Prominent Russians: Yelena Baturina
Born on March 8, 1963, Yelena Baturina is a successful business woman and subsequently the richest woman in all of Russia. Her wealth has been mainly generated through the success of her plastics and construction company Inteco, although she has diversified her business interests significantly in recent years. Baturina has come under fire and been accused of corrupt business practices, mainly due to her relationship with her husband and former long term mayor of Moscow Yury Luzhkov. According to Forbes Magazine’s 2010 world billionaire’s list, Baturina’s net worth is estimated at 2.9 billion U.S. dollars, making her the 342nd richest person in the world and Russia’s only female Billionaire
Family and Personal Life
Yelena Baturina is married to Yury Luzhkov, Moscow’s second and longest term former Mayor. The couple met in 1987 while they both served on council committees for the city of Moscow. In 1991 the two were married and they now have two children, Alyona and Olga. Following her husband’s dismissal from office in 2010 and fearing harassment from Russian authorities, Baturina moved her daughters to London.
Baturina is an avid lover of horses and serves as the president of the Equestrian Federation of Russia.
Immediately after graduating high school Yelena Baturina followed in her parent’s footsteps, working in a Moscow based factory. But Baturina decided that factory life was not suited for her, and soon she changed career paths, moving to study at the Institute of Economical Problems of All-Around Development of the National Economy. Eventually the future business mogul earned her degree from the Moscow State University of Management.
In 1991, the same year her husband was appointed to his Mayoral position in Moscow, Baturina founded Inteco, a company that mainly focused on the production of plastic materials. It is interesting to note that while Yelena Baturina’s background was in management, in the 1950’s her husband Yury Luzhkov studied at the Gubkin Moscow Petrochemical and Gas Industry Institute. Initially his career began in the Moscow Scientific Research Institute of Plastics.
In a controversial decision, Inteco was awarded the bid to produce 82,000 plastic seats for the renovation of Moscow’s historic Luzhniki Stadium. This contract launched Inteco’s reputation as a national player and helped propel the company into the construction industry. Eventually the plastics company expanded to include a concrete production division, as well as a subsidiary which manufactured prefabricated buildings. During the major construction boom in Moscow following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is estimated that Inteco was responsible for up to 20% of the city’s construction contracts.
Diversification of wealth
In 2005 Yelena Baturina sold off both the cement works and prefab building divisions of Inteco, a move that critics claimed was aimed at securing her financial position in the event her husband were to be voted out of office. At the same time, Baturina purchased significant shares in two very stable Russian companies--energy giant Gazprom and Sberbank.
Sweetening the deal so to speak, Baturina also owns a factory that produces condensed milk as well as more than 70 thousand hectares of Russian farmland. Rounding out Baturina’s business portfolio is a collection of hotels in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi, home of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
It is often said that the only reason for Yelena Baturina’s professional success is the connection to her husband, Yury Luzhkov. Inteco’s initial success stemmed from the production of plastic cups and plates for the fast food chain Russkoye Bistro. This business was created by Yury Luzhkov. The most prominent allegation of corruption stems from the Luzhniki Stadium contract bid in 1995, critics say it was a conflict of interest for Luzhkov to award his wife’s company the contract to produce the seats. It is often suggested that Inteco received many contracts through the years through nepotism. This appearance of impropriety is one of the reasons given by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for removing Yelena Baturina’s husband from power in 2010.
October 2005 proved to be a troubling month for Baturina, as Inteco executives were physically attacked, allegedly in connection to company activities in the Belgorod region. On October 9th the executive director of an Inteco agriculture subsidiary, Aleksandr Annenkov survived an incident where he was battered by three attackers wielding axes. Just four days later, company lawyer Dmitry Steinberg was shot and killed just outside his home. It is believed these attacks were motivated by groups opposing Inteco’s position on modernizing farmland.
Written by Sean Thomas, RT correspondent