Mikhail Fridman

Early life

Mikhail Fridman was born in Lviv, Ukraine on 21 April 1964. The city was then part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic under the Soviet Union.
After graduation from school in his hometown, he made two unsuccessful attempts to enter the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT). It has been alleged that the physics college refused to admit Fridman on account of his Jewish faith. Instead, he was admitted to the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys (MISIS).

Fridman showed real acumen in his early years as a businessman. While a student, he would carry out odd jobs such as window washing in order to boost his income. During his time studying at the university, Fridman was also one of the founders of the informal youth club Zemlyanichnaya polyana (‘Strawberry Fields’), a prototype for modern nightclubs. Another odd job was queueing for tickets to plays at Moscow theatres with some of his fellow students, before exchanging the tickets for commodities that were difficult to acquire on the open market at the time.
In 1986 he graduated from the faculty of non-ferrous and rare earth metals of the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys (MISIS), receiving a distinction.

Career beginnings

After a brief period as a laboratory assistant at a research institute in Lviv, Ukraine, he joined the Elektrostal plant in the role of engineering designer.

He would launch a number of business projects alongside his engineering job, including founding an apartment rental agency to assist foreigners in finding accommodation, a business formalising his window cleaning services, a computer sales company, and an operation selling imported cigarettes and perfumes. He would employ his fellow Moscow students at these various ventures.

Origins of the Alfa empire

In 1988, just two years after graduating from university, Mikhail Fridman co-founded Alfa-Photo with German Khan and Alexey Kuzmichev. Alfa-Photo specialised in the import of chemicals used in photography, and would be the first stepping stone in the creation of Alfa-Bank, Russia’s fourth largest bank and the largest private bank in the country.

The following year, in 1989, the three partners in Alfa-Photo founded Alfa-Eco, a commodities trading firm that would soon move into the oil and gas sector. Along with Alfa-Eco came investment Alfa Capital, and the time had come to incorporate these entities into the Alfa Group Consortium, which was achieved in the same year.

Today Alfa Group Russia manages over USD 80 billion in total assets, but in those early days it was a modest vehicle for trading late 1980s office equipment, namely early computers and photocopying machines, with the expansion into imports and exports, oil and gas, and other commodities coming a little later. The group now operates across telecommunications, banking and retail.


Alfa-Bank, today the highest-profile company falling within Alfa Group, was founded as a partnership with limited liability in 1990, making Fridman a major player in banking by the age of 26. He used USD 100,000 in profits from his earlier ventures to kickstart the development of the bank. A bilateral stock swap between Alfa and Petr Aven’s company Pyotr Aven Finances (FinPA) saw 10% of Alfa-Bank’s shares traded for a 50% stake in FinPA, laying the groundwork for Aven’s hire at Alfa-Bank in 1994. Alfa-Bank had already been making a name for itself as one of the largest private banks in Russia, but the partnership between Fridman and Aven took the company to new heights.

During the ruble crisis of 1998, Alfa-Bank was unusual in continuing to allow cash withdrawals by retail customers. The founders would use their holdings in the TNK oil company to stave off a debt default for the bank, and emerged relatively unhurt from a crisis that saw the Central Bank of Russia default on its own debt.

The bank’s finances have fared well, with a total equity of USD 8.67 billion and assets worth USD 61.85 billion and a net income of USD 1.35 billion as of 2020. The bank employs more than 26,000 people, and has over 1 million retail customers and more than 22 million corporate clients.


In 1997, the businessman Fridman partnered with American–British business magnate Len Blavatnik and Ukrainian-born Russian–Israeli–Cypriot oligarch Viktor Vekselberg on the purchase of the state-owned TNK (Tyumen Oil Company) for USD 800 million. An agreement was made with major British oil and gas player BP to create the TNK-BP joint venture in 2023, alongside a consortium made up of Fridman’s Alfa Group, Blavatnik’s Access Industries and Vekselberg’s Renova. TNK-BP was eventually sold to Russian state-owned energy group Rosneft for a fee of USD 56 billion.

Wintershall Dea

In April 2019, it was announced that Mikhail Fridman had completed the merger of the German company Wintershall (a subsidiary of the BASF concern) and DEA (Deutsche Erdoel AG). Wintershall Dea subsequently became the largest independent gas and oil producer in Europe.

