How Grigory Berezkin's business is organized and why he needs mass media

Media ownership is a way to get information faster and be in a trend, the businessman believes.
The new owner of the holding RBC, the owner of the ESN group, 50-year-old Muscovite Grigory Berezkin tell different things: he allegedly has many enemies among businessmen and, on the contrary, patrons among the top leadership of Russia. But in response to direct questions about relations with Berezkin, officials say that they communicate closely with many notable businessmen, and businessmen praise him. "I do not want to replicate the rumors, and I have quite decent personal impressions of him," says one businessman who is ranked among the top officials of the state.

Berezkin has been engaged in business since the late 1980s, and in the first Forbes list of the richest Russians entered in 2004 with a fortune of $ 830 million. They earned them on trading in oil and electricity. In 2017, the businessman takes the 125th position in the rating with the same $ 800 million. "He likes stability, a significant part of the team has been working with him since the mid-1990s," explains one of his longtime employees.

Even the Moscow office of the ESN group has not changed for almost a quarter of a century - all this time it is located in a four-story building opposite the White House, at the place of the bought and reconstructed kindergarten. To the chief go upstairs, where a variety of exhibits from the collection of Berezkin. On the ground floor there are posters of the "Rochlest memory of Rochdel" and "Glory to Soviet science", on the second one - one of the first copies of the Benz car, the next one - a huge sculpture "Tsunami", even higher - showcase with antique helmets.

The Berezkin group of UST owns two oil terminals (Uyar and Skovorodino), 50.5% of the energy trader Rusenergosbyt, which supplies electricity to Russian Railways, controls Rusenergoresurs, which supplies electricity to Transneft. Now Berezkin invests in telecommunications, IT, but his plans in the media business attract his attention. The businessman has long been interested in him: the UST group has been monitoring the "Komsomolskaya Pravda" since 2007, since 2008, together with the Moscow government, has been releasing the Russian version of the newspaper Metro. On Friday, June 16, the structure of Berezkin bought a 65% stake in RBC.

"The speed of development, for example, of IT-business is several times higher than that of oil. You're falling behind. The easiest way to reduce the distance, to compact time - through the media. This is a useful connection with reality, the necessary umbilical cord that connects you to the world. All absorb information. If you are in this chain standing closer to the center of the process, then there is more around you, "Berezkin says enthusiastically. He himself agreed to talk with Vedomosti only about the media. About how the businessman made a fortune, told his acquaintances and partners.

Business by request

Berezkin had a short way to big money, on the way to him, he did not have time to light up in really scandalous stories, his old acquaintance notes. About Berezkin say that he is with all major businessmen in good relations - especially with former and current business partners Roman Abramovich, Alexander Mamut, Vladimir Potanin, Mikhail Prokhorov. The acquaintance of Berezkin explains that he knows businessmen from the Bureau of the RUIE since 1994-1995. - all of about the same age, at one time started, in some banks and at some meetings met.

To establish good relations with colleagues on the list Forbes Berezkin was helped also by sports. Since his childhood, the businessman has been skiing, in his adult years he was interested in water sports and rallies. So, with seller RBC Mikhail Prokhorov Berezkin several times met on the ski slopes, told a common acquaintance of businessmen. And then Berezkin's water ski club "Alpha" in Strogin sheltered Prokhorov, when he, after sharing assets with a former partner - Vladimir Potanin, was unable to ride a water tank in a club on the Istra River near Moscow. Businessmen have long been acquainted, we can say that they are friends, confirms the man from the environment of Prokhorov.

At the same time, Berezkin has a good relationship with Potanin, businessmen say. Potanin himself did not comment on the relationship with Berezkin. "Would they be engaged in joint projects if they were unpleasant to each other?" - Asked a friend of Potanin. At the end of 2016, Interros Potanin and ESN Berezkin created a fund for investment in the CIS Natural Resources Fund's mining projects. This is Potanin's first "partner" project after the "divorce" with Prokhorov. This winter the fund announced the purchase of almost 40% from Norilsk Nickel in the Bystrinsky GOK.

