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NEWSMAKER-Secretive steeI
baron tops Russian rich Iist
(Release at 0300 GMT, Monday Feb. 15)
By Dmitry Zhdannikov
MOSCOW, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Steel baron Vladimir Lisin, ranked
Russia's richest man, has been in some of the fiercest battles fought
among the country's oligarchs but has done it so discreetly that even
most Russians barely know his name.
A keen huntsman and connoisseur of Cuban cigars, Lisin can be more
often seen with a shotgun in hunting magazines than in business
dailies.
With a personal wealth of $18.8 billion and top place in a Russian "rich
list" published by the Finans business magazine, Lisin is unlikely to
escape the limelight in future.
His fortune is worth half of Microsoft founder Bill Gates' $40 billion, the
world's biggest, according to U.S. Forbes magazine. Finans publishes its
list two months before the benchmark Russian Forbes edition, which last
year ranked Lisin 93rd on the global list with $5.2 billion.
Lisin's name means "fox" in Russian, and his acquaintances say the
phenomenal success of the multi-billionaire can be largely explained by
the fact that he has never upset the government or the Kremlin.
Lisin, 53, is a rare example of a career steel man becoming a king in
Russia's fragmented steel industry, which is mostly run by financiers
after chaotic sell-offs in the 1990s.
A graduate of a Siberian steel institute and a senior steel plant manager
in the late 1980s, he had to learn fast after the Soviet Union's demise
was followed by what is often tagged "the sale of the century" of state
assets in the 1990s.
As a junior partner of the powerful Cherney brothers, Mikhail and Lev,
Lisin helped their TransWorldGroup (TWG), a metals trader with links to
the political elite in President Boris Yeltsin's Russia, gain control of some
of the country's most lucrative metals assets.
BATTLES
They included steel, aluminium and copper plants. The way they were
acquired, through sometimes violent battles, is known in Russia as the
"aluminium wars" of the 1990s.
As TWG's fortunes faded and partners began to quarrel at the end of the
1990s, he set himself to acquiring one of the country's most modern
steel plants, in Lipetsk.
He had to fight another round of battles, including with nickel king
Vladimir Potanin, and buy out a large stake from U.S. financier George
Soros to finally gain control over Lipetsk.
Lipetsk, also known as NLMK, floated stock in London in 2005, and
posted quarterly profits of billions of dollars, becoming a big steel
exporter to China and trying to buy large steel assets in the United
States.
As NLMK's business roared, Lisin became less and less of a public figure.
He was said to have bought assets in the West but the purchases appear
modest compared to the yachts and football clubs of some Russian
oligarchs.
In 2005, British media reported that Lisin had spent 6.8 million pounds
($10.5 million) on a 16th-century Scottish castle.
Married with 3 children, he has built one of Russia's biggest clay pigeon
shooting centres. His retreat, "the Fox's Den", has welcomed top
visitors, including Russia's most influential politician, Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin. (Reporting and writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov; editing by
Andrew Roche)
© Thomson Reuters 2010 All rights reserved
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NEWSMAKER-Secretive steel baron tops Russian rich list ' Metals & ... http://aI.reuters.com/article/metalsNews/idAFLDE61D03Z20100214?s...
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