Alisher Burkhanovich Usmanov, also known as Alisher Usmonov in Uzbek, is a prominent businessman and oligarch who holds both Uzbek and Russian citizenships. Usmanov’s wealth was amassed through metal and mining operations, as well as investments following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
He holds the majority stake in Metalloinvest, a Russian industrial conglomerate that merged JSC Metalloinvest’s assets (Mikhailovsky GOK and Ural Steel) with those of Gazmetall JSC (Lebedinsky GOK and the Oskol Electrometallurgical Plant) in 2006. In addition to this, he owns the Kommersant publishing house and is a co-owner of MegaFon, Russia’s second-largest mobile telephone operator, and Udokan Copper, which is responsible for the development of one of the largest copper deposits globally.
Alisher Usmanov was born in Chust, a provincial town in Uzbekistan, and grew up in Tashkent, where his father worked as a state prosecutor. Initially, he aspired to become a diplomat and moved to Moscow to pursue his studies. Although he was initially rejected, he was eventually accepted to the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and graduated with a degree in international law in 1976. After graduation, he returned to Tashkent and became the director of the Foreign Economic Association of the Soviet Peace Committee.
Usmanov is a Muslim and married Irina Viner, a Jewish rhythmic gymnastics coach, in 1992. Viner is considered to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, having introduced him to former rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva. However, Usmanov filed for divorce from Viner on May 4, 2022.
Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Usmanov became a millionaire in US dollars. He established Agroplast, a for-profit cooperative that produced plastic bags, which helped him accumulate considerable wealth after the USSR’s dissolution.
From 1990 to 1994, Usmanov worked as the Deputy General Director of Intercross JSC, and later headed Interfin Interbank Investment and Finance Company from 1994 to 1998. He also served as an Adviser to the General Director of Moscow Aviation Industrial Enterprise from 1994 to 1995 and held the position of First Deputy Chairman of MAPO-Bank from 1995 to 1997.
In the late 1990s, Usmanov managed Gazprom Invest Holdings, the investment-holding subsidiary of Gazprom, a state-owned gas company in Russia. He remained the General Director of Gazprom Invest Holdings for over a decade before leaving the company in 2014.
Usmanov’s global conglomerate, USM, has significant investments in the metals and mining industry, as well as in telecommunications, technology, and media. Usmanov holds 100% voting rights and a 49% economic interest in USM, and through this company and his personal investments, he owns stakes in various iron ore and steel, media, and internet companies.
Together with his business partner Vasiliy Anisimov, Usmanov founded Metalloinvest to manage his acquisitions in the metal industry. Unlike other Russian tycoons who gained control of their empires through loans-for-share privatization schemes, Usmanov grew Metalloinvest through a series of acquisitions. This company owns several Russian metal and mining businesses, including Lebedinsky GOK, Mikhailovsky GOK, Oskol Elektrometallurgical Plant, and Ural Steel steel mills, as well as a ferrous scrap enterprise known as Ural Scrap Company.
Usmanov’s investments also extend to the mining industry in Australia, where he has acquired stakes in companies such as Medusa, Mt Gibson, and Aztec Resources through Gallagher Holdings (now USM Holdings). He is the second largest shareholder in Toronto-listed Nautilus Minerals and has also invested in Australian mining company Strike Resources, which is working on an iron ore deposit in Peru.
In 2009, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with Russian investors, brokered by Goldman Sachs, and Usmanov made his first investment in Facebook through Mail.ru, with a $200 million investment for a 1.96% stake that valued Facebook at $10 billion. Despite giving up voting rights on those shares, he accepted Zuckerberg’s conditions. When Facebook went public in 2012, its value increased several times, and Usmanov made around $1 billion by selling his stake.
DST also made an $800 million investment in Twitter in 2011. Through Mail.Ru Group, Usmanov invested in various international tech companies like Groupon, Zynga, Airbnb, ZocDoc, Alibaba, and 360buy. He also invested $100 million in Apple in 2013, but disposed of his shares in early 2014.
In late 2014, Usmanov claimed that his investment in Alibaba was up by 500%. He had sold his Facebook investment and invested in Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, calling it a “future technology giant”, and expressed interest in investing in India’s online trade sector.
In 2015, USM invested $100 million in esports team Virtus Pro. More recently, USM and Metalloinvest announced plans to build one of the world’s largest HBI eco-plants in Russia’s Kursk region, which will produce greener products used in steel production as part of an effort to reduce the industry’s environmental impact.
Usmanov first crossed paths with Yuri Milner in 2008 and soon became a shareholder in DST and VK (Mail.ru Group). At one point, he held a 25.3% economic interest and 60.6% voting interest in VK, but in 2013 he sold a stake worth $530 million, reducing his interests to 17.9% and 58.1%, respectively.
In 2013, Usmanov helped Pavel Durov retain control of VK by acquiring his shares in Vk.ru, as UCP claimed on Telegram.
In September 2018, it was reported that Mail.ru would enter into a $2 billion joint venture with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. to merge their online marketplaces in the Russian market. The deal was backed by the Kremlin through the Russian Direct Investment Fund.
On December 2, 2021, Usmanov’s holding shares were sold to Russian insurance company Sogaz. Usmanov acknowledged that his involvement with VK has largely influenced the development of USM.
As of March 2022, Usmanov held a majority stake in MegaFon, Russia’s second-largest mobile phone operator.
His net worth is currently estimated to be $14.7 Billion as of March 2023.
Alisher Usmanov has received several awards and honors throughout his career. Here are some notable ones:
It is worth noting that Usmanov’s business and philanthropic activities have been the subject of controversy and criticism in some circles. However, he remains a prominent figure in the worlds of business, sports, and philanthropy.