BASF, the owner of Wintershall, received 67% of Wintershall Dea in the wake of the deal Fridman, German Khan and Alexei Kuzmichev, who controlled DEA, received the remaining 33%.

Other interests

A number of major successful companies have been founded with the help of Alfa Group, including supermarket chain Perekrestok and X5 Retail Group, now Russia’s largest food retailer.

Fridman has held a large number of board positions, including on the Board of Directors of Siberian-Far Eastern Oil Company and VEON. Formerly known as Vimpelcom, VEON became the sixth largest telecommunications operator in the world in 2011 after it acquired the holdings of Egyptian oligarch Naguib Sawiris.

Fridman also has Spanish business interests, having been controversially involved in a takeover of the mobile phone entertainment conglomerate Zed Group.

Board departures

On 1 March 2022, VEON announced the withdrawal of businessman Mikhail Fridman from the holding's Board of Directors. The decision came into force a day earlier, on 28 February, according to the website of the European telecommunications company, which includes VimpelCom in its holdings.

The same day, Alfa-Bank announced that Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven, Alexander Galitsky and Sergey Matsotsky would imminently leave its Board of Directors. Fridman and Aven have retained their respective 32% and 12.4% ownership of ABH Holdings, keeping their combined ownership below the 50% threshold and therefore protecting the banking group from sanctions. The board would be headed by Alfa-Bank President Oleg Sysuev, who now holds the position of First Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Effect of sanctions

According to Bloomberg, before the start of the Russian special operation in Ukraine, Fridman had a net worth of over USD 14 billion, and after the imposition of sanctions it decreased to USD 10 billion. When the UK followed the EU in pursuing the imposition of sanctions on Fridman on 15 March 2022, his last functioning bank card in the UK was frozen. He revealed that he has been forced to apply for a spending licence and the British government will assess whether any request is "reasonable". According to reports, he is permitted to spend around GBP 2,500 per month.

Net worth

Businessman Mikhail Fridman’s net worth is USD 13.5 billion, ranking him as the 136th richest person in the world as of February 2023. He has also been profiled by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, ranking in the top 200 richest people in the world.

His assets include Athlone House, formerly known as Caen Wood Towers. Located in Highgate, North London, the Victorian-era mansion combines classical and neo-Gothic architecture and has had a number of notable residents over the years. It was announced that Fridman had purchased the home for GBP 65 million (USD 78 million) in 2016, before carrying out extensive restoration works.

Social and political activities

He has been a member of the Banking Council and the Entrepreneurship Council under the Government of the Russian Federation. Mikhail Fridman is also a Member of the Board of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (Employers), overseeing issues of judicial reform.

In January 1996, Fridman became the founder and vice president of the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC). He is currently a member of the RJC Presidium Office. The RJC is a platform for cooperation between Jewish businessmen and religious figures, and aims to revive Jewish life in Russia.

In 2007, Fridman co-founded the Genesis Philanthropy Group alongside Aven, Khan and others. The organisation’s mission is to promote Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide. Fridman’s support for the Jewish community extends to financial support for the European Jewish Fund, which promotes interfaith dialogue and harmony.

Mikhail Fridman was one of very few Russian billionaires to speak out publicly against the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.


Mikhail Fridman was named one of the most outstanding entrepreneurs of the year (Bloomberg Businessweek) and one of the 25 business leaders of the new Europe (Financial Times) in the aftermath of the 2003 deal between TNK and BP. He received the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement in Washington (awarded to famous politicians and business, economic, cultural and art world figures from different countries who have become an example for young people around the world).

In November 2004, he became a laureate of the Darin prize of the Russian Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship in the Grand Prix category.

Personal life

Mikhail Fridman is now a Russian–Israeli national, having acquired Israeli citizenship in adulthood. He has four children from two marriages: Lora, Katya, Nika and Alexander. His first wife, Olga, was a fellow student at university.

Alexander, the son of Alfa-Bank co-owner and billionaire Mikhail Fridman, said at the beginning of 2020 that his father intends to transfer all his wealth to charity. According to Alexander, his father had always told him that this would be the case.

"I have been living with the understanding that I would not inherit any fortune," Alexander Fridman explained. Bloomberg has reported that the 19-year-old son of one of Russia’s richest businessmen rents a two-bedroom apartment on the outskirts of Moscow for USD 500 a month and commutes to his job by metro. "I eat, I live and I dress with what I have earned myself," Fridman said.