Once the co-owner of Alfa Group Mikhail Fridman (now living in London and therefore not very sociable) loved to talk aloud with reporters about the origins of his capital and the relationship between business and government. The success story romanticized by himself was based on three main points: “I am proud that I built a business from scratch”; “We always tried to distance ourselves from the state”; “I'm lucky. I don’t want to prove anything to others. ”
Over the years, Mikhail Fridman carefully built himself the image of a self-sufficient person, not obliged to anyone by any of his successes. At times he was not averse to opposing himself to other colleagues in the workshop who were especially unpleasant to him. Saying they are something - not like me, who achieved everything myself - they "threw" and "used the resource." Another reason for the gloating in Mikhail Maratovich appeared today - when one of his "sworn colleagues" was at the center of a very ugly history, becoming an unwitting co-author of an environmental disaster. We are talking about the situation in Norilsk.
The media did not know where the publications appeared about the co-owner of Norilsk Nickel Vladimir Potanin, intonationally as if they had come to us from the distant 90s. After all, even then, Friedman (as claimed on the network), for the eyes did not spare expressions for Vladimir Olegovich. Of course, no hint of Michael Friedman's involvement in this campaign can even be allowed. But since Potanin’s some detractors now recall the affairs of days gone by — why not see what the owner of Alfa Group was doing in those same years, and is he so different from his long-time “antagonist”?
Mikhail Fridman was born on April 21, 1964 in Lviv, in a family of devout Soviet Jews. The free media of the 1990s mercilessly savored the details of the unsuccessful circumcision made to him at the age of 6 (the boy went to the hospital) and the difficult school years, when in addition to the “fifth point” Misha got from her peers for being overweight. The corresponding complexes usually remain with a person for life, but they have almost no relation to the current topic. Immediately move to Moscow, where a young man from Lviv came to enroll at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, but did not succeed - either he lacked knowledge, or in connection with his origin. The Institute of Steel and Alloys (MISiS) came in handy as a backup option - they took exams a month later, the competition was lower, the entrance control for the “fifth point” is not so tough. Michael studies at the metallurgist, lives in an ordinary student dormitory, and until now has not sparkled with any special talents. They don’t even take him to the KVN institute team - they are too tightly squeezed and unstructured.
The future richest resident of London begins his ascent to the top of the business at the steps of the Bolshoi Theater - apparently, having taken up the banal speculation of tickets. Friedman's “legitimate” place is the second column on the right, when facing the building. Here, next door was the famous “hundred-metering” in Soviet times - a meeting place for people of non-traditional sexual orientation. And literally around the corner, currency prostitutes were piling up. In general, the beautiful metropolitan life was seething around and shimmering with all the colors of the rainbow. For starters, Michael himself is in the queues for tickets, but quickly becomes the head of the "ticket team", and is only coordinating her activities. One ticket goes to the queued one, the other goes to Friedman for subsequent sale. However, in his later interviews, he himself claimed that the tickets he got were not sold at all, but were supposedly simply exchanged for other scarce goods - coupons for books, Georgian wine, etc., and Mikhail earned money exclusively by honest work - working as a loader in store (according to another version - a plumber). The version, given the turnover of the “ticket” business, is rather funny - but obviously not random, and that’s why.
Speculators and swindlers who bred in the late Soviet period, along with gays and currency prostitutes, were of primary interest to the KGB from the point of view of replenishing the undercover network. Unbeknownst to the then omnipotent special services, neither Friedman, nor his neighbors and neighbors in the public garden at the Bolshoi could simply remain at large, because the very fact of their existence violated serious articles of the Soviet criminal code. Meanwhile, not a single drive to the police, not even a single reprimand on the institute’s line, was recorded in Friedman’s personal file. According to his own admission, Mikhail did not see anything shameful in the supply of information in which the security agencies were interested in the late USSR.
“These goats were not interested in any dissenters. I myself was then a dissent. They were interested in drugs, antiques and relations with foreigners. How they bought and exported our antiques, ”RIA FAN quoted him as saying.
