5 Global Russians, their media investments, Moscow’s own highest shelter in Europe

Previously we talked about the short-sighted attitudes by both sides of the Foreign Media in Russia show.

Now let’s turn around and scrutinize the foreign media assets of Mother Russia’s not-so-poor: some of them promoters of the Global Russian concept, some — literary-minded Russians around the corner from our London-based readers.

And again the lines of loyalty, the stresses are quite blurred, as far as media agendas of Russia-backed enterprises in the EU and US are concerned.

Are the Western-operating companies we will now talk about pro-Kremlin or pro-poor?

The Russian Bookshop at Waterstones' Facebook page advertised this publication by Masha Gessen as their Book of the Month in February 2014. Former director of the Russian Service for Radio Liberty, Ms Gessen reportedly used to edit Snob magazine, the Global Russians' MONOCLE
The Russian Bookshop at Waterstones’ Facebook page advertised this publication by Masha Gessen as their Book of the Month in February 2014. Former director of the Russian Service for Radio Liberty, Ms Gessen reportedly used to edit Snob magazine, the Global Russians’ MONOCLE

11,510 ultra high net wealth individuals — those with net assets of US$30 million and above — called the UK home in 2014. These are worth US$1.45 trillion in total

Self-confessed avid reader of high-quality literature in Russian and English, Russian billionaire Alexander Leonidovich Mamut shelled out £53 million to acquire London-headquartered book retailer Waterstones in May 2011.

London counted 100,000-strong Russian-speaking community in early 2012

Alexander Leonidovich, an oligarch with close links to the Kremlin, appointed James Daunt, founder of Daunt Books, as managing director of the company that serves UK, Ireland, Belgium, The Netherlands.

UK publishing industry generated £4bn in 2011

Number two in our list of global Russians with a penchant for media investments abroad is Alexander Yevgenievich Lebedev, former KGB staff and currently publisher of four UK newspapers, including the one that has called his book chain-owning namesake “an oligarch with close links to the Kremlin.” Alexander Yevgenievich reportedly stated that during his time as a spy in London, he used the Evening Standard to find information.

Lebedev used to own the Moskovski Korrespondent, but closed it down “for political reasons after it published a spurious article about Vladimir Putin having an affair with an Olympic gymnast half his age”

On 25 March 2010, Alexander Lebedev bought the loss-making The Independent and Independent on Sunday for £1.

Accompanying two Sashas on the Olympus of Russians with preference for foreign media assets is Sergei Polonsky @Spolonium, himself an Olympus-builder.

The Federation Tower with a banner quoting Rudyard Kipling on the importance of being confident in yourself, patient, forgiving the liars, the crowd that blames you for the turmoil and being self-effacing as you forgive (Photo: Openbuildings.com)
The Federation Tower with a banner quoting Rudyard Kipling on the importance of being confident in yourself, patient, forgiving the liars, the crowd that blames you for the turmoil and being self-effacing as you forgive (Photo: Openbuildings.com)

Alexander Yevgenievich knocked Russia’s real estate developer Sergei Yurievitch Polonsky from his chair as both men were appearing as guests on a show about the global financial crisis that was being recorded in Moscow for the Gazprom-owned NTV channel in September 2011.

A blow that did not connect cleanly was prompted by a dispute over Sergei Yurievitch’s project named Башня Федерация.

Expected to be completed in 2015, the Federation Tower is said to be able to withstand a direct hit of an aircraft [as you guessed what they meant here]. The building is a hit with extreme sports people, as well as film and TV people.

Awarded a Prix d’Excellence in the Office Property category by FIABCI, the International Real Estate Federation, the Federation Complex is to become the tallest building in Europe. China State Construction Engineering Corporation was the first in Russia to pour self-compacting B90 concrete into the complex steel concrete and high density reinforcement structures of the Federation Tower’s outrigger and technical levels.

Notorious for his stance and public pronouncements, Sergei Polonsky has often introduced creativity-laden ideas into Russia’s otherwise parvenu post-Soviet elites.

In November 2011 his international investment and development company Potok∞ launched a reality project named Большой дом. Using Youtube, Twitter and Alexander  Mamut-owned blogging service Livejournal, Polonsky’s team boosted business by revealing to the rest of us the behind-the-scenes of the Federation Tower construction process, including brain storming sessions, corporate parties, desicions on hiring and firing.

