. He controls a $19.4 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
“It’s just in the last few years that ultra-rich individuals in Russia have started to pay attention to what they can do to make this world a better place,” said Edward Mermelstein, a New York attorney who helped billionaire Viktor Vekselberg repatriate czarist-era bells from Harvard University at a cost of $10 million. “In the past, charitable giving was done more for vanity, but today we see some serious philanthropists.”
Of the 15 billionaires surveyed, 10 provided data on their philanthropic donations. Those who responded have a cumulative net worth of $127 billion, and gave a total of $1.3 billion from 2010 through 2012, about 1 percent of their combined fortunes.
That compares with the $6 billion spent in 2010 and 2011 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is funded by Gates, his wife and Warren Buffett. Gates and Buffett, the two richest people in the U.S., have a combined net worth of $124.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg ranking.
Abramovich amassed vast wealth acquiring some of Russia’s biggest enterprises at bargain-basement prices during Boris Yeltsin’s presidency after the collapse of communism. Since 1999, he has given or invested more than $2.5 billion to build schools, hospitals and infrastructure in Chukotka, averaging about $179 million a year, according to the survey.
President Vladimir Putin said during his campaign for a third term last year that he was considering a one-time tax on entrepreneurs who acquired state assets at “unfair” prices in the 1990s. The bulk of Abramovich’s wealth is derived from the sale of OAO Sibneft, the oil company he bought a controlling interest in for $100 million in 1996 and sold to state-run gas company OAO Gazprom for $13 billion a decade later.
Since buying Chelsea in 2003 for 142 million pounds ($217 million), Abramovich has spent more than $1 billion helping the club win three Premier League titles. Last year, it became the first London team to clinch Europe’s Champions League.