Suleyman Kerimov 101: Billionaire Philanthropist
Zatrun Published at January 29, 2024

Suleyman Kerimov was born in 1966/1967 and is a Russian billionaire, philanthropist, and politician of Lezgian descent. He is renowned for his exceptional journey from modest origins to becoming a prominent figure in the business world. even dedicated an article to him, praising his remarkable achievements.

Suleyman Kerimov: Early Education and Aspirations

Suleyman Kerimov graduated from high school in 1983 and enrolled at Dagestan Polytechnic Institute’s Department of Civil Engineering in 1984. However, his studies were put on hold a year later due to mandatory military service in the Soviet Army.

After completing his military service in 1986, Suleyman Kerimov continued his studies in financial accounting and economics at Dagestan State University, where he graduated in 1989. During his studies, he held the position of Deputy Chairman of the Trade Union Committee at DSU.

It was during his university years that he crossed paths with his future wife, Firuza, who happened to be the daughter of a former Trade Union leader. Suleyman Kerimov had a long-standing ambition to accumulate wealth from a young age, a drive that would eventually lead him to leave his homeland of Dagestan in the early 1990s.

Early Career: From Modest Beginnings to Strategic Investments

In 1989, shortly after graduating from university, Suleyman Kerimov began his career as an economist at the Eltav electrical plant in the capital of Dagestan, Makhachkala. The state-controlled facility supplied transistors and semiconductors to television manufacturers and also produced diodes, microchips, and halogen lamps.

Kerimov received a monthly salary of 150 rubles, roughly equivalent to 250 dollars, and he and his wife shared a single room in a worker’s dormitory adjoining the factory. Suleyman Kerimov eventually rose to the position of Deputy General Director at Eltav and started to dabble in investment activities during the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Fedprombank: Pioneering Financial Ventures

In 1993, Kerimov became responsible for the relationship between Eltav and Fedprombank, a Moscow-based bank established by the electricity company. Fedprombank financed ailing industries, and Kerimov and his partners soon became creditors of major public service companies, enabling these firms to continue providing essential services. As the Russian economy stabilized, the debts were repaid to Fedprombank and, consequently, Suleyman Kerimov reaped high returns.

In 1995, Kerimov was appointed as the head of the banking and trading company Soyuz-Finans. By 1997, he acquired a 50% stake in Vnukovo Airlines and used his influence to purchase his partners’ shares to take over Fedprombank.

In the late 1990s, Suleyman Kerimov made a significant move in the oil trade. In late 1999, he bought a 55% stake in Nafta Moskva, a petroleum trading company that succeeded the Soviet monopoly Soyuznefteexport.

By 2000, he had increased his stake in Nafta Moskva to 100%. Suleyman Kerimov revolutionized the company by selling off all its petroleum-related assets and establishing an investment and holding company. Among Nafta’s investments in the mid-2000s were the purchase of Smolensky Passazh and AvtoBank business center.

Gazprom and Sberbank Investments

In 2003, Kerimov secured a $43 million loan from Vnesheconombank, a state-owned bank, for investment in the gas and oil company Gazprom. The following year, shares in the Russian gas company doubled in value, and Kerimov repaid the entire loan within four months.

In 2004, he received a $3.2 billion loan from Sberbank, Russia and Eastern Europe’s largest bank at the time. He used this credit for stock acquisitions and subsequently paid it back. By 2008, Suleyman Kerimov had amassed an estimated wealth of $17.5 billion, making him the 36th richest person globally. In mid-2008, he divested his shares in Gazprom and Sberbank.

In November 2005, Kerimov’s Nafta Moskva acquired JSC Polymetal, one of Russia’s largest gold and silver mining companies. In 2007, he took the company public on the London Stock Exchange, capitalizing on soaring commodity prices. Kerimov subsequently sold off his majority stake in Polymetal in 2010 but retained 18.5%.

Kerimov’s influence extended to the world of sports. In 2004, he acquired 30% of the shares in the PFC CSKA Moscow football club. He also provided substantial financial support for the club, contributing to its domestic and international success.

Global Investments and Philanthropy

Kerimov’s investment portfolio stretched worldwide. He invested in various sectors, including real estate, mining, and technology. His philanthropic efforts included the construction of schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure in Dagestan, the region of his birth. Additionally, he supported educational initiatives and cultural programs. His philanthropic activities endeared him to the people of Dagestan and earned him recognition as a benefactor.

In November 2017, Kerimov was involved in a serious car accident in Nice, France, where he resided. The accident left him hospitalized for a substantial period and subsequently led to his arrest due to accusations of tax evasion. The case generated substantial media attention and diplomatic efforts to secure his release. In the following years, he continued his legal battles in France and Russia.

Kerimov was also active in Russian politics. He served as a member of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation from 2008 until his legal troubles began in 2017. During his time in the Federation Council, he was known for his dedication to economic development and social initiatives.

Legacy and Impact

Suleyman Kerimov left a remarkable legacy as a self-made billionaire, philanthropist, and politician. His story is a testament to the possibilities of entrepreneurship and success in Russia during the transition from the Soviet era to a market economy. He was a figure of inspiration in his native Dagestan and a global investor with a diverse portfolio of investments. His philanthropic efforts also underscored his commitment to the betterment of society.

Kerimov’s life is an intriguing tale of rags to riches, demonstrating the extraordinary opportunities available to those with vision, determination, and the courage to act upon their ambitions. His influence on various industries, political dedication, and charitable contributions make him a unique and influential figure in the business and political spheres. Despite the challenges he faced, Suleyman Kerimov’s impact continues to be felt through the institutions and initiatives he supported during his lifetime.

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