Quantcast
Blavatnik's move into music biz will be a departure for a man whose $10 billion fortune is built on unsexy businesses in oil, aluminium and chemicals.
THE LEN BLAVATNIK STORY
Meet the New WMG Owner
Len Blavatnik is a Ukrainian-born American citizen who made a fortune in Russia and now lives like a king in London, The Independent explained in a profile posted Thursday night.

Blavatnik's move into music biz will be a departure for a man whose $10 billion fortune is built on unsexy businesses in oil, aluminium and chemicals. More importantly, it will be a gamble for someone who has known few failures in his career.

Born Leonid Valentinovich Blavatnik in 1957 in the Soviet Union, he arrived penniless in the U.S. with his parents at the age of 21 but immediately took to American entrepreneurial capitalism. After studying computer science at Columbia University and attending Harvard Business School, he made an early fortune buying and selling apartments in Manhattan.

But it was the collapse of Communism that gave him his opening: he provided financing and Western business school acumen for the takeover of numerous privatised Russian enterprises, often teaming up with an old Moscow school chum, Viktor Vekselberg, as they built industrial conglomerates. The pair orchestrated the first hostile takeover of the post-Communist era, of a tractor factory.

Blavatnik is no stranger to the controversies and bitter battles that so many of the post-Communist business builders have got themselves into. He has been a bête noir of BP, in particular, as the British oil giant sought to expand its presence in Russia. Access Industries and its partners were first rivals to BP and then collaborated in a wary alliance, the joint venture TNK-BP, which has turned into one of the longest-running soap operas in the oil industry. Blavatnik and Vekselberg forced out the head of the venture, Bob Dudley, in 2008, but Dudley, now CEO of BP, got his revenge by shunning TNK-BP for its next round of investment in Russia. The relationship is in crisis, with lawsuits flying.

Blavatnik also fell foul of Prime Minister Gordon Brown when it was revealed at the height of the credit crisis that Royal Bank of Scotland had lost more than £1 billion on loans to his company when one of its chemicals businesses collapsed. The PM and his officials briefed that RBS ought not to have been gambling on risky loans to foreign businessmen.

Nonetheless, Blavatnik continues to enjoy a princely lifestyle in the U.K. When he paid £41m for a mansion on West London's uber-exclusive Kensington Park Gardens in 2004, he moved into a street that includes the Sultan of Brunei among the neighbors, and he has proceeded to dig a giant underground complex including a swimming pool, a gym and a private home cinema at the property.

Forbes magazine this year rated him as the world's 80th richest man, and he has started doing the philanthropic thing by giving away significant sums—including £75m to Oxford University to build the Blavatnik School of Government to train a generation of future political leaders from around the world. The university lauded the donation as one of the most generous gifts in its 900-year history.

When Blavatnik was engaged in a bitter public row with the bank JP Morgan Chase last year (he accused it of mismanaging $1 billion of his money), the friends who rallied to support him included Edgar Bronfman. "I think like any successful businessman he has strongly held views when he believes he's right," Bronfman told Bloomberg at the time. "I know Len's a highly principled guy and would not do something unless he thought he was in the right."

Media businesses account for a minuscule amount of Access Industries' profits, Mr Blavatnik has said, but he wants that to change in the next few years.

In an interview last year, Blavatnik acknowledged that many savvy businessmen have lost their shirts by investing in media. "I don't want to be the next victim," he said.

THE INSIDE STORY BEHIND ACM'S OUR COUNTRY
The trip from awards show to intimate performances. (4/3a)
AIRHEAD: KAREN'S HITS ODYSSEY
PoMo Goddess stuck inside of cesspool for 30 years now. (4/3a)
2020 THREE-MONTH MARKETSHARE SCORECARD
Deadlocks in the top tiers of the standings (4/3a)
HITS LIST WORKS
FROM HOME
Viewing the world through a webcam (4/3a)
POSTPONED: JAMES & JACKSON ON HOLD
Save your tickets. (4/3a)
WE FOUND SOME TOILET PAPER
Also known as back issues of HITS.
SOCIAL DISTANCING
We turn out to be pioneers.
STREAMING STORIES
The music doc shows new muscle.
ELECTION 2020
Not postponed yet.
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)