Of course, to acknowledge the sale of theater tickets for Mikhail Fridman would mean signing at once two biography facts not very convenient for a "respectable billionaire":
1. It is possible that his very first steps in business were connected with criminal offenses.
2. They became possible only thanks to the successful non-interference of the KGB.
For a long ruble
In the third year, Mikhail Fridman tried his hand at producing activities - he organized an informal youth club "Strawberry Glade" in the MISiS hostel, which organized paid discos and informal (read - illegal) concerts. This frivolous at first glance, the "theme" ultimately brought Michael to completely different orbits. Apparently, this acquaintance with his future long-term partner Peter Aven, who headed the MSU music club at that time, dates back to this period. Aven is the exact opposite of Friedman: a native Muscovite from a professorial family who has not lived in a hostel for a single day. A graduate of an elite physics school (a classmate of the same “golden boy” Yegor Gaidar), a student of the famous Soviet economist Stanislav Shatalin, who, together with Gaidar, defended his thesis at the Department of Mathematical Methods of Economics Analysis at the prestigious Economics Faculty of Moscow State University.
What has brought such different Friedman and Aven together - is it just music, just love of money, or some other, not well-known “fad” - official biographers are still not known or not told to speak out loud. But another thing is known - without Aven’s ties and the patronage of other "senior comrades", the talented entrepreneur Friedman could well have limited himself to washing windows in Elektrostal near Moscow (he created the corresponding cooperative in 1988).
But fate decreed otherwise, and the senior Moscow comrades allowed the provincial Misha, who was punchy and not burdened with old-fashioned principles, to hold on to the long late Soviet ruble. Already in 1989, together with a prominent specialist in photochemistry, corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences Alfimov, neighbors in the student dormitory Herman Khan and Alexei Kuzmichev, former teacher Oleg Kiselyov, Friedman created the Alpha-Photo cooperative, which sold photographic materials and office equipment (but in reality - all). On its basis - according to one version with the assistance of Peter Aven - the Soviet-Swiss joint venture Alfa-Eco is being created. As the economist Mikhail Delyagin wrote, “the planned economy was destroyed by the crazy Gorbachev reforms. They were guided by the party farm nomenclature, who wished to possess the goods distributed by it and to transfer them by inheritance. Speculation was a bonanza. Alfa-eco became the basis of Alfa-groups ... For the security of settlements and additional profit, Alfa-Bank was created in December 1990. Due to the rapid development, the journalists talked about relations with the mafia, but the bank emphasized: they focused only on the power structures of the state. ”
As you can see, yesterday’s first really really big money and the first relatively global “projects” make gray ticketer and organizer of illegal concerts side by side with much more experienced and influential senior partners. Here, talent is also required, but a special kind is the talent to be needed and “always at the services” of those who are temporarily stronger and needed these services. Later this line of Mikhail Fridman’s business strategy will be called by detractors and envious people as “unprincipled”. It is believed that Alpha has always easily entered into alliances and just as easily broke off relations with yesterday’s partners, did not disdain to play the role of a "battering ram" in other people's corporate disputes and take on almost any business - of course, if it promised a proportionate benefit. By the way, Fridman has parted with yesterday’s patron Oleg Kiselev since 1992, when real money came to Alfa-Eco.
In February 1992, Peter Aven was appointed Minister of Foreign Economic Relations of the Russian Federation in the government of Yegor Gaidar, after which the "economic miracle" of Alfa Group showed itself in all its glory, and the comrades first spoke seriously about entrepreneurial talents of Friedman. Let us quote a little more the book by Mikhail Delyagin “The Lights of Darkness: The Physiology of the Liberal Clan” - it painfully succinctly describes the secrets of Alpha’s success in this “transitional” period for the Russian economy:
“With the collapse of the USSR, the non-speculative part of the Soviet elite became an accessible resource for improving the image of the business. In 1992, twice the Hero of the USSR became the vice-president of the bank, the first person to go into outer space, Alexei Leonov, the darling of a disappeared country with wide connections. He helped to overcome the distrust of a private bank and attract vouchers to Alfa Capital. ”
Many people recall Gaidar’s teleprescription, allegedly confirming the rumors that it was Alfa Bank that gave a lot of money for his appointment; it seems that in response he helped the bank with preferential state loans. However, the basis of Alpha’s power and unsinkability, as far as I can tell, was a strategic partnership with Solomon Brothers, one of the largest investment banks in the United States, probably achieved through ties among Jewish emigrants in the very beginning of the 1990s.
