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Alisher Usmanov: How a billionaire-turned-philanthropist is important to Uzbekistan’s international future


Uzbek tycoon Alisher Usmanov as soon as quipped to a Western journalist that his life story would require greater than a few vodka bottles to inform in full. A fast take a look at his biography, one which begins together with his humble origins in Chust, a medium-sized metropolis in Uzbekistan’s Fergana Valley, to being ranked among the many 100 wealthiest folks on this planet.

Usmanov is exclusive amongst these from the previous Soviet Union who made their fortunes within the wild Nineties following the collapse of the Communist command economic system in that he accrued his wealth by open market offers or by launching new companies; a stark distinction to those that amassed huge sums of wealth, usually illicitly, by doubtful privatization schemes. 

Having the proper enterprise instinct to acknowledge the altering world round him because the Soviet system was on life assist, Usmanov turned rich after establishing a plastic bag firm – a commodity that was in excessive demand through the late Gorbachev period. From these early investments, Usmanov was later moved to investing in worldwide markets and particularly in metallurgy enterprise.

In the early 2000s, Usmanov purchased up mines and metal crops, and thru these acquisitions constructed up the Metalloinvest group reworking it right into a metallurgical main, which provides half of the world’s scorching briquetted iron (HBI), a low-carbon materials for the metal business. It continues to be a core a part of Usmanov’s enterprise empire. He additionally invested in a big copper deposit, which is predicted to be launched subsequent 12 months amid hovering demand for the low-carbon economic system metals.    

Despite the reservations of many different buyers on the time, Usmanov’s curiosity within the tech world led his profitable investments in Apple and most of the world’s tech unicorns: Alibaba, JD.com, Twitter, Spotify and Uber. He additionally invested $460 million straight into Facebook and acquired stakes within the Russian telecom firm MegaFon, the web holding Mail.ru Group, and the Russian-speaking world’s Facebook analogue, VKontakte. 

From enterprise to philanthropy and charity

Internationally recognised for his ground-breaking investments in Facebook and Alibaba, his longtime shareholding within the Arsenal soccer membership and his many charitable actions, together with the restoration of cultural monuments round Europe, notably in Italy, a rustic with a historical past and tradition that has lengthy been pricey to Usmanov. So a lot in order that Usmanov offered €1.5 million in monetary help to the authorities of Rome for the restoration of the aisle of the Basilica Ulpia and the Colonnade of Trajan’s Forum, in addition to the Dioscuri Fountain on Quirinale Square. He additionally donated greater than €6 million for the restoration of the Villa Berg, which has been housing the Italian Embassy in Moscow since 1924.

Usmanov’s quite a few initiatives aimed toward forging nearer ties with Italy have prolonged far past historic preservation and have included taking over the standard position of an arts patron within the fields of cinema, structure, theater and music – all of which have amounted to thousands and thousands of euros.

Further donations have prolonged to different European nations together with Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Greece, Monaco and Cyprus; working the gamut from sponsoring COVID help, and different medical and pharmaceutical enchancment initiatives, to sponsoring main sporting establishments. (Usmanov is an avid fencer and has served because the president of the Fédération Internationale d’Escrime, the worldwide governing physique of the game of fencing, for 14 years since 2008. In March 2022, he suspended his duties till the worldwide sanctioned towards him are lifted.

Returning to his roots

In his native Uzbekistan, Usmanov has whole-heartedly backed President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who’s shifting quickly to re-make and open his nation to the world after the Central Asian nation struggled for 1 / 4 century below Mirziyoyev’s predecessor, Islam Karimov, who largely stored the nation remoted from the worldwide neighborhood and who stubbornly clung to outmoded Soviet-style financial insurance policies.

Usmanov has prior to now mentioned that he’s prepared to speculate as a lot as he can in Uzbekistan. And he has carried out simply that. Usmanov’s charitable work within the nation has already amounted to tons of of thousands and thousands of {dollars} by the financing of a variety of key social and modernization initiatives, with a World Bank-supported housing growth program in varied Uzbek areas alone receiving $245 million from him. 

Much like his actions within the West, Usmanov has supported the cultural and historic preservation of Uzbekistan’s dozens of heritage websites, together with the event of the traditional Silk Road metropolis Bukhara and its surrounding area, residence to a variety of UNESCO World Heritage websites.

Usmanov has repeatedly emphasised that every one his investments in Uzbekistan are aimed, initially, on the financing of the nation’s growth. In layman’s phrases, every part earned in Uzbekistan will stay within the nation and will likely be directed towards the social and financial growth of the nation.

In line with this coverage, Usmanov and his companions supported the development and launch of a metallurgical plant within the Uzbek capital Tashkent, the nation’s main metallurgical enterprise, wherein a subsidiary of USM holding now owns a big share. USM, the worldwide conglomerate with investments within the metals and mining business, telecommunications, know-how, and media – the place Usmanov owns a 49% share – created a three way partnership with companions in Uzbekistan that included the main Uzbek telecommunications firm Ucell. Earlier this 12 months, Akkerman Cement, a subsidiary of USM, acquired a 98.6% stake in a big cement plant in Uzbekistan to assist additional foster the nation’s financial development.

