Dmitry Rybolovlev: The Man and His Billion Dollar Empire

A billionaire’s story is definitely worth telling. Becoming one is a dream of many, after all, but only a few will ever get the best of both hard work and luck to join the exclusive circle of the world’s ultra rich. Dmitry Rybolovlev’s story is neither extraordinary nor ordinary. He was born to doctor parents, started a business with his father, ventured into potassium fertilizers and built his wealth throughout the years. Today, he is one of the world’s richest Russians and has lived a colourful life filled with successes and controversies, all of which come with the territory of being a billionaire

Here, we look at the man’s billion-dollar empire and the businesses that catapulted him to the number 242 spot on the Forbes’ list of billionaires with a net worth of $6.8 billion:

The first business  

Dmitry Rybolovlev made most of his fortune as a producer and exporter of potash fertilizer. But before all that happened, he graduated as a cardiologist from the Perm Medical Institute in 1990. The medical field was a natural career to take since Rybolovlev’s parents were both doctors. He started his firs business with his father Evgeny focusing on alternative medical treatments using magnetic fields that his father built. It wasn’t long after Soviet Union’s centrally planned economy collapsed, however, and companies started paying Rybolovlev’s company with products instead of cash. He still took advantage of this by finding buyers for these products and made a side business out of it. In fact, he made his first million dollars with this business.

Financing and investment

After making money with his first business, Rybolovlev was granted a brokerage license by the Russian Ministry of Finance where he was the first in the Perm region to deal with securities and opened his own investment company. Rybolovlev was able to open a bank in 1994 and buy shares from many big industrial companies in Perm where he was also a part of the board for several firms. But in 1995, Rybolovlev sold most of his shares in the company to start a business in the potash industry.

The birth of Uralkali

After selling most of his shareholdings, Rybolovlev ventured into the potash business, which was growing at the time. In 1995, he bought a majority of the shares in Uralkali, the largest producer of potassium fertilizers in Russia. He was made Chairman of the board on the same year because of his controlling stakes in the company. Uralkali is a producer and exporter of potash fertilizer and has huge assets including 5 mines and 7 ore-treatment mills. It produces potassium chloride and sells it to more than 60 countries around the world including India, China, Brazil, Europe and the USA. Rybolovlev spent the next 15 years developing Uralkali and successfully turned it into a global company. By 2007, Uralkali already registered a $1 billion capital at the London Stock Exchange. In 2010, however, Rybolovlev sold 53% of his shares to three Russian investors—Filaret Galchev (13.2%), Suleiman Kerimov (25%) and Alexander Nesis (15%)—at a reported amount of $5.3 billion.

Silvinit

After selling a huge part of his stakes at Uralkali, Rybolovlev became the owner of Silvinit, a Russian company producing mineral fertilizers. The merger between Uralkali and Silvinit was finalized in 2011 and was worth $1.4 billion. Today, the two companies form the biggest potash producer in the world.

Bank of Cyprus

To further diversify his portfolio and increase his wealth, Rybolovlev bought 9.7% of shares in Bank of Cyprus, the country’s largest bank. This investment didn’t last long, however, because Cyprus was hit by a deep recession in 2013 that resulted in a bankruptcy deal that wiped out most of Rybolovlev’s stake at the bank. He lost more than $600 million from this failed investment.

Finally, after selling most of his shared in Uralkali and Silvinit and losing a significant amount of money in the Bank of Cyprus, Rybolovlev moved to Monaco in 2010 where he bought 66% of the stake at AS Monaco FC, the Monegasque association football club. This investment was under a trust for Rybolovlev’s daughter Ekaterina and he committed to invest at least $129.4 million into AS Monaco over the next four years. With a huge stake at the football club, Rybolovlev became its appointed president. The club was in bad shape that time, but under Rybolovlev’s presidency, it was promoted to Ligue 1 of the French football association in 2013. On the same year, the club spent £146 million to acquire players like Ricardo Carvalho and Ramadel Falcao to boost the team’s strength.