Russian Oligarch Pledges Fortune to Charity

Russian oligarch Vladimir Potanin has announced that he plans to leave his entire multibillion-dollar fortune to charity when he dies, the Financial Times reports.

Potanin, the 48-year-old president of investment company Interros Holding, also will increase his annual contributions to his charitable fund from $10 million to $25 million. Although Potanin suffered major financial losses in the global economic meltdown, with his fortune falling from a high of $22.4 billion before the crisis hit to $2.1 billion by April 2009, his net worth is thought to have rebounded some as commodity prices and Russian share prices have come off their lows.

Potanin was the first Russian tycoon to create a private foundation and also the first to announce that he will leave his fortune to charity — a decision, according to some, that reflects a broader shift on the part of Russia's business elite away from the "robber baron" mentality of the turbulent 1990s, when many of them earned their fortunes.

"There won't be an inheritance of my fortune," Potanin told the Financial Times. "My capital should work for the good of society and continue working for these social aims. My children are growing up, their father is a billionaire and a well-known guy. They, for one, are in my shadow, and secondly what motivation in life do they have to achieve something? In this sense, I consider it a very correct step to hand over one's fortune for the service of society and not for inheritance. I am going to follow the example of [Bill] Gates and [Warren] Buffett."

Catherine Belton. "Russian Oligarch Inspired by Gates." Financial Times 02/02/2010.