In the same year his company was ordered to pay a record $2 billion after an environmental disaster caused by a fuel spill, Vladimir Potanin has become the first Russian to reach an estimated wealth of $30 billion.
That’s according to Forbes’ Real-Time Billionaires List, which tries to estimate the wealth of the world’s richest people.
Potanin, the largest shareholder of mining company Nornickel, has seen his fortune jump up from an estimated $19.7 billion in April 2020.
In early February, a court ordered Nornickel to pay 146 billion rubles ($2 billion) in damages after an oil spill in May 2020. The accident saw more than 20,000 tons of diesel fuel leak out of a depressurized storage facility, most of which went into nearby rivers. At the end of last year, Russian official Alexander Chupriyan called the disaster the worst “in the history of mankind.”
Despite the massive fine, the company’s share price has continued to rise, jumping around 60 percent since March 2020. This year alone, the value of the company has risen about seven percent.
Following the 10-figure judgment, Potanin called it a “lesson,” noting that Nornickel would take “issues of ecology and industrial safety” more seriously.
Potanin initially made his fortune in the 1990s, when he helped to mastermind the controversial loans-for-shares scheme, a way to privatize state-owned companies. Consequently, Potanin became the owner of Nornickel for a bargain-basement price. In the decades since, loans-for-shares has been seen by many as being grossly unfair and is blamed for contributing to the country’s enormous wealth gap.
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