Exiled in Cambodia, Sergei Polonsky is prominently featured in a Moscow-based movie called Elusive (Неуловимые) to hit screens in Russia in March 2015
Exiled in Cambodia, Sergei Polonsky is featured in a Moscow-based movie called Elusive (Неуловимые) to hit screens in Russia in March 2015

Exiled on his own collection of eight islands in Cambodia — where he recently launched Polonium, a business training program — Mr Polonsky is prominently featured in a Moscow-based movie called Elusive (Неуловимые) to hit screens in Russia in March 2015.

Polonsky has set a goal of earning not less than USD1bn through his jungle-based business education venture.

From New York magazine:

Another set of projects invariably bears the hallmark of his older sister, Irina, a patron of arts and literature. In private life, Mikhail and Irina form an unusual, closed-off unit. Until recently, they lived together in a relatively small Moscow apartment, well after Mikhail had become a billionaire. Most likely at Irina’s urging, Mikhail has endowed a lavish literary award, a publishing house, an arts festival, and, finally, Snob [a magazine for the “Global Russian”].

The Mikhail in question is Mikhail Dmitrievitch Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire, politician, and owner of the ONEXIM Group and the US basketball team the Brooklyn Nets.

A billboard over NYC. Mikhail Prokhorov with former Brooklyn Nets co-owner and rapper Jay Z. If you care, google up these two's cameo with Michael Bloomberg (Photo: Ihatelupica.blogspot.com)
A billboard over NYC. Mikhail Prokhorov with former Brooklyn Nets co-owner and rapper Jay Z. If you care, google up these two’s cameo with Michael Bloomberg (Photo: Ihatelupica.blogspot.com)

With an initial distribution of 20,000 in NYC, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco and some 700,000 Russian speakers living in the United States (as of 2010), Snob originally launched in Russia in 2008 with a USD150 million investment from Mikhail Dmitrievitch. In London, “the magazine bought up billboards in the Underground and elsewhere and slapped Russian-language ads on them, perplexing Brits and embarrassing local Russians.” For New York, they imagined “something that speaks to Snob’s globalist brand, and something that shows that the Russians actually understand contemporary New York.”

Yuri Milner has described his time at the World Bank as his “lost years”, due to watching from afar the privatization of government holdings during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin

Yuri Borisovich (Bentsionovich) Milner wraps up our overview of Global Russians on a shopping spree for media assets, with his investments in Facebook, Zynga, Twitter, Flipkart, Spotify, Groupon, Alibaba, and Planet Labs via the Mail.ru Group and Digital Sky Technologies (DST Global).

At one point in the 1990s, Yuri Borisovich worked for Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, now an émigré. A meeting through mutual friends resulted in Alisher Usmanov, Russia’s richest person, becoming a shareholder of Mail.ru Group in 2008. In January 2007, 30% of shares of Mail.ru were bought by Cape Town, South Africa-headquartered Naspers, an e-commerce and pay TV company, with assets like MultiChoice, DStv, MWEB and M-net.

Milner envisages that the advent of the Internet of things and ever increasing use of social media and participatory systems will increase our collective intelligence

An acronym of sostoyavshiisya, nezavisimyi, obrazovannyi, blagopoluchnyi (accomplished, independent, educated, thriving), Snob magazine under deputy editor Maria Alexandrovna Gessen   some years back “made a turn toward social activism, battling, for instance, the Putin administration’s revisionist sugarcoating of Joseph Stalin.”

She was dismissed from her position as the chief editor of Russia’s oldest magazine, Vokrug sveta, a popular-science journal, in 2012 after she refused to send a reporter to cover a Russian Geographical Society event about nature conservation featuring President Putin, because she considered it political exploitation of environmental concerns

So if the Global Russian “aggressively adopts traits of other cultures without betraying his own” — he ‘cooks like a Frenchman, entertains like an American, and forms friendships like a Russian’ in American nonfiction author Masha Gessen’s words — and if he/she is not 100% pro-Kremlin how many percentage points is he/she pro-poor? What do you think?

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