Russia's young capitalists are shaking up the ranks of Europe's billionaires and injecting some youth into the elite club. Five years ago, the average age of Europe's billionaires was 62. Today, the age is 58, largely due to the 87 Russian billionaires whose average age is just 46. Without the Russians, the average age jumps back up to 60.
Among Europe's under-40 billionaire crowd, Russian dominance is even more remarkable. Indeed, 13 of the region's 14 under-40 hail from the former Soviet Union. They came of age around the time of communism's fall in 1991, or soon after. Quick to embrace capitalism, these billionaires--all self-made--have quickly become rich by pulling Russia's vast resources from the ground or building homes for the country's burgeoning middle class.
Here are top 5 Russian youngest billionaires
1. Sergei Popov
Net worth: $6.4 billion
The Yekaterinburg native spent the 1990s trading metals in the frosty environs of the Urals and Siberia. Later, as a client of MDM Bank, he became friendly with the company's young owner, Andrei Melnichenko, now a fellow billionaire. After the 1998 collapse of the ruble, Popov convinced Melnichenko to buy stakes in suddenly cheap industrial outfits; nearly a decade later, buyouts and appreciation have made him Europe's richest man under 40.
2. Andrey Melnichenko
Net worth: $6.2 billion
The son of a respected Soviet physicist, Melnichenko studied physics at the prestigious Moscow State University. He eventually dropped out and, in 1993, founded MDM Bank. He later teamed up with Sergei Popov and began accumulating an industrial empire. He is married to Aleksandra Nikolic, a fashion model who was also a member of the Yugoslavian band Models. He spent a reported $2 million last year for J.Lo to perform at his wife's 30th birthday. The couple's Web site says his interests include reading, travel and diving.
3. Kirill Pisarev
Net worth: $6.1 billion
Pisarev studied finance at the Russian Academy of Economics and worked at First Russian Bank in the early 1990s. In 1994, when he was just in his mid-20s, he co-founded construction outfit PIK Group with Yuri Zhukov. The company, known for building high-volume residential housing, went public in June 2007, immediately transforming Pisarev and Zhukov into billionaires. Its IPO was the largest real estate share-issue in European history.
4. Yuri Zhukov
Net worth: $6.1 billion
He founded real estate developer PIK Group with Kirill Pisarev in 1994; the company sold 15% in an initial offering in June 2007, raising $2 billion. PIK's high market valuation led to upward revisions of Russian real estate across the sector. Today PIK focuses on pricey residential and commercial real estate in Moscow and nine other regions. Early in 2008, it concluded a deal with a Singapore sovereign wealth fund to build a new micro-district northeast of Moscow that will include 50 high-rise apartment buildings, hospitals and schools.
5. Andrei Molchanov
Net worth: $4.0 billion
After studying economics at St. Petersburg State University, Molchanov started a residential construction business with a classmate in 1994. During post-Soviet privatization, he bought construction firm LSR and listed its shares in a 2007 offering. Today LSR builds affordable housing and high-end homes in St. Petersburg.
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