Vladimir Putin's $200B Rise To The Throne

Do you know who was the first person to hit a net worth of $200 billion? If you follow the billionaire’s list closely, you’d probably guess Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk. But, one financier named Bill Browder has been claiming that this title actually goes to Vladimir Putin who apparently hit the mark nearly 7 years ago. This is quite ironic given that his official presidential salary is only 8.8 million roubles per year or about $130,000. Even if he were to save his entire salary every year, it would take him 2 million years to hit $200 billion. Even with compound growth of 10% per year, it would take him 125 years. But I don’t think any of us are stupid enough to believe that the presidential compensation is Putin’s true source of wealth. In fact, the reason that he’s not listed on Forbes or Bloomberg is because he’s believed to have sourced most of his wealth through illegal avenues. So, here’s how Vladimir Putin managed to accumulate $200 billion and become the modern-day Tsar of Russia. GROWING UP IN SOVIET RUSSIA: Taking a look back, Vladimir Putin was born on October 7, 1952, in Leningrad, USSR, or modern-day Saint Petersberg, Russia. He was the youngest of three children born to Vladimir Spiridon Vich Putin and Maria Ivanovna Putina. Putin didn’t have much experience getting along with his siblings though as both of them had passed away before he was even born. One of his older brothers, Viktor, had actually passed away during the siege of Leningrad when the Nazis occupied the city for nearly 3 years. And Viktor was just one of 1 million civilian and military casualties during the siege. You would think that such an experience would leave a sour taste in the family’s mouth, but Putin’s family was actually extremely patriotic. In fact, many of his family members served political and military roles. His grandmother, for instance, was a personal chef for Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. Similarly, two of his uncles gave their lives on the eastern front during World War 2. And Putin’s father was a conscript in the Soviet Navy who served until he was severely wounded. Given that Putin was born well after World War 2, he didn’t experience any of these events, but I’m sure his family told him all about it. Anyway, Putin would end up attending school No. 193 which was the local school near his home. At school, one of his favorite tasks was reading books about Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, and as he grew older, he also started to spend some time learning sambo and judo. Moving onto high school, Putin would attend Saint Petersburg High School, and one of the most valuable things he learned there was how to speak German. He would later perfect these skills, and he’s thought to be quite fluent today. Anyway, moving into college, Putin would spend 5 years in Leningrad State University and earned his law degree in 1975. While at university, Putin became friends with a business law professor named Anatoly Sobchak, who will become quite important later on in the story. Around the same time, Putin was forced to join the communist party of the Soviet Union. It’s not clear how exactly Putin felt about this. When he was a kid, he was one of the only kids who didn’t join the Young Pioneer organization which is exactly what you think it is. Also, Putin would go on to claim that communism is quote “a blind alley, far away from the mainstream of civilization.” So, I’m not sure if Putin would’ve joined the communist part out of free will, but he definitely wasn’t going to leave out of free will. And that brings us into Putin’s days at the KGB. KGB SPY: After graduating from law school, Putin enrolled in the KGB and started his training. If you’re not familiar with the KGB, it was the Soviet Union’s intelligence agency or basically their FBI/CIA. Putin’s first role after training was within the Second Chief Directorate which primarily focused on collecting counterintelligence. This didn’t last for long though as he would soon be transferred over to the First Chief Directorate where he was tasked with monitoring foreigners and consulates. Putin completed such menial tasks for nearly a decade until September of 1984 when he was invited to complete further training at the Yuri Andropov Red Banner Institute. After this additional training, Putin was sent to Dresden, East Germany which is where he got his reputation for being a badass KGB spy. The story goes that Putin worked as an undercover translator and that he was involved in crazy events. For example, one story suggests that Putin helped protect the integrity of the Soviet Union during the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Apparently, he saved the files of the Soviet Cultural Center, and he burned secret KGB files located in Dresden. But, many journalists suggest that this is not what happened at all. Masha Gessen, for example, claims that even in Dresden, Putin was mainly limited to menial tasks. Masha suggests that Putin spent most of his time collecting press clippings most of which were useless to the USSR. Even one of Putin’s KGB colleagues, Vladimir Usoltsev, agrees that they didn’t accomplish anything too praiseworthy. Some other journalists suggest that this is just a cover to hide how involved Putin was with the KGB, but most of the evidence would suggest otherwise. For example, remember how Putin burned a bunch of files in Dresden? Well, Germany was able to retrieve most of the important files that he apparently burned. Also, it’s not like Putin cleverly left the KGB right before the collapse of the USSR. The KGB actually forced him to resign from active service after Dresden because they felt that they couldn’t trust his allegiance. Back in Leningrad, Putin continued to help with KGB recruiting, but as soon as the coup against the Soviet president began, Putin fully resigned from the KGB on August 20, 1991, and the USSR would end up collapsing just a few months later. ENTERING POLITICS: Now that Putin was out of a job, he decided to rekindle his friendship with the professor from college, Anatoly Sobchak, and this couldn’t have been better timing. You see, with the fall of the Soviet