Billionaire Russian Bear - Roman Abramovich
Roman Abramovich feeling the economic pain
Like all of the wealthy, the status of Roman Abramovich's wealth has fluctuated along with the performance of the global economy, and as a result his wealth has decline by several billion.
Don't feel sorry for the Russian bear though, he still is worth about $8 billion or more, so it's not like he's on government assistance.
Roman Abramovich, a Russian Jew, is a fun guy to read about, and quite a