Business career
Roman Abramovich started his multi-
billion-dollar business during his
army service.[2] After a brief stint in
the Soviet Army, he married his first
wife, Olga. He first worked as a
street-trader and then as a mechanic
at a local factory.[3] At the peak of
perestroika, Abramovich sold
imported rubber ducks from his
Moscow apartment.[4]
He attended the Gubkin Institute of
Oil and Gas in Moscow (where he sold
retreaded car tires as a sideline[5]),
then traded commodities for
Runicom, a Swiss trading company.[6]
In 1988, as perestroika opened up
opportunities for entrepreneurs in the
Soviet Union, Abramovich got a
chance to legitimize his old business.
[7] He and Olga set up a company
making dolls. Due to his business
acumen, within a few years his wealth
spread from oil conglomerates to pig
farms and he also started investing in
other businesses.[citation needed]
Abramovich set up and liquidated at
least 20 companies during the early
1990s, in sectors as diverse as tire
retreading and bodyguard
From 1992 to 1995, Abramovich
founded five companies that
conducted resale, produced consumer
goods, and acted as intermediaries,
eventually specializing in the trading
of oil and oil products. However, in
1992, he was arrested and sent to
prison in a case of theft of
government property: AVEKS-Komi
sent a train containing 55 cisterns of
diesel fuel, worth 3.8 million roubles,
from the Ukhta Oil Refinery;
Abramovich met the train in Moscow
and resent the shipment to the
Kaliningrad military base under a
fake agreement, but the fuel arrived
in Riga. Abramovich co-operated with
the investigation, and the case was
closed after the oil production
factory was compensated by the
diesel’s buyer, the Latvian-US
company, Chikora International.[10]
In 1995, Abramovich and Boris
Berezovsky, an associate of President
Boris Yeltsin, acquired the controlling
interest in the large oil company
Sibneft. The deal was within the
controversial loans-for-shares
program and each partner paid US
$100 million for half of the company,
below the stake’s stock market value
of US$150 million at the time, and
rapidly turned it up into billions. The
fast-rising value of the company led
many observers, in hindsight, to
suggest that the real cost of the
company should have been in the
billions of dollars.[11] Abramovich
later admitted in court that he paid
huge bribes (in billions) to
government officials and obtained
protection from gangsters to acquire
these and other assets (including
aluminium assets during the
aluminium wars).[12]
Thus the main stages of
Abramovich’s financial career were
January 1989 to May 1991, as
chairman of the Comfort Co-op
(manufacturer of plastic toys), and
May 1991 to May 1993, as director of
the ABK small enterprise in Moscow.
According to various sources, from
1992 to 1995 Roman Abramovich set
up five companies engaged in the
production of consumer goods and
selling-and-buying. In May 1995,
jointly with Boris Berezovsky, he set
up the P.K. Trust close joint-stock
company. In 1995 and 1996, he
established another 10 firms: Mekong
close joint-stock company,
Centurion-M close joint-stock
company, Agrofert limited liability
company, Multitrans close joint-stock
company, Oilimpex close joint-stock
company, Sibreal close joint-stock
company, Forneft close joint-stock
company, Servet close joint-stock
company, Branco close joint-stock
company, Vector-A limited liability
company, which, again together with
Berezovsky, he used to purchase the
shares of the Sibneft public company.


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