Prokhorov’s wealth came out of the controversial loans-for-shares privatisation scheme back in the mid-90s. He was able to acquire Russian state-owned metals businesses following the fallSelf-made billionaire and politician Mikhail Prokhorov is a Russian-Israeli oligarch. He is a former owner of US basketball team Brooklyn Nets and became an Israeli citizen in April 2022. of the Soviet Union at rates much below their true market value. His main business, Norilsk Nickel, rose to become the top nickel and palladium manufacturer in the world.
He was formerly the president of Onexim Group and the chairman of Polyus Gold, the largest gold producer in Russia. Bloomberg estimates his net worth to be US$14 billion as of December 2021, while Forbes pegs it at US$11.5 billion.
In 2011, Prokhorov ran as an independent candidate in the 2012 Russian presidential election. He was third, amassing 7.94% of the vote. In June 2012, he declared the establishment of a new Russian political party called Civic Platform but insiders say his political ‘ambitions’ are all done with the connivance of Vladimir Putin.
In the 1990s, the Russian government needed loans to operate. Prokhorov partnered with Potanin and their Onexim bank ran auctions for the Yeltsin government, in which bidders won the right to loan the Russian government money. The Russian government secured the loans with blocks of shares of the newly privatized state enterprises. The government never repaid the loans, and, as a result, Onexim received ownership of the collateral, which was the shares in the privatized enterprises.
Prokhorov partnered with Potanin to run Interros, a holding company that they used in 1995 to effect the purchase of Norilsk Nickel, one of Russia’s largest nickel and palladium mining and smelting companies. During the largely unregulated privatization of former state-controlled industries after the collapse of the USSR, Prokhorov and Potanin (the latter by then a deputy prime minister who oversaw privatization) were able to acquire the shares from the workers of Norilsk Nickel for a fraction of their estimated market value and seize ownership of the company. When he departed in 2007, Prokhorov’s share of the company was worth US$7.5 billion.
Onexim was also able to purchase Sidanko, which was a part of the Novolipetsk metallurgical industrial complex, and also the Novorossiisk marine shipping company as well as a large share of the Northwest marine shipping company. All of these enterprises were purchased by Prokhorov and Potanin for around 30% of their estimated market value, which is how they became so rich in such a short time.
Another massively profitable deal for Prokhorov was converting Norilsk’s gold-mining interests into the US$8.5 billion corporation Polyus Gold, Russia’s largest gold producer. In 2003, he oversaw the acquisition of Stillwater Mining, his first international venture. He resigned as Norilsk CEO in February 2007 and declared his intention to separate his assets from those of Vladimir Potanin. They have gone their separate ways but both remain among the richest Russians on the planet.