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The rich also get divorced

December 26, 2013, 16:45 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
Vladimir Potanin

Vladimir Potanin

© ITAR-TASS/Viktor Klyushkin

MOSCOW, December 26. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian press is excited about the news that №7 on Forbes rating of Russia’s 200 richest businessmen, Vladimir Potanin, with a fortune of $14.3 billion may also join the list of desired Russian billionaire fiancés. So far, the sole candidate there is the confirmed bachelor Mikhail Prokhorov, but he may soon need to make room for Potanin, as the latter is going to divorce his wife Natalya.

Potanin is owner and president of the investment company Interros and CEO of MMC Norilsk Nickel.

The case was registered on November 21 and set for legal proceedings on December 2. However, the breaking news was reported in public only on Wednesday, when the closed sitting of the Moscow Presnensky District magistrate court delayed the hearing for two months proposing the couple “a reconciliation”, a source close to the business tycoon told RBC Daily, adding the wording was a technical aspect of court practice. The hearing did not take place, as the entrepreneur’s wife could not attend. She is currently in the U.S.

The tycoon’s proxies filed for closing trial to the press referring to the right to privacy. The motion was sustained despite objections from the defendant’s lawyers.

Those on quite intimate terms with the couple believe they will hardly make peace. A source close to the litigant said in a phone conversation with online Gazeta.Ru that Natalya’s and Vladimir’s marriage has been a formality for years - they have long lived separately.

The two have been married for almost 30 years. They have brought up their 29-year old daughter Anastasia, threefold world champion and manifold Russian champion in aqua biking, and also have two sons — 24-year old Ivan (also manifold world and Russian champion in aqua biking) and 13-year old Vasily.

Surely, those who manage to make billions with their own hands are not mediocre people. Potanin was famous for his toughness in business as early as the 1990s. A joke went around: “If you shake hands with Potanin, check you still have all your fingers in place afterwards.”

This is a second ‘divorce’ for Potanin: the first was partition of property between him and Prokhorov in 2007 after the two had severed business ties they had maintained since the early 1990s. The businessmen were co-owners of the Interros holding company where they held Norilsk Nickel’s shares. The partition spilled over into a major conflict the former business partners had to see sorted out in court.

After restructuring Interros remained in Potanin’s ownership, while Prokhorov set up his own managing company — private investment fund ONEXIM Group that came to manage all of the businessman’s assets.

By the way, Potanin has always said he would not leave his fortune to his heirs, but donate it for charity. In 1999 he established the Potanin Foundation that disburses about $10 million annually for education, culture and sports. Last February Potanin joined the Giving Pledge movement initiated by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, thus becoming the first foreign businessman in the organization. This philanthropic institution unites entrepreneurs who decide to donate most of their fortunes for charity.

Potanin said he would leave children “just a modest amount for them to lead a decent staple life, receive good education and medical service.” Justifying the decision, he said he wanted “to protect his children from these billions, which merely overwhelm the person and kill any initiative”.

Potanin is by no means the first on the Russian billionaire rating to go through the twists and turns of divorce proceedings. Earlier, Arkady Rotenberg split with his second wife. One can also recall the divorces of late Boris Berezovsky and now living Roman Abramovich. In 2011 Berezovsky’s former wife Galina Besharova won in the London court several hundreds of millions of dollars in the trial against her ex-husband. In the spring of 2007 Abramovich paid his ex-wife Irina a compensation of $300 million. A divorce trail has been underway in the Swiss court between the former owner of Uralkali Dmitry Rybolovlev and his wife Yelena since 2008.

The private life of the rich and powerful usually catches the attention of ordinary people more than the ups and downs in the life of the neighbor next door. “Are they really all like us?” such people wonder.

“As for divorces, we need to look at each particular case separately,” a famous political scientist and sociologist, specialist in gender issues Svetlana Ayvazova told Itar-Tass. “The rich’s only difference is that they have the burden of their fortunes to carry.” In all other respects, they can have both sordid divorces and normal, calm human relationship like other people.


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