Prominent Russians: Aleksandr Khloponin
Aleksandr Khloponin is Presidential Envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District. Before entering politics he held management roles in various companies in the banking and mining industries.
Aleksandr Gennadievich Khloponin was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) on 6 March 1965. His Russian father worked as an interpreter for Soviet Union trade and economic delegations.
In 1982 Aleksandr enrolled in the Moscow Finance Institute to study in the International Economics faculty. While in college Khloponin worked as a manager of small construction sites. His studies were interrupted the following year by compulsory military service. He served for two years in a motorized infantry battalion, and returned to college a Sergeant.
Many years later, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel – effectively an honorary title bestowed on him by the Army for his support of the military as governor of Krasnoyarsk Region.
Many of Khloponin’s classmates at the Moscow Finance Institute later likewise became directors of major companies, millionaires and politicians – and occasionally competitors. The billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, for example, is only two months younger than Khloponin, and their career paths have been closely intertwined. The two future tycoons began to flex their entrepreneurial muscles in college. They boiled blue jeans to achieve a ‘stone washed’ effect – a real novelty in 1980s Soviet Moscow - and sold them to young trend-setters at a mark-up.
The young graduate began his career in Vneshekonombank, often referred to as the Russian Development Bank. His area of specialty was inter-country credit, a turbulent sector during the break-up of the Soviet Union.
His former classmate Prokhorov was also in banking, and he made the risky move - during a chaotic restructuring of the post-Soviet economy – of starting up a new bank together with another entrepreneur. The bank was called International Financial Company (MFK in Russian abbreviation). In 1992 Khloponin was invited to join the venture and he became the vice chairman of the company. Two years later he was made chairman, and by 1996 he was the company’s president.
During the mass state privatizations in the 1990s, MFK, as well as other companies controlled by Prokhorov, acquired shares in Norilsk Nickel, which operates mines in Norilsk, a city above the Arctic Circle in Siberia. It was suggested at the time that the company was acquired for well below its real value, which was the case in numerous privatizations of the era. Khloponin was appointed general director and chairman of the metals company in 1996.
While he held his position in Norilsk Nickel, Khloponin continued to work in the banking sector. In 1999 he joined the board of directors of Oneksim Bank. He was also a vocal participant in the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, a major organization representing Russian business owners and employers’ interests.
Khloponin began his political career quite suddenly and aimed high, skipping local politics almost entirely. He ran for governor of Taimyr Autonomous Area, a vast sparsely populated territory, much of which is covered by permafrost. He was successful in the bid, capturing 63.8% of the vote. In 2000 at the age of 36, he became the youngest governor in Russia. Upon taking office, he resigned from his job in Norilsk Nickel.
In 2002, Aleksandr Lebed, the governor of the neighboring Krasnoyarsk Region, was killed in a helicopter accident. Khloponin competed in the by-election to replace him, which turned into a close contest. He narrowly won the election in the second round of voting.
Following the vote count, the local electoral commission, and subsequently the national regulatory body, attempted to declare the result invalid. They cited various reasons, chief among which was that Khloponin enjoyed an “unfair advantage” as the governor of the neighboring region. Strong protests in support of Khloponin, as well as an apparent endorsement from President Vladimir Putin – who appointed Khloponin “acting governor” during the dispute - persuaded the election authorities to give the result their reluctant approval.
Khloponin won a Duma (Parliament) seat in the 2003 general elections, as a United Russia candidate. His seat, however, was filled by another candidate on the party list, as Khloponin elected to remain in the decidedly more powerful position of governor. He similarly secured and passed on his seat in the 2007 Duma elections.
In 2007 at Khloponin’s initiative, three large Siberian regions merged into Krasnoyarsk Region: Evenk Autonomous Area, Taimyr Autonomous Area (where Khloponin was previously governor) and Krasnoyarsk Region. The merger of the three regions was intended to eradicate trade barriers and stimulate economic development and it was approved by 92.4% of voters in a referendum. The region became the second largest in Russia - and Khloponin’s authority increased commensurately.
Khloponin is said to run Krasnoyarsk Region like a business. Up until the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008 he was successful in attracting foreign and domestic investment to the area. During the economic slowdown, his administration produced multiple rounds of salutary “anti-crisis” measures.
The governor claims to give priority to ensuring employees are paid their salaries promptly, despite the economic chaos. Delayed or unpaid wages became a common complaint of employees in many regions of Russia when the economic crisis began to be felt.
But he is criticized for having reduced social welfare payments considerably in the period before the downturn.
One of the most successful “investments” Khloponin attracted to the region was perhaps his former classmate and business partner Mikhail Prokhorov. He persuaded the billionaire to register in Krasnoyarsk Region for tax purposes in 2009. His taxes for the year are estimated to be sufficient to balance the regional budget, which was running at a deficit before his move. In January 2010 Khloponin was appointed Presidential Envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District.
Khloponin is a member of the presidential council responsible for strategic national projects and he sits on the senior council of the United Russia political party. He is married to Natalya. They have one daughter.
Written by Aaron Mulvihill, RT