This Putin buddy is going to make a bundle from the Alibaba IPO

You’d be smiling too.
You’d be smiling too.
Image: REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
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Russia’s richest man, Alisher Usmanov, is about to get a little richer. The oligarch, steel baron, and tech investor, whose net worth is estimated at $16.3 billion, invested in Alibaba multiple times, including in 2011, when the company was worth about one-fifth of its $168 billion valuation, based on its $68 a share stock price when it starts trading on the NYSE this morning.

Usmanov’s total holding in Alibaba is not public, but his ownership is mentioned in a report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission on the “risks” of investing in Chinese internet companies. Usmanov purchased the stock through two entities that have made multiple investments in the online shopping giant.

  • He owns one-third of Digital Sky Technologies (DST), an operating company started by Russian tech investor Yuri Milner in 2005 (which, despite its tech focus has a remarkably rudimentary website.) A group led by DST, Silverlake Partners, and Yunfeng Capital invested $1.6 billion in Alibaba in 2011, when the company was valued at about $32 billion. Silverlake, Yunfeng, and “affiliated entities” own 4% of Alibaba after the IPO.
  • Late last year DST dumped its shares in Facebook and other US tech stocks, raising $300 billion, and invested in Chinese companies including Alibaba.
  • Usmanov also founded USM Holdings, which lists Alibaba as one of its technology investments.

Usmanov is one of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s “oligarchs,” a group of businessmen with close ties to the Kremlin, and last year Putin awarded him Russia’s highest civilian award, the Order for Service to the Fatherland. Anti-Putin activists have also called for the US to sanction Usmanov to punish Putin for the invasion of Ukraine. In April, Usmanov cut his stake in USM Holdings to just under 50%, a move that would mean any of USM’s assets would not be frozen if Usmanov was put on the US sanctions list.