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The wealthiest Russian Vladimir Potanin, part of the New York power circles, is now showing the door


Vladimir Potanin is referred to as the leader behind the controversial share loan program.

A month ago, Vladimir Potanin sat alongside the world’s financial and business elite on the advisory board of the New York Foreign Relations Council and as head of the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan.

These power circles, including Tom Hill, a former Blackstone Inc. executive, and millions of Brazilians and Indians, have been cultivated for decades. Now they are locked in with Potanin, the richest man in Russia. In the last two weeks, he has left two boards.

Nickel and palladium tycoon, one of the few original oligarchs still active in business in Russia, have not been punished. Potanin, with a net worth of $ 24.5 billion, is cited as the leader behind the controversial loan program that led to the privatization of natural resource companies after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

For much of the last two decades, millions of millionaires linked to Russian art, nonprofit, and educational institutions in the U.S. wanted to look at the history of how they amassed their fortunes. In the case of Potanin, he was publicly seen a few years ago with Vladimir Putin, among others, during an exhibition hockey match with the Russian leader in Sochi.

Potanin, 61, is showing how fast Western Western capital’s bastions are becoming in the midst of a pressure campaign against Putin to end the war in Ukraine. Although the Russian elite has many ways to reshape their fortunes, it will probably be more difficult work to regain their place in these institutions.

“The reputational risk of keeping an oligarch on an institutional board like CFR is too great right now,” said David Szakonyi, one of the founders of the Anti-Corruption Data Collective, which has investigated the philanthropy of millions of wealthy people. Russia. “It will be very difficult for Potanin to regain his former position.”

Potanin, chairman of MMC Norilsk Nickel PJSC, which accounts for about 40% of global palladium production and about 10% of refined nickel, did not respond to requests for dialogue.

Former Prime Minister of Energy and Economy Boris Yeltsin spoke in public for the first time since the invasion of Ukraine last week, criticizing Russia’s revenge against international sanctions.

“We need to look respectful and composed, and focus our efforts not on knocking on the door, but on maintaining the economic position of Russia in the markets we have been dominating for so long,” Potanin told Norilsk Nickel’s Telegram channel in March. 11.

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Potanin, along with oligarchs Petr Aven and Mikhail Fridman, is one of the billionaires with ties to Russia who have donated more than $ 300 million to hundreds of prominent U.S. nonprofits in the two decades to come, according to Anti organizations. Corruption Data Collective. It was at least $ 100 million for more than 100 organizations in New York, according to data provided to Bloomberg.

At the Guggenheim, board of trustees were required to donate at least $ 100,000 a year, according to Thomas Krens, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s emeritus director, who said he had been in a relationship with Potanin for more than a decade. He recalled that millions of Russians constantly support Russian art exhibitions and “silence, not utterance” at meetings.

“Many oligarchs saw an opportunity and went for it,” he said in a telephone interview to bolster his reputation with Western philanthropy. “The response to this war and Putin’s strategy has been to dismiss money or shed light on the focus and where it comes from.”

Few penalties

Many New York donors have not been penalized. This does not preclude questions.

Yancey Spruill, CEO of New York-based DigitalOcean Holdings Inc., was asked last week about Len Blavatnik, the billionaire British-American who is the largest investor in the technology company Access Industries.

“Studying at American universities, Columbia, Harvard Business School, earned its money as an American,” Spruill said in a March 8 response. “I know there’s a lot of speculation,” Blavatnik said, adding that “he was a knight.” Queen of England “.

Blavatnik was born in Soviet Ukraine and raised his fortune during Putin’s time, when the Russian state of Rosneft bought his energy company. With $ 36.9 billion, its net worth exceeds that of Potanin, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

“What is happening in Ukraine is unimaginable and we, together with all Americans, hope and pray for a speedy end to the conflict and for all Ukrainian citizens to be able to live their lives in peace and freedom again,” Access Industries said in a statement. .

Blavatnik has made donations across the political and philanthropic spectrum, including Central Park Conservancy, Carnegie Hall, Mount Sinai Health System and New York Governor Kathy Hochul.

Tough monitoring

It is difficult to keep up with the full extent of charitable funding, as institutions often do not disclose donors because they are concerned that they will receive feedback on charitable policy, Szakonyi said. Notifications of specific donations may be in broad stretches or in even more vague minimum amounts, and in some cases may not be valid, he said.

And while some organizations are asking millions of donors to leave their tables, they are not returning funds or closing exhibitions. For example, the Guggenheim is still running an exhibition of Moscow-born artist Wassily Kandinsky, including Potanin, sponsored by benefactors, although its name has been removed from the museum’s website.

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Moscow-born artist Wassily Kandinsky in New York

The exhibition was a reminder of the complexity of dismantling the philanthropic support of millions who were welcome in the heyday of the globalized golden age.

“It’s harder to release decades of generous oligarchic donations that have ultimately served to promote the Western public interest than to embody the obvious symbols of oligarchic wealth that many people are disgusted with,” said Stanislav Markus, a business professor at the University of South Carolina.

A CFR spokesman said in an email last week that “it would not be appropriate” for Potanin to remain a member of its global advisory board “in the wake of Russia’s ongoing attack on Ukraine.” The Guggenheim Museum said it had resigned.

Potanin has a wide range of interests, including a Russian pharmaceutical company, a ski resort, a copper project and at least two superyachts.

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After building his fortune, Potanin began to reinvent himself as a philanthropist – in 2013 he was the first Russian to join Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge. He directs the Hermitage Development Foundation, which was established in 1764 as part of the St. Petersburg State Museum. With a collection of paintings acquired by Catherine the Great.

On his foundation’s website, Potanin said he wanted philanthropy to be “more systemic, more business-like,” saying it was “a vast and endless space that will never diminish.”

–Amanda L with the help of Gordon and Devon Pendleton.

(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a union feed.)



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