Friday, November 4, 2011

Vagit Alekperov

Vagit Alekperov (born September 1, 1950 in Baku, Azerbaijan) is an Azerbaijani businessman and currently a President of the leading Russian oil company LUKOIL.

He is currently rated by Forbes magazine as the eighth richest person in Russia with $13.9 billion of net worth and the 50th richest person in the world.

He was born in Baku, one of the earliest centers of the international petroleum industry. His father, who died when Vagit was a boy, worked in the oil fields all his life and inspired Alekperov to follow in his footsteps. Alekperov's father was a Muslim and his mother, Russian Orthodox. Alekperov is religious, but does not define himself as either Muslim or Orthodox. He was eighteen when he landed his first job in the industry.

Alekperov graduated in 1974 from the Azerbaijan Oil and Chemistry Institute. As a student he also worked as a drilling operator in Kaspmorneft, a Caspian regional production company.

After graduation, he continued to work there, and by 1979 he had advanced from engineer to deputy head of a production unit. He had to work in extreme conditions on offshore oil rigs. On one occasion, an explosion on his rig threw him into the stormy Caspian sea, and he had to swim for his life.

Alekperov moved to Western Siberia in 1979 and worked at Surgutneftegaz between 1979 and 1985, earning his reputation as an industry expert. He was ascending positions and by 1985 became first deputy general director of Bashneft production company. In 1987, he became general director of the newly created production company Kogalymneftegaz.

In 1990, Alekperov was appointed deputy minister of the Oil and Gas Industry of the Soviet Union and became the youngest deputy energy minister in Soviet history. At that time, Alekperov promoted establishment of vertically integrated state-owned energy companies, which would bring together the wide range of organizations in the energy sector that were, at the time, reporting to different Soviet bureaucratic institutions.

As deputy minister of the oil and gas industry of the Soviet Union, Alekperov was engaged in the formation of the first vertically integrated state-owned energy company, Langepas-Uray-Kogalymneft, which was established in late 1991 as a subsidiary of the Ministry of Fuel and Energy. In April 1993, Langepas-Uray-Kogalymneft became LUKoil Oil Company, with Alekperov as its president.

Lukoil thus arose in the dying days of the Soviet Union in 1991, set up by a small group of Soviet oil bureaucrats led by Alekperov. Another member of the group was his close friend Vitaly Schmidt, a petroleum engineer. The group forged strong bonds working in a remote drilling camp in the Siberian swamp town of Kogalym, meaning "the lake where a man died."

Oil tycoon Schmidt was himself a multi-millionaire with luxury residences in four countries. Much of his fortune came from a group of small offshore energy companies he oversaw on behalf of himself and the few fellow executives of Lukoil.

His sudden death under mysterious circumstances in Moscow in August 1997 set off a struggle for control of his assets, hidden in tax havens from the Isle of Man to Panama. It led his son Vadim Schmidt, nineteen when his father died, to accuse Lukoil executives, including Alekperov, of raiding his father's estate, allegations they deny, according to front page article in the Wall Street Journal on December 6, 2006.

Vadim made the claim in an Isle of Man court and in the high U.K. appellate court known as the Privy Council. In response to the allegations that Lukoil executives sometimes took control of company profits Vitally Schmidt had secreted in the Isle of Man, Alekperov said, "Unfortunately, the son didn't take after his father. He's looking for his father's supposed money."

Schmidt had been head of drilling in Kogalym when Alekperov moved to the oil ministry in Moscow. There, Alekperov helped establish Lukoil as a state company with control of Kogalym and extensive natural-gas assets. A minority slice of Lukoil's shares started trading publicly in Russia in 1993, after which the state's interest gradually shrank to zero.

Alekperov has remained president of LUKoil since that time. Employing more than 100,000 people, today LUKoil is among the world's most powerful oil companies, with reserves second only to Exxon.

LUKoil was also the first Russian company to acquire an American company. In November 2000, LUKoil acquired Getty Petroleum Marketing and its 1,300 gas stations in the United States[5] Like many other Russian oligarchs, Alekperov has also moved into banking and media.

The British Daily Mail newspaper reported on May 4, 2007, that Alekperov has expressed interest in buying Tottenham Hotspur football club. The newspaper said Tottenham is an attractive proposition for Alekperov, being based in London but with a global reputation and an impressive games record at home and abroad.

It is believed, however, that Daniel Levy, chairman of the Premier League football club, has no desire to cede control. He is credited with restoring the club's former glories since the ENIC Group (a sports, entertainment, and media group of which he is also managing director) took it over from Sir Alan Sugar.

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