Scientific approach

In his youth, Berezkin was sure that he would connect life with science and continue the family dynasty, family friends tell. His father, Professor Viktor Berezkin, is one of the most famous chromatographists in Russia. Having graduated from the chemistry faculty of Moscow State University with a red diploma, Berezkin, Jr. worked at the university, wrote a thesis at the department of petrochemistry. The business started unplanned, says Berezkin's acquaintance. In the winter of 1989, a "postcard" for a car came to the family - that is, the right to purchase it came up. There was no money, they wanted to refuse the car, but Berezkin did not dream of it. He decided to make money before July, when the car needed to be picked up. Berezkin together with two university colleagues registered a cooperative and began to make IT systems for oil refineries in the Urals and Siberia. The comrades were responsible for the technical part of the project, he himself for the organizing part.

Entrepreneurship Beryozkin liked it. "Science is a very interesting world, but it is closed, not social, and business is a very social process: communication with people, business trips to distant lands, challenges, excitement. This is the spirit of the expedition, which he loves, "says one of the institute friends of Berezkin, recalling how they traveled with students geological and chemical expeditions to the Urals, Kamchatka, the Far East.

For a while, Berezkin combined science and business. He tried himself in different projects. For example, together with several partners, including Mamut and Vladimir Gruzdev, in 1992 they established a trade cooperative "Slavyanka", later turned into a network "The Seventh Continent". Then he sold the share to Gruzdev, remaining with him, and with Mamut on good terms. Berezkin is a reliable friend and companion, Gruzdev responds about him.

Cable business

In one of the trips Berezkin's attention was attracted by the storage of huge coils with a cable. Experts explained that they are suspended on a pump in oil wells and with a cable are big problems. In many industries, production was limited to the fact that in the event of a break, the cable could not be replaced.

Approval time

About seven years ago many businessmen called Berezkin the man of President Dmitry Medvedev. Why? For example, in 2010 several people close to Rostelecom and Scartel told that Berezkin was negotiating with them about joint projects: in the first case, about creating a joint venture, in the second case, about buying a stake. Both companies then had a chance to get the frequencies of cellular communication of the fourth generation. And allegedly in both cases he said that the issue of deals was solved in the Kremlin. Berezkin always denied the connection with Medvedev. The businessman got acquainted with him in 2000 in the presidential administration with the approval of some issue. And then, and now all the significant deals are agreed in one way or another, it's not a secret, big businessmen and officials admit.

Berezkin found out that in the country there is not enough copper (during the USSR it was produced mainly in the republics of Central Asia and Transcaucasia), nor equipment for processing the old cable. And I decided to invest money earned on IT in the creation of such production. I installed Swedish equipment in the factory "Sibkabel" in Tomsk, began to collect bays of the old cable all over the country and to make a new one out of it.

On the cable, the state is not one Berezkin. A similar story about the first million was told by Viktor Vekselberg, whose fortune Forbes estimates at $ 12.4 billion. In an interview with the newspaper, the businessman recalled that he and his friends had developed equipment that made it possible to extract the copper core from the cable and sold it for export. "It was a fantastic profitability business: the cost price of copper obtained in this way was $ 300 per ton, and abroad this ton could be sold at $ 2,300," the businessman recalled.

Thanks to cable supplies, Berezkin got acquainted with all oil companies of the country. For deliveries, they paid with oil. So Berezkin became an oil trader.

Trader and oilman

Then all foreign supplies were paid a month after shipment, and Berezkin managed to organize the first in the country contracts on pre-export financing: in 1995 he agreed with several foreign banks, including with United Overseas Bank (later UBS), recalls his friend .

Soon the trader Berezkin turned into an oilman. He put his eye on Komineft. The company, which belonged to the state and the Republic of Komi at that time, operated in one of the most promising oil and gas regions of the country - the Timan-Pechora oil and gas province and extracted about 3 million tons a year; Had the status of a special exporter. It had many shortcomings, but one huge advantage - it was located in the European part of the country, close to the markets. The businessman first became one of the top managers of Komineft, and in 1997 - and its co-owner: 38% during the privatization was won by his EuroSeverneft (later called the UST) for $ 3.9 million and the obligation to invest $ 19 million in the region Million Berezkin structures continued to buy shares of "Komineft" and by 1999 gathered almost 70% of the company.