Another important success factor, as they said at that time, was the control established by Alpha during Aven’s tenure as Minister of Foreign Economic Relations at the International Investment Bank, one of the two CMEA banks. He possessed a huge financial and organizational resource ...
In the early 90s, Friedman broke through to the export of oil. When Fradkov was approved as prime minister after the resignation of liberal Kasyanov, one of the liberal newspapers published questions to him, some of which recalled the start of Friedman:
“In the early 90s, Alfa-Eco supplied sugar, tea and carpets from India. Tea was bought, among other things, due to government debt ... Have you supported ... Friedman?
In the 90s ... Alfa-Bank connected to operations with foreign debts of Russia ... Debts were bought for 25-30% of the cost. Kasyanov ... compiled a list of priority ... debts, which fell into the debts of Alfa Bank. ... did you know about this practice?
In March 1993, you entered the ... export promotion committee. By next year, Alfa-Eco exported 10 million tons of oil per year. In December 1993, you entered the food commission ... Alfa-Eco received a government contract for the annual supply of 1.5 million tons. ... oil in exchange for 500 thousand tons Cuban sugar. In June 1994, you joined the commission ... in the field of ... alcoholic beverages. Alfa-Eco has become the leader in the sale of Moldovan wines in Russia. Are the ... coincidences coincidental? ”
The questions were addressed to Fradkov because in Gaidar region he was Deputy Minister of Foreign Economic Relations Aven (he was in the research institute in the same room with Gaidar and the only one of his team fulfilled his promise to leave the government upon his dismissal).
The desire of the famous economist Delyagin to “round the corners” and to voice the most acute and obvious questions to Mikhail Fridman in other words is understandable. The “official”, ceremonial history of Russian business in the 90s does not withstand inconvenient issues at all. Let's imagine for a moment where the notorious “entrepreneurial talents” of Mikhail Fridman would find their application without, apparently, preferential state loans? Without export-import operations in the interests of the government? Without government money in the accounts?
The same "bedside table"
The successes of the first half of the 1990s logically lead Friedman (we recall - like Potanin) to the “seven bankers” - a close group of oligarchs who really decided in 1996 the fate of the country: rallying around the sick and weak Boris Yeltsin, despite everything being put forward for a second presidential term.
“Prizes” and “bonuses” were not long in coming from that oath: having lost to Vladimir Potanin the aforementioned fundamental fights for assets, in 1997 Alfa Group, through ZAO New Holding, gets its own chicken with golden eggs - 40% shares of the Tyumen Oil Company (TNC). The asset is transferred to Friedman’s associates under an “honest pioneer” promise to invest $ 810 million in the company over 2 years, which is 55 times higher than the winner’s authorized capital. The Accounting Chamber recorded: “When determining ... the price ... the cost of the recoverable oil and gas reserves on the balance sheet was not taken into account ... The price ... was underestimated by at least $ 920 million” (quotes from Delyagin). Already a year later, Alpha consolidates a controlling stake in TNCs, and in 1999, according to an economist, it redeems the remaining state-owned stake on very favorable terms. In 2003, TNK shareholders sold half of it to BP for more than $ 6 billion. Subsequent years, TNK-BP brought in from $ 3 to $ 6 billion a year in dividends, and when the asset was sold to the state in 2012, Friedman and other shareholders received "On hand" over 28 billion dollars ... ".