Roman Abramovich

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Born into a Jewish family, Roman's paternal grandparents were exiled to Siberia from Tauragė, Lithuania by the Soviets after the occupation of Lithuania in 1940. Roman grew up as an orphan. His mother Irina Vasilevna was a musician and his father worked as a supplier at a construction trust in Syktyvkar. His mother, Irina Ostrowski Abramovich, died from bacteremia as a result of a back-alley abortion when Roman was one year old. His father Arkady Abramovich was killed in an incident on a construction site when Roman was three years old. Abramovich grew up in his uncle's family in Ukhta and with his grandmother, Tatyana Semenovna, in Moscow. Before moving to Moscow he and his sister lived in Syktyvkar, the capital city of the Komi Republic.

In 1973, Abramovich went to first grade at Ukhta School No. 2. In 1974, Abramovich and his grandmother moved in with his second uncle Abram Nakhimovich in Moscow. Abramovich studied at School No. 232, which stressed the performing arts. After graduating from school and botching his university studies, he moved to his relatives in Komi. In 1984, Abramovich went to the army (artillery regiment in Kirach in the Vladimirsk region).

Abramovich attended the Industrial Institute in Ukhta before being drafted into the Soviet Army in 1984. After military service in an artillery regiment in Kirach, Vladimirsk region, he studied briefly at the Moscow State Auto Transport Institute before taking a leave of absence from academics to go into business. He later earned a correspondence degree from the Moscow State Law Academy.

The Times has reported that he was a market trader selling black market toys before his association with Boris Berezovsky.

Business career

A 2,000-rouble wedding present from Olga's (Abramovich's first wife) parents (about £1,000) was invested by Abramovich in black-market goods such as perfume, deodorants, tights and toothpaste to sell on in Moscow in or around December 1987. Abramovich soon doubled, then tripled, the investment, his confidence growing with each business success. "I think he enjoyed the thrill of it," says Olga. "When he returned from trips selling the goods, he was flushed with joy. In 1988, as Perestroika opened up opportunities for entrepreneurs in the Soviet Union, he and Olga set up a company making dolls. "It brought success almost immediately," says Olga, "but I don't think Roman ever imagined that he would become as rich as he is now."Abramovich started his commercial activity in the late 1980s when Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms permitted the opening of small private businesses, known as co-operatives. Mr Abramovich began his business career selling plastic ducks from a Moscow apartment, but within a few years his wealth spread from oil conglomerates to pig farms. In 1992 to 1995 Abramovich founded five companies that conducted resale and acted as intermediaries, eventually specializing in the trading of oil and oil products. In 1992 he was arrested in a case of theft of government property - AVEKS-Komi sent a train containing 55 cisterns of diesel fuel, worth 3.8 million roubles, from the Ukhtinsk Oil Production Factory; Abramovich met the train in Moscow and resent the shipment to the Kaliningrad military base under a fake agreement, but the fuel arrived in Riga. Abramovich co-operated with the investigation, and the case was closed after the oil production factory was compensated by the diesel's buyer, the Latvian-US concern, Chikora International. In 1995 Abramovich and Boris Berezovsky, an associate of President Boris Yeltsin acquired the controlling interest in the large oil company Sibneft. The deal was within the controversial loans-for-shares program and each partner paid $100 million for half of the company, below the stake's stock market value of $150 million at the time. The fast-rising value of the company led many observers, in hindsight, to suggest that the real cost of the company should have been in the billions of dollars.

Roman Abramovich

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