Russian billionaire Oleg Tinkov had assets worth more than $ 9 billion in November and is best known as one of Russia’s few self-made business magnates after building his fortune outside the energy and mineral industries, which are a hotbed of corruption in the country. is.
Last month, Tinkov, who is also the founder of one of Russia’s largest banks, criticized the war in Ukraine in an Instagram post, saying that President Vladimir Putin’s administration called his managers the next day and threatened to oust him. nationalize bank if it does not break ties with the billionaire.
Last week, he sold his 35 percent stake to a Russian mining billionaire in what he described as a “desperate sell-out, a fiery sell-out” forced on him by the Kremlin.
“I could not discuss the price,” Tinkov said, according to the New York Times, which gave him his first interview since the incident.
Tinkov did not disclose to the newspaper where he was, and said he had hired bodyguards after friends with acquaintances in the Russian security services told him he should fear for his life, and sarcastically said that although he survived leukemia has, perhaps, “the Kremlin will kill me.”
For years, Tinkov avoided falling out with Putin, portraying himself as independent of the Kremlin.
The Kremlin’s handling of it highlights the consequences for those in the Russian elite who dare to differ from their boss, and helps explain why there is silence among business leaders who, according to Mr. Tinkov, is concerned about the war’s impact on their lifestyle as well as their fortunes.
Tinkov told the newspaper that many of his acquaintances in the business and government elite told him privately that they agreed with him, “but they are all scared.”
In the interview, Tinkov spoke out more strongly against the war than any other major Russian business leader.
“I realize that Russia as a state no longer exists,” Tinkov said, expecting Putin to remain in power for a long time to come.
“I thought Putin’s regime was bad. But of course I had no idea it would take such a catastrophic scale,” he added.
Talbank, which was founded by Tinkoff in 2006, which also bears the name “Tinkov”, but in another way, denied its founder’s description of what happened, saying that “there are no threats of any kind against the bank’s leadership was not. “
The newspaper says the bank, which announced last Thursday that Tinkov had sold its entire stake in it to a company run by Vladimir Potanin, a mining magnate close to Putin, appears to be distancing itself from its founder.
“Oleg was not in Moscow for many years, was not involved in the life of the company and was not involved in any business,” the bank said in a statement.
Tinkoff also got into trouble in the West and agreed to pay $ 507 million last year to settle a US tax fraud case. In March, Britain included him on its sanctions list against Russia’s business elite.
“These oligarchs, corporations and hired thugs are complicit in the murder of innocent civilians, and it is right that they pay the price,” Foreign Minister Liz Truss said at the time.
However, Tinkov is widely regarded as a rare Russian entrepreneur, who went from disrespectful brewer to founder of one of the world’s most sophisticated online banks. He says he has never set foot in the Kremlin, and has sometimes criticized Putin.
But unlike Russian businessmen who crossed over from Putin years ago and now live in exile, such as former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky or technology entrepreneur Pavel Durov, Tinkov has found a way to live with the Kremlin and earn billions – at least even before his pronouncements.
Tinkov described the invasion as “crazy” and mocked the Russian military, saying: “Why would we have a good army if everything else in the country was dysfunctional and trapped in nepotism and submissiveness?”
A day after the April 19 publication, Tinkoff said, the Kremlin called the bank’s top executives and told them that any association with their founder was now a major problem.
“The shareholder’s statement is not welcome, and we will nationalize your bank if it does not sell and the owner does not change, and if the name does not change,” Tinkov said, citing sources in the bank who refused to to be identified.
Three days after the publication, Tinkoff announced that he would change his name this year, a step that he said was long planned.
Behind the scenes, says billionaire Tinkov, he has struggled to sell his stake – a stake that has already fallen in value due to Western sanctions against the Russian financial system.
Tinkov said he was grateful to Potanin, the mining magnate, for allowing him to at least save money from his company. He said he could not disclose the price, but he sold 3 percent less than he believed has the true value of his game.
He added that he was considering selling his stake anyway, because “as long as Putin lives, I doubt if anything will change”.
“I do not believe in the future of Russia,” he said. Most importantly, “I’m not ready to associate my brand and name with a country that attacks its neighbors for no reason.”
Mr. Tinkov is concerned that the foundation he started, dedicated to improving leukemia treatment in Russia, could also fall victim to its financial problems.
He denied that he had spoken out in the hope that British sanctions would be lifted against him, although he said he hoped the British government would eventually “correct this mistake”.
He said his current illness, a complication of a stem cell transplant, may have made him more courageous to speak out than other Russian business leaders and senior officials.
He claimed that members of the elite were “shocked” by the war and called him in large numbers to offer support.
“They understand that they are linked to the West, that they are part of the global market,” Tinkov said.
He added that no one from the Kremlin had contacted him directly, but in addition to putting pressure on his company, he had heard from friends with connections to the security services that he might be in physical danger.
He said, “They told me, ‘You’re made up.'”