Using his robust private ties to Italy, Germany and different EU nations, Usmanov helped European corporations, together with Italy’s Danieli and Germany’s Knauf, enter the Uzbek market and promised to proceed to advertise and shield European enterprise funding in Central Asia. In flip, representatives of Italian enterprises and the commune of town of Ardzachena in Sardinia, the place Usmanov is an honorary citizen, in addition to representatives of the German enterprise neighborhood, have already expressed their assist for Usmanov.

This is much from a whole listing of those that are able to again up this philanthropist and patron of sports activities within the present scenario: a month earlier it turned recognized that greater than 100 member nations of the most important fencing confederations of the world turned to IOC President Thomas Bach with a request to facilitate the lifting of sanctions towards Usmanov. 

Usmanov and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

Usmanov is able to contribute additional to this enterprise relationship within the context  of the European Union  – Central Asia sustainable connectivity prospects  in keeping with the EU’s Global Gateway.

The overwhelming majority of Usmanov’s actions are largely unknown to most people, together with those that are shut watchers of the post-Soviet house, largely attributable to his private aversion to self-promotion. The reality stays, nevertheless, that he has already given away $6.4 billion within the final twenty years, together with through his charity foundations and firms. 

Post-February 24

Despite Usmanov’s many proactive actions within the West and in Uzbekistan, he was included on the European Union and US’ listing of sanctioned billionaires following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, regardless of by no means having any recognized connection  to the Russian authorities’ selections and  actions in Ukraine.

The European Union has not given any particulars as to why Usmanov was included on the intensive listing of people and enterprise entities, however a abstract assessment of his actions aimed toward nearer relations with the West raises questions as to the rationale behind his inclusion on the listing.  

In an unique interview with New Europe’s Federico Grandesso, Usmanov mentioned his present scenario, in addition to his previous and future endeavors in Europe and Uzbekistan. 

New Europe (NE): You and your sisters had been sanctioned by the EU due to your alleged relations with the Russian authorities. For the report, and for European politicians to grasp, have you ever ever had any hyperlinks with Moscow?

Alisher Usmanov (AU): I’m previously an enormous businessman, and in recent times I’ve been deeply engaged within the growth of fencing and in philanthropy. I treasure notably humanitarian values and initiatives that deliver folks collectively: sports activities, artwork, and even enterprise. In different phrases, I’m as far distanced from politics as potential and have in truth intentionally been avoiding all of it my life. So, the EU’s accusations towards me and my sisters are utterly groundless on all counts and, specifically, with regard to my connections with the Kremlin. Of course, as a businessman and because the FIE President, I’ve through the years met main figures from many various nations, together with heads of states and the heads of assorted worldwide sports activities organizations. Moreover, I’ve obtained a variety of excessive awards from Uzbekistan, Italy, Kazakhstan, Russia, and the International Olympic Committee. My conferences with these officers had been often public and had been lined by the media. All different accusations claiming that I’m allegedly a “pro-Kremlin oligarch”, or that I’ve some form of monetary connections with the Russian management are nothing however baseless fantasies.

NE: Your previous actions in Europe, and the achievements that adopted, have been fairly outstanding through the years. How are you able to assist the EU additional cooperate with Uzbekistan and help each in deepening their relationship?

AU: Although I’m an Asian by beginning and upbringing, European tradition is deeply ingrained in me. All my life I’ve been intently linked to Europe. When I used to be nonetheless an entrepreneur, I acquired a number of enterprise companions and made actual associates right here. In reality, I owe the success of my first enterprise within the Nineteen Eighties to a German businessman who helped me with recommendation and provided me with the perfect gear accessible on this planet at the moment for the manufacture of plastic baggage. That was how I acquired began in enterprise. But subsequently, my profession was additionally related with European enterprise companions. And it was these connections and the belief of those those who helped me later once I left the enterprise world and targeted as an alternative on social and charitable work. I responded with nice pleasure and with out hesitation to requests from European nations and establishments and supported varied charitable initiatives. The most well-known of them are restoration initiatives in Italy, however, in fact, there have been many extra, which in truth cowl all the European continent. Today, because of the sanctions, a variety of restrictions have been positioned on this work, however I intend to proceed with my philanthropy in Europe as quickly as I’m in a position as soon as once more.

For the final 14 years, I’ve been heading up the FIE, and it’s for me personally some of the essential humanitarian initiatives of my life. Sport is a very highly effective technique of bringing nations nearer collectively, defusing conflicts and creating common alternatives for everybody regardless of the place they arrive from on this planet and what state of heath they’ve. This is what fencing is about, and I’m proud that my crew and I’ve managed to make our achievements really international. Of course, this additionally applies to European fencing, to the success of which I’ve additionally contributed as head of the European Fencing Confederation for 4 years, from 2005 to 2009.

