Russia’s richest men, some of whom have close ties to President Vladimir Putin, have gained $29 billion since the election of Donald Trump, thanks to the rising value of Russian stocks and currency.
Among the biggest beneficiaries: Gennady Timchenko, who was a primary target of 2014 U.S. government sanctionsaimed at Putin’s inner circle. Shares of publicly traded natural gas producer Novatek are up 16% since the election, enough to boost the value of Timchenko’s estimated 23% stake by $1.8 billion.
The Russian businessman sold his 43% stake in the oil trading firm Gunvor, which he cofounded, one day before the U.S. Treasury Department leveled sanctions against him in March 2014. U.S. officials alleged that Putin was invested in the firm and may have had access to its funds. Today much of Timchenko’s $15.1 billion fortune is privately held and therefore more difficult to track on a daily basis than his shares of Novatek.
Russia’s richest man, Leonid Mikhelson, added more to his fortune than anyone else. Also an investor in Novatek, Mikhelson has gained an estimated $1.9 billion since the U.S. election, boosting his net worth to $18.2 billion. Mikhelson and Timchenko are also both invested alongside billionaire Kirill Shamalov, reportedly Putin’s son-in-law, in petrochemical giant Sibur.
Altogether, Russia’s billionaires have added an estimated $29 billion since Trump’s election, more than the combined gains of billionaires in any country besides the United States. Forbes counts more than six times as many American billionaires as Russian billionaires. While the Americans have boosted their net worth by an average of 2.8% since the election, the richest Russians have increased their fortunes by an average of 7.1%.
In addition to rising stocks, the oligarchs have benefitted from the comeback of the Russian ruble, which fell 55% against the U.S. dollar over 2014 and 2015 but rose 20% in 2016, thanks to increasing oil prices and hopes of better relations with the United States and Europe.
Steel magnates Alexey Mordashov and Vladimir Lisin were other big gainers, adding $1.6 billion and $1.4 billion, respectively, since the election. Roughly $830 million of Lisin’s gain came within three days of Trump’s victory.
“A big part of the commodity complex has received a big boost on the back of the U.S. elections,” said Sergey Donskoy, a London-based analyst who covers metals and mining businesses at the bank Societe Generale. “I’m not sure why people are betting so willingly on the positive impact of a Trump presidency. I’m not sure the promises he made are easily met. But again, as they say, the market is always right. If people think this is so, well then, the stocks go up.”
Vagit Alekperov, a former Soviet deputy minister who now heads the one of the world’s largest oil companies, has gained $1.8 billion since Trump’s election. His gains had more to do with the global oil market than U.S. politics. Stock in company Lukoil rose 8% after OPEC agreed to limit oil production on Nov. 30. Lukoil shares climbed 59% overall in 2016, reflecting the turn in oil prices.