Profile: Mikhail Prokhorov

Mikhail Prokhorov was born on May 3, 1965 in Moscow and is a Russian self-made billionaire. He made his name in the financial sector and went on to become one of Russia’s leading industrialists in the precious metals sector. In the summer of 2011 he led the Right Cause party. On December 12, 2011, Prokhorov said is planning to run for president in 2012.

Prokhorov graduated from the Russian Government Finance University in 1989, before joining the International Bank for Economic Cooperation, serving in a managerial position until 1992. He was briefly head of the board of International Finance Company (MFK) before managing the acquisition of Norilsk Nickel by Onexim Bank, of which he was then chairman. Prokhorov overhauled the company, selling off most of its non-mining assets and creating Polyus Gold from its gold assets.

In May 2007, Prokohorov launched a $17 billion private investment fund, Onexim Group, focused on the development of nanotechnology, including hydrogen fuel cells, as well as other high-technology projects and non-ferrous and precious metals mining. One of the fund’s key areas of development is the production of materials with ultra–tiny structures used in energy generation and medicine.

Prokhorov sold his 25% stake in Norilsk Nickel to aluminium producer Rusal in April 2008, in return for a large cash payment and 14% of Rusal stock. Just a few months later the Russian stock market crashed and Russian companies found their market value decreasing rapidly. Although Prokhorov’s wealth was dented by the exposure of his other assets, he weathered the crisis much better than most of his fellow businessmen.

In September 2008 Prokhorov’s Onexim Group purchased a fifty percent stake (minus one) in Russian investment bank Renaissance Capital.

Mikhail Prokhorov’s net worth was estimated at $18 billion by Forbes magazine in 2011. This makes him the third richest man in Russia and the 32nd richest man in the world.

In 2008 Prokhorov launched Snob, a Russian-language magazine and community in collaboration with Vladimir Yakovlev, founder of Kommersant. The project, which has since expanded into other international markets includes a Russian language magazine and online discussion space.

Prokhorov has supported a number of cultural and sporting institutions in Russia, including Moscow-based CSKA basketball, hockey and football clubs. In 2004 he founded the Cultural Initiatives Foundation, run by his sister Irina.

In May 2010 he became the first non-American to own a National Basketball Association (NBA) club, when he bought an 80% stake in the New Jersey Nets.

In May 2011, rumors circulated that Prokhorov was a likely candidate to head the Right Cause party. Pro-Kremlin in outlook, the party’s top job was previously turned down by Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov.

In June 2011, Prokhorov was made leader of the Right Cause party. He threw his weight and considerable financial resources behind the party’s campaigning ahead of December 2011 State Duma elections, but was ousted from his position in September 2011 after a coup within the party. In the wake of his departure from the party he indicated that he still has political ambitions, but will not run in 2011 State Duma elections.

On December 12, 2011, Prokhorov said he is planning to run for president in 2012.

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