In the mid-1990s. Berezkin got acquainted with Roman Abramovich, recalled oilmen who talked with Vedomosti. And his company exported Sibneft oil. In the spring of 1997, the KomiTEK managing company Komineft even participated in a tender for the purchase of a controlling stake in Sibneft, which was put up for sale by the state. Berezkin's structure did this at the request of Abramovich, to ensure competition in the auction, told the "Vedomosti" the man who worked then for Berezkin, and manager Abramovich. KomiTEK had its own interest in the asset, the company needed licenses for the prospective fields that were owned by Sibneft, Berezkin's acquaintance now objects. The auction was won by Abramovich and his partners.

By 1998, Komineft's production exceeded 6 million tonnes, and the following year the company was sold to Lukoil. The man who worked with Lukoil at the time said that the deal was forced. According to him, the seller was pressured in various ways - for example, because of the 1994 oil spill under Usinsk, still considered one of the largest in history, recalls one of the former partners of Komineft. The reason is different, Berezkin's acquaintance assures. The development of Komineft was limited to the fact that all licenses for development in the Timan-Pechora province were privatized by Lukoil. And the infrastructure necessary for Lukoil belonged to KomiTEK. It was clear that it was strategically important to unite the two companies, and after long and exhausting negotiations, the parties agreed on the deal - the shareholders of Komineft became Lukoil shareholders, Vedomosti interlocutor said. "Lukoil" in its reporting indicated that the acquisition of "Komineft" cost him $ 619 million. Berezkin gradually sold his share.

Energetic Reformer

In 2000, Berezkin's team was structured into a separate UST management company. The businessman decided to take part in the beginning reform of RAO "UES of Russia". He met with Anatoly Chubais, managing director of the energy holding company, and announced his readiness to take over any regional energy system. Chubais suggested Kolenergo and the UST signed a contract for three years, says Berezkin's acquaintance.

How did Berezkin get acquainted with all the important people? No intrigue - through the reception agreed on the meeting, assures the man from his entourage.

"Nobody introduced us, Berezkin came to me in 2000 with a proposal to take any of the AO-energos into management," Chubais confirmed to Vedomosti. The proposal was accepted because he clearly understood what he wanted, and had a substantive understanding of the matter, explains the former head of RAO UES. KomiTEK had its own power plants.

"At that time, we needed a story so much to shake everyone up and show that the company can be managed not only by a professional power engineer. Yes, it was a precedent. And there were certain risks. But they did not come true, "Chubais recalled. "He had a broad vision of the opportunities, and much of what they did for the first time in Kolenergo, then was used in other AO-energos (vertically integrated regional energy systems - Vedomosti)," Chubais praises businessman.

Kolenergo was one of the most problematic companies, worse only in the Far East, Chubais recalls. She was going to bankrupt Rosenergoatom for huge debts. The collection of payments was deplorable, Chubais continues. People did not pay, because they understood that to turn off the light and heat in the polar night, no one's hand would rise. The task of Berezkin's company was to remove the company from the pre-bankruptcy state, resolve the problem of non-payments and restructure. The management of RAO recognized all tasks as fulfilled.

Berezkin brought a lot of innovative ideas to the energy market, Chubais summarizes. "Kolenergo" with him entered the foreign market - to Norway and Finland. From this, the sales business was born: Berezkin soon registered the first energy sales company.

The businessman first signed an agreement with the consumer - Kandalaksha aluminum plant Vekselberg - with a price formula tied to the aluminum quotations on the London Stock Exchange, praises Berezkina Chubais. He recalls that the businessman also brought into the industry the first foreigners - the largest Italian energy company Enel. The partners built the North-West CHP in St. Petersburg. In 2006, Enel bought 49.5% in Rusenergosbyt, the marketing company of Berezkin. Further, Enel independently developed in Russia, investing 5.5 billion euros in the acquisition of control over OGK-5. For the UST, it was too expensive, Berezkin explained earlier to Vedomosti that he did not participate in this transaction.
In addition, Berezkin until the summer of 2008, when RAO was abolished, was a member of the board of directors as the largest after the state shareholder, says Chubais. Berezkin collected 10.5% of the holding's shares, but sold them to Gazprom.

Since the appointment of the state company, Berezkin has been familiar since 2002. Back then, he suggested buying up shares in RAO UES in order to exchange them for assets and supply the gas monopoly with cheap electricity in the course of the power industry reform, former deputy chairman of Gazprom Alexander Ryazanov told Vedomosti earlier. Gazprom managers believed that Alexei Miller Berezkin was advised to accept the current Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who at that time headed the presidential administration. Berezkin denied this.

