Roman Abramovich – The Story of a Self-Made Billionaire

It’s truly impressive how a person’s story can change in a matter of years. The man who started his life as an orphan (his mother died when he was one an a half years old, and his father passed away in an accident when he was just four) has managed to determine the international media to write about him almost on a regular basis. Roman Abramovich is currently known as the fourth richest man in Russia and the 50th wealthiest in the world. And he did everything on his own, as he inherited no fortune from his parents.

What always helped him was his innate sense of business. But it’s also interesting to know that he didn’t really care about morale when he first started building his fortune. For instance, during his army service he sold stolen gasoline to officers and managed to raise a lot of money this way.

Then, after he married his first wife, Olga, he used the money his parents-in-law had given  them as a wedding  gift (2,000 rubles, or about 2,000 US dollars) in a very ‘special’ way. He invested it in contraband in Moscow. Illegal? Yes. Profitable? Of course! Now don’t get us wrong, we don’t encourage smuggling black market goods. We are merely presenting facts here.

After his huge success with contraband, Abramovich took on manufacturing plastic toys and automotive parts. Not long after that, in 1988, the famous Perestroika Russian program was introduced and Olga started a dolls company. This was an instant success. In the years that followed, Roman started numerous different businesses that ranged from oil products to pig farms and even bodyguard recruitment.

But he couldn’t stop himself from going at least a little illegal, and in 1992 he got arrested for stealing government property. He used false documents to redirect the shipment of a train: 55 cisterns of diesel fuel. Soon this incident was solved and forgotten and in 1995 he made the deal of his life together with Boris Berezovski.

The two took advantage of the controversial loans-for-shares program that was launched in Russia at the time and managed to buy a controlling interest in the large oil company called Sibneft. They actually got the company 25 times cheaper than its actual market value! Later, Abramovich admitted having bribed (billions of dollars) some important government members for protection. He also bought gangster protection for extra security. Sibneft soon started producing around $3 billion worth of oil a year.

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His next target was the aluminum industry. After the privatization, in Russia started what became known as the ‘aluminum wars’. In their fight to take control of the industry, many people were murdered. Plant managers, traders and even journalists found their end in this war. Finally, the winner of the conflict was Roman Abramovich, and ‘The Times’ even said that after he had won the battle, all the killing stopped. People then started to die of natural causes… We’re just kidding, of course.

In 2003 Abramovich became the owner of Chelsea. Actually he became the owner of the companies controlling Chelsea, the famous football club in the U.K. Today he is mostly known for that, but he also sustained his own country’s football activities. He financially aided the CSKA Moscow football team and sponsored programs that focused on helping young football talents.

During the 2000-2008 period, Abramovich was governor of Chukotka, a poor Russian federal subject in the Far Eastern Federal District of Russia. We like to mention this stage of his life especially for one reason: to emphasize the role that he had in transforming this very poor region. While a governor, Abramovich invested pots of money in this area and much of that money came out of his own pocket. The result? The average salary in Chukotka rose from $165 in 2000 to $826 in 2006. And that’s just one remarkable example of what happened there with his help.

Now there is one more thing that needs to be mentioned here: his spending habits. Aside from the fact that he is a self made billionaire and the owner of Chelsea Football Club, Abramovich is also known for being a big spender, one who will not be satisfied with only one luxury home, only one million-dollar car, or even only one aircraft.

Even though he already has dozens of estates all over the world, he recently bought another impressive one in London : two adjacent buildings consisting of nine apartments. He actually bought every single apartment at a time, until he finally managed to put his hands on the entire structure. With three stories underground and five more above, the buildings will be completely renovated, as Abramovich only intends to keep the facades untouched. The whole thing will cost him some £150 million (more than $241.5 million).

Speaking of expensive homes, you should know that his current girlfriend and the mother of his sixth child, Dasha Zhukova, is also a member of the upper class. Her father, Alexander Radkin Zhukov is a Russian oligarch. She herself owns a few incredibly expensive stuff as well. Take for instance the 9,691 square-foot mansion in Los Angeles, for which she is said to have paid $19.5 million. Dasha became Roman’s official girlfriend after he divorced his second wife, Irina, he mother of his first five children.

Other possessions of Abramovich include boats, aircrafts and numerous expensive cars. To start with his boats, we must mention the recently acquired Eclipse superyacht. This is currently the largest yacht in the world and it features an endless list of luxury amenities, including an anti-paparazzi shield and a mini submarine.

He also owns a 377-ft. yacht by Lürssen, called Pelorus. This baby was twice refitted by Blohm +Voss, who added a new front helipad. Why? Only because Roman didn’t want to move his own helicopter when guests arrived.

The list of current and former personal yachts is longer, but we would like to get to another interesting subject: his aircrafts. The Russian mogul owns a Boeing 767-33A/ER, called ‘The Bandit’ because of its cockpit paintjob. The plane was initially ordered by Hawaiian Airlines, but they later canceled the order and that’s how Abramovich got his hands on the aircraft. The Boeing was refitted for his new owner and received a missile detector among other stuff. Also for air travel he bought himself three Eurocopter helicopters.

For road transportation he chose only the best rides: two Maybach 62 limousines customized to be bomb and bullet proof (about $1.65 million), one of the only 30 Ferrari fXX racetrack-only rides ($2.2 million), a Bugatti Veyron, a Ferrari 360, a Maserati MC 12 Corsa, a Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR, a Porsche 911 GT1, a Porsche Crrera GT, and a Rolls Royce Corniche boasting a VIP1 license plate. What a garage he must have!

Among his most precious possessions we also have to mention his art collections. In 2008 he spent $86.3 million on Francis Bacon’s ‘Triptych 1976’, setting a new record price for post-war art. Another record braking art purchase was Lucian Freud’s ‘Benefits Supervisor Sleeping’, which sold for $33.6 million – the most expensive piece of art by contemporary artist. Since all his art exhibits were so precious, Abramovich decided they needed to be showcased in a special place. For that, he bought a $400 million private island where he plans to erect new art galleries for his collections and other works.

Would you (dare) say that a life like this could need improvement? Well, of course we don’t know about his spiritual life, but financially he sure is a happy man! He’s already got everything he needs and wants, but if one day he will wake up after having dreamt of a new luxury ‘toy’ he can simply take a shower, get dressed and go buy it. That’s how wonderful being a billionaire is!

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