Tag Archives: Oil

Jew of the Week: Roman Abramovich

Abramovich

Roman Abramovich

Roman Arkadyevich Abramovich (b. 1966) was born in Lithuania. His parents died before he turned four years old, so he was raised by his grandparents in the cold, remote Arctic region of Komi. Dropping out of college, Abramovich initially worked as both a mechanic and merchant, selling goods from his apartment (at one point, his main wares were rubber ducks and retreaded car tires). In 1988, he started a doll-making business with his wife, and by then had also began investing in Russian oil and gas. By 1995, natural resources were his sole focus, and he had generated a great deal of wealth. Partnering with Boris Berezovsky, the two bought the oil company Sibneft in 1995 and quickly turned it into a multi-billion dollar company. The following year, just thirty years old, he was invited to live in the Kremlin by Russian President Yeltsin. Three years later, he was elected governor of the impoverished and bankrupt province of Chukotka, where he has since contributed over $2 billion of his own money in charitable funds and investments, turning the region into one of the most flourishing in Russia, multiplying its average salary more than five-fold. Unfortunately, Abramovich has also been mired in controversy, bribery scandals, and affairs with the mafia – whom he reportedly paid hundreds of millions per year for protection. (To be fair, most businesspeople, and politicians, in post-Soviet Russia are in the same boat.) Abramovich did try to clear his name and get away from it all, restarting his life in London, and even paying his former partner Berezovsky over $1 billion in 2001 to leave him alone. As a close friend of Yeltsin, he was given the task of interviewing potential presidential candidates who would succeed Yeltsin. It is said that Abramovich was the one who first recommended Putin. Most famously, Abramovich bought the Chelsea Football Club in 2003 and quickly turned over its fortunes, soon making it the league champion for the first time in 50 years, followed by ten more titles in a decade. Abramovich also started a charity organization called the National Academy of Football, which has built over 50 soccer fields across Russia and funds sports programs for disadvantaged youth. He also contributes to Chabad, and is the chairman of Russia’s Federation of Jewish Communities. Having donated countless billions, Abramovich has the distinction of being the most generous philanthropist in Russia. Despite having lost a sizable portion of his wealth in the recent financial crisis, he is still the 12th richest person in Russia, and 137th in the world. The father of seven children has been awarded the Order of Honour and was Russia’s Person of the Year in 2003. Earlier this week, he bought his first property in Israel, spending $25 million on a historic hotel in Tel-Aviv, which he will be converting into his private residence.

Words of the Week

Try not to become a man of success. Rather, become a man of value.
– Albert Einstein

Jew of the Week: Joseph Seligman

America’s Financier

Seligman

Joseph Seligman

Born in Baiersdorf, Germany, Joseph Seligman (1819-1880) showed a creative entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. As a youth he would earn money by exchanging foreign coins for travellers while working at his family’s goods shop. At 17, Seligman decided to go out on his own, boarding a steamer for America. In Pennsylvania he worked as a cashier for a salary of $400 a year. From his earnings, Seligman started a small business delivering goods to rural farmers, saving them from having to travel to the city. His first $500 in savings was used to ferry over two of his brothers from Germany. After building a successful clothing business, the brothers went into banking, opening branches across Europe and America. Their wealth continued to skyrocket, so much so that during the Civil War Joseph Seligman disposed $200 million in bond loans to allow the war effort to continue. Historians have called this “scarcely less important than the Battle of Gettysburg”. Seligman was later offered the position of Secretary of the Treasury, but turned it down. He would go on to invest heavily in the development of the United States (as well as Russia and Peru), pumping money into railroads, bridges, shipbuilding, steel, oil and mining, even bicycles and communication lines. Together with the Vanderbilt family, Seligman financed much of New York’s public utilities. In one of the country’s most controversial events of the time, Seligman’s family was denied residence at the Grand Union Hotel by Henry Hilton, on the grounds that Jews were not welcome. Of this H.W. Beecher wrote “When I heard of the unnecessary offense that has been cast upon Mr. Seligman, I felt no other person could have been singled out that would have brought home to me the injustice more sensibly than he.”

Words of the Week

Time must be guarded… Every bit of time, every day that passes, is not just a day but a life’s concern.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Hayom Yom, Cheshvan 17)