From market-friendly reforms to a cooling of tensions with Russia, Ukrainian voters are getting the rapid change they demanded when they upended the political establishment this year.

But, rather than President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, it’s a once-rogue billionaire who’s the talk of the town as the new era unfolds.

Igor Kolomoisky, an industrial and media magnate worth an estimated $1.1 billion, used his broadcasting empire to drive Zelenskiy’s former career as a TV comic. Tongues have been wagging for some time over how close the two men remain.

For starters, there was Kolomoisky’s abrupt return from self-imposed exile in Tel Aviv three days before Zelenskiy’s inauguration in May. The tycoon had fallen out with the president’s predecessor over the nationalization of his bank, among other things. His TV channel embraced Zelenskiy in the runup to the election.

There’s since been plenty more grist for the rumor mill, though concrete evidence that Kolomoisky is influencing policy is hard to come by.

At stake is Ukraine’s nascent economic revival, which could be derailed if the billionaire succeeds in regaining control of Privatbank, the country’s No. 1 lender. Such a step would suggest the oligarch class, a drag on previous reform efforts, can retain its vast power in the new Ukraine.

It would also threaten financial stability, according to the central bank, and could torpedo a new loan program with the International Monetary Fund.

“There’s a consensus among investors that the government is doing a lot of good things,” said Ihor Mazepa, who owns Ukrainian investment firm Concorde Capital. “But any wrong decisions on Privatbank would erase that positive effect very quickly.”

Ukraine Poised to Seal Three-Year IMF Loan of About $5 Billion

Zelenskiy and Kolomoisky have repeatedly said there’s nothing untoward in their relationship. But government appointments and developments around Privatbank are causing concern.

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