Miller redirected Berezkin to Ryazanov, recalled the last: "Berezkin made a very good impression on me. Clear, very reasonable and independent. "

Since autumn 2003, the subsidiaries of the gas monopoly have begun to purchase energy, starting from $ 500 million in the first year, not from regional energy companies, but on the wholesale market through Rusenergosbyt Berezkin.

UES Berezkin bought shares of UES for itself, and not for Gazprom, one of its managers now says. "In general, it was understood that about 20% of the generation in our country can be received on our package. We realized that such a "barbell" could only be in the hands of a major strategist - they were Gazprom, who subsequently bought our stake, "Vedomosti interlocutor said. In parallel, the monopoly bought shares in the subsidiaries of the reformed RAO UES. Thus, Gazprom energoholding, one of the largest generating companies in Russia, was established.

In search of longevity

Berezkin continues to study science. In 2015, Acta Naturae published his next work on biochemistry in co-authorship with MSU staff Peter Sergiev and Olga Dontsova - under the title "Theory of Aging. Ageless theme ". Its authors examined existing theories and approaches to the study of aging. Practically all popular theories agree that aging is manifested as accumulation of damage, the most recognized source of which are active forms of oxygen and the accumulation of non-utilizable by-products of metabolism. In addition to the damage proper, the rate of their accumulation is important, due to the overall metabolic rate, the authors indicate. They come to the conclusion that the most significant changes in the lifespan of model organisms - including naked diggers, nematode worms, sea urchins - have been linked to gene mutations that modulate the intensity of this process. For example, starvation triggers a mutation program in the nematode, which can increase life expectancy by half. A comparative analysis of genomes of long-living animals and related short-lived species may also be productive, noted in the work. For example - sea urchins. So, scientists managed to prove that the red sea urchin inhabiting the Pacific coast of the US can survive to 100 years, while the Caribbean sea urchin lives only 3-4 years. "Such significant differences in the lifespan of close species make them a promising target for searching for genes related to life expectancy," the authors conclude.

From Gazprom to RZD

By 2007, Gazprom itself began to engage in power sales. For Berezkin this did not become a blow. After all, a few years before that, he had offered services to another large client, RZD. Who helped? The acquaintance of Berezkin assures us that again everything was negotiated through the reception of Gennady Fadeyev, the Minister of Railways in 1992-2003, the first president of RZD. Berezkin comes to all the meetings with a good presentation and is able to clearly explain the advantages of his proposal, explains the businessman's acquaintance. So it was this time. Fadeev, he showed a presentation on the transition to the purchase of electricity in the wholesale market of 20 glued sheets. It described the 172 steps that need to be taken for this. Berezkin spread it all over Fadeev's table. He was so impressed that for a while he called Berezkin a nickname "172 steps", recalls one of the employees of the businessman. In 2004, his Rusenergosbyt received a contract for the supply of RZD energy without a tender. And it still supplies it.

At one of the meetings Fadeev introduced Berezkin to the future president of RZD, and then his first deputy - Vladimir Yakunin. "We met shortly after my appointment as First Deputy Minister of Railways (it was held in 2002 - Vedomosti)," Yakunin, who worked as President of RZD in 2005-2015, handed over to Vedomosti, and now heads the Board of Trustees of the Research Institute "Dialogue of civilizations".

About the relationship of Yakunin and Berezkin say different. Several years ago several contractors working with RZD called Berezkin "the man of Yakunin", but now people close to them describe the relationship as "tense". The publication "Medusa" wrote that Berezkin and Yakunin finally quarreled because of some real estate. Allegedly Yakunin asked the head of the UST "to fulfill a delicate request: to buy their own property for one person" with their money. " Berezkin allegedly fulfilled the request, but reported about it to structures close to the FSB, which collected on Yakunin compromising evidence. This is fiction, says Yakunin. Disproves this version and the representative of Berezkin.