Union, Sobchak was trying to secure a position in politics. Putin helped Sobchak throughout the campaign trail and he quickly became one of Sobchak’s most trusted allies. Sobchak would go on to win the election and he became the first democratically elected mayor of St. Petersburg. As gratitude for all of Putin’s help on the campaign trail, Sobchak would appoint Putin as his advisor on international affairs. While this was a great start for Putin in politics, it didn’t take him long to leave Sobchak in the dust. On June 28, 1991, Putin was promoted to head of external relations of the Mayor’s Office, and this is when he would spark up his first controversy. It was revealed that Putin had used his powers to approve the export of $93 million worth of metals in return for foreign food aid that never came. After the news broke, investigators actually recommended that Putin be fired, but this never unfolded because Putin simply had too much public support. American presidents often struggle to crack the 50% approval rating threshold. But Putin has crushed this milestone throughout his entire career. In fact, even with the Ukraine situation, Putin’s approval rating currently sits at 71%. From an outside perspective, this might be a bit confusing as Putin often comes off as a corrupt merciless ruler. But most Russians wouldn’t want anyone else in Putin’s place. RISE TO PREMIERSHIP: The key to Putin’s popularity is twofold. The first reason is that ever since the Soviet Union dissolved, the financial situation of the average Russian has exponentially improved. In fact, the average monthly income has grown nearly 100x. Now, it’s not clear how much of this is actually due to Putin and how much is simply due to a more capitalistic economy, but a lot of Russians associate Putin’s rise to power with their own financial rise leading them to pledge their support. The second reason for Putin’s overwhelming support is that he was the strong leader that many Russians felt they needed. In the 1990s, many Russians felt that their power and dominance on the world scene had fallen off a cliff ever since the 1960s. And given Putin’s intense patriotism and iron fist, it seemed like he was the right man to return Russia to its former glory. And if you don’t believe me, just take a look at 130,000 people singing the Russian national anthem with Putin. Clearly, this is not a guy that’s lacking public support. Anyway, Putin leveraged this public support to continue moving up the political ladder. In 1996, he was promoted to deputy chief of the presidential property management directorate. Two years later, he was promoted to First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office. And in 1999, the president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, chose Putin to be the Prime minister of Russia. And when Yeltsin stepped down from being president, he nominated Putin to be his successor. Putin would go on to win the 2000 election garnering 53% of the vote, and his popularity has only grown since. For example, he won the 2018 election with 76.69% of the votes. To put that in perspective, the only American presidents who won a larger percentage of the popular vote were James Monroe and George Washington. With such overwhelming support, it’s clear that Putin isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. BILLIONAIRE PUTIN: So, we’ve covered how Putin got to the top politically, but how did Putin get to the top financially? After leaving the KGB, Putin says that he considered becoming a taxi driver to earn extra money, so things were looking quite bleak. But today, he’s potentially the richest person in the world, so, what happened? Well, like all billionaires, his primary source of wealth is assets starting with stakes in companies. Putin is speculated to have massive stakes in a handful of oil giants. This includes a 37% stake in Surgutneftegaz, a 4.5% stake in Gazprom, and at least a 75% stake in Gunvor. All these companies are extremely private and some of them have even rejected the notion that Putin is a shareholder, but critics argue that this is just an attempt to cover up his involvement with these companiesAfter all, it’s highly unlikely that Putin paid for these stakes. The more likely scenario is that he was given these stakes in return for political favors whether that be easier regulation or government contracts. Similarly, Putin also has a vast portfolio of real estate holdings including 20 different palaces and villas. And we’re not talking about real estate worth tens of millions or even hundreds of millions. Some of these holdings individually clock in at over $1 billion. Putin of course denies owning these estates, and it may be true that he doesn’t directly own these properties. But it’s speculated that Putin owns all these stakes and properties through various proxies. One of Putin’s political colleagues, Stanislav Belkovsky, suggests that Putin is worth at least $40 billion, and in terms of an upper bound, he has no clue. So, Putin is no doubt extremely wealthy, but he doesn’t really like to show off his wealth. It seems that his wealth is more for himself to enjoy as opposed to something that he shows off to the media. Something that Putin is proud to show off to the world though is his power. PUTIN TODAY: By now, I’m sure all of you guys are familiar with the Ukraine situation. It looks like Putin is invading Ukraine to quote on quote “teach them a lesson.” So far, it doesn’t seem like his actions have really cost him much public support within Russia. But this could quickly change if things turn sour. Many western countries are starting to place sanctions on Russia and limiting their abilities, but I don’t think this really makes a difference given that Putin fully expected this from the very beginning. In the meantime, Putin feels that he’s the wealthiest man not only in Russia but in the entire world not in terms of money, though that may also be true, but in terms of trust. Putin asserts that Russians have entrusted him with the leadership of Russia for over two decades, and that right there, will forever be his greatest wealth. Are you guys' fans of Putin or do you think he’s a douchebag for invading Ukraine? Comment that down below.