I want to share my very own expertise and experience that I’ve accrued all through my life and to make use of that data to strengthen humanitarian and enterprise ties between Uzbekistan and the EU members. I see this as my mission.

NE: What is your relationship with the EU establishments? Have you been to Brussels or Strasbourg to debate potential initiatives or methods to deepen the collaboration between Uzbekistan and the European Union with any EU officers?

AU: I’m an ardent supporter of increasing cooperation between Uzbekistan and the EU member states. Six years in the past, after Shavkat Mirziyoyev turned president, the nation started to vary quickly. Today, Uzbekistan is a dynamically growing democratic republic that’s open to funding and has huge potential. In many respects, the nation is concentrated on growing cooperation with Europe and is in search of fashions that could possibly be utilized right here. Reforms are being efficiently carried out right here in lots of areas, and strengthening the funding local weather is a key precedence. Special establishments have been created to offer info and authorized assist to international entrepreneurs, and lots of boundaries to international buyers have been eliminated.

I actually have made and proceed to make a substantial effort to speak with our European companions, telling them about this and welcoming them to put money into the republic and construct a dialogue with it. This is one in every of my prime priorities. And this work has concrete outcomes. European corporations, together with German, Austrian and Italian ones, are already working in Uzbekistan. Bilateral and multilateral cooperation with EU member states is being developed, with common public and enterprise occasions like annual “EU – Central Asian” ministerial conferences, the “Italy – Central Asia” convention, a dialogue with German companies and lots of others. This ends in European companions taking a recent take a look at Uzbekistan. Further occasions will, I’m positive, utterly change attitudes to investing in Uzbekistan. I have to admit that I’m more than happy to comprehend that my modest contribution has helped enhance the connection between Uzbekistan and the EU.

I’ve been publicly urging everybody to speculate on this nation. And the businesses of which I’m a shareholder, are actively investing in Uzbekistan’s metallurgy, cement manufacturing and telecommunications industries. As for myself, I firmly determined that any cash earned on this nation will likely be invested in Uzbekistan. And I additionally intend to assist any undertakings which might be in keeping with Uzbekistan’s growth technique and aimed toward strengthening its relations with the EU. Of course, sanctions on me make it troublesome to develop this assist.

NE: What are your ideas about your case on the European Court of Justice? Are you optimistic in regards to the end result? In the case of a unfavourable end result, would you think about an attraction?

AU: I’ve already skilled injustice in my life, so I really feel it keenly. The collective duty that I really feel has been prolonged to me and my subsequent of kin — that’s an injustice and an enormous mistake.

None of the accusations towards me and my sisters, apparently justifying the EU sanctions towards me, are true. In our lawsuits, we have now offered ample proof to that impact.

For instance, my sisters are being accused of allegedly receiving improper advantages from me. They have their very own households, their very own youngsters, who at the moment are being punished together with them just because they’re my kin. Meanwhile, for 25 years, all my incomes and property have been audited yearly by the Big Four companies, their transparency has been confirmed by audit studies, and all these studies have been disclosed.

I additionally strongly consider within the European Institutions. I’m assured that and European politicians and officers would have the ability to rethink the sanctions utilized and that I’m solely liable for having been a profitable entrepreneur in troublesome occasions and areas. I’ve been obliged to defend myself earlier than the European Court of Justice and with all of the respect I do know that they are going to be honest and unengaged on this scenario. I’m assured that there will likely be quickly room to rethink the unjustified resolution taken towards me and my sisters. I additionally consider the European Court of Justice will likely be honest and unengaged on this scenario and I’ll battle till I win. 

It is my responsibility as a result of the sanctions don’t largely have an effect on me personally, however somewhat my kin, workers of the enterprises the place I’m a shareholder, folks depending on my charitable exercise, and my fellow residents from Uzbekistan. Thousands of harmless persons are being affected by these measures. I’ve been spending practically half my revenue on charity — so ought to the recipients of this charitable assist be sanctioned as properly?

NE: If you had been capable of communicate on to the residents of Europe about your actions in each the EU and Uzbekistan, what can be your principal message to them? One that you’d need them to relay to the politicians that they’ve democratically elected to make selections on points like worldwide sanctions?

AU: I’m satisfied that the energy of human civilization lies in its potential to create collectively. This shouldn’t be forgotten, even at troublesome occasions similar to immediately. We are nearer to one another than we predict, and never every part might be sacrificed for the sake of the political second. It is important to maintain a cool thoughts and never alienate true associates. As for me personally, I’m a person of peace who has devoted his entire life to bringing folks collectively. In no manner am I an enemy of Europe.  On the opposite, I’m desperate to proceed constructing bridges between European nations, Uzbekistan and Central Asia. And I’ll definitely proceed to take action as I see an amazing future on this.

 

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