"We did not have any close relationship, but I do not know much of his family. Several times we communicated informally, in a family circle. This is a strong and good family. His wife caused my wife and I a feeling of genuine sympathy, "says Yakunin. With Berezkin, he eventually did not get along. Tension arose from work, explains the former head of RZD. Berezkin was primarily concerned with his own interests. Yakunin claims that he objected to Berezkin's idea to buy RZhD shares in TGK-14, the only electricity supplier in the Trans-Baikal Territory and Buryatia. He did not consider this transaction profitable. But Berezkin played a "significant role" in the decision to buy the board of directors of the Railways and the government, said Yakunin. The joint venture of Russian Railways and the Unified Social Tax was first controlled by TGK-14, which cost him almost 5 billion rubles, and later brought its stake in the generating company to almost 84%. In 2012, RZD repurchased the share of Berezkin in TGK-14, although only a year earlier it was going to sell its own. But she did not get the government directive.

Changed market circumstances over time made it unprofitable for RZhD and the contract for the supply of electricity, says Yakunin, after which he himself and the board of RZhD tried to insist on their revision. "Both sides ultimately moved towards compromise, relations with Berezkin always remained quite civilized. Despite the fact that we disagreed on the fundamental issues of the development of RZD, after my resignation, he called me and expressed general wishes in the new life. I see no reason why we could not phone, "Yakunin told Vedomosti.

Berezkin since 2010 is permanently elected to the Board of Directors of RZD. He considers this activity extremely important, officials often simply do not have enough time to dive into all the details and therefore the reasoned position of independent directors can play a decisive role, explains his acquaintance.

Bet on new

Many of Berezkin's projects are born like this: he offered a good idea, something needed at the right time and fulfilled his promises, says one of the close acquaintances of a businessman. This was the birthplace of the Uyar oil loading terminal launched by the UST group in 2005. Russia signed an intergovernmental agreement on the supply of oil to China, while there was not enough infrastructure for its implementation, neither ways, nor a terminal. UST took the liberty to build everything and coordinate everything among all, says Berezkin's acquaintance. The terminal in Uyar was built in nine months.

In 2015, the structures of Berezkin became co-owners of the Finnish company Jolla, created by natives of Nokia. This company is developing smartphones and tablets based on the Sailfish OS. "The world is changing rapidly. If 10 more years ago there were nine oilmen in the list of the world's richest people, this year the oilman was left alone, the other IT people, "one of Berezkin's employees shared. ESN began to engage in various IT projects and, as the businessman says, BCG hired to broaden its horizons - "with our consultants, we were sitting at school and they told us about the IT industry". In addition, Berezkin and his team traveled several times to the World Mobail Сongress in Barcelona to feel the trends, and looked at the Chinese experience.

The idea to buy Jolla pushed the conversation with the owner of Alibaba Jack Ma and his staff at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, assures Vedomosti's interlocutor. It turned out that his extremely powerful system has several weaknesses. He among other things sells a few tens of millions of smartphones per year and wants each one to have one icon - Alibaba. And that the owner did everything - and bought tickets and things, through Alibaba. And there is an icon for Google, the developer of the Android OS. And the license agreement with Google does not give the phone manufacturer the ability to insert another icon. Then it became clear that a large number of people are experiencing developmental limitations due to the duopoly of operating systems, Vedomosti's interlocutor explains.

"Developing the OS from scratch is a huge amount of money and time, in Russia there is nothing like that. There was only Nokia, who spent time and money on this, but abandoned the project, "explains Berezkin's employee the choice of Jolla.

UST structures acquired shares of the company on a par with a pool of international investors from different countries, in particular China, Italy, Poland, Finland and Kazakhstan, but gradually brought their share to the control and are now in charge of the company's development. On the basis of Sailfish, a mobile national operating system will be created - Jolla won this right at the competition of the Ministry of Communications. Smartphones, for which Sailfish OS is installed, will now purchase the "Mail of Russia".

One of the players of the Russian IT market believes that investments in the project of UST structures can be $ 10-20 million. Representative of Berezkin speaks about tens of millions of dollars.

Berezkin has many qualities necessary for a businessman, but his most important super abilities are his ability not to allow conflicts and to be in good standing with the authorities, one of his former partners says about him. "I have an opinion that Berezkin, in principle, is a non-conflicting person. And the search for a compromise is one of the elements of his business strategy, "says Chubais. "Grigory Viktorovich is a man who is undoubtedly extraordinary, possessing excellent organizational skills, very calculating, able to influence people and use them," Yakunin said. "The main thing is that he is a person who understands the rules well. If he needs to break them, he will first go and get permission from anyone ", - a high-ranking official responds about Berezkin.