Moscow, Nov. 3 (Reuters): Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s richest man who built an $11 billion oil empire in a decade, is a tech-happy workaholic who has been tipped as a future President of Russia.
But within the past 10 days, the 40-year-old oil magnate has been arrested at gunpoint, thrown into jail and had his multi-billion dollar stake in Russian oil giant Yukos frozen. Today, he resigned.It was the culmination of a months-long legal attack on Yukos’ core shareholders, believed to be fuelled by Kremlin conservatives nervous of Khodorkovsky’s growing political influence.
But the businessman, who sees the campaign as an attempt to freeze him out of Russia, has said he would rather become “a political prisoner” than “a political emigre”. Two other tycoons who fell foul of the Kremlin, Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky, now live in exile.
The communist youth leader-turned-banker came to prominence in the murky early days of Russian privatisation that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, when he persuaded the state to sell him some of Siberia’s best oilfields for a song.
To learn his trade from the bottom up, he spent months working as a drill operator on remote Siberian plains. Like the other tycoons who emerged in the 1990s, he built his empire through what many saw as questionable practices. In the past three years, he remade himself as a crusader for transparency and corporate governance, boosting the share price of Yukos by a factor of 12.
The greying Khodorkovsky, born in Moscow into a family of engineers, gives the impression of having little fun with his fabulous riches. “I don’t like the seaside very much,” he once said when asked why he didn’t have a villa in the French resort of Nice, seen as an indispensable accessory by other Russian “oligarchs”as the country’s wealthy business elite are known. Instead, he says he prefers investing in technology and brains. His immaculate office is filled with hi-tech gadgets, but the man himself often turns up at work in a T-shirt and seems to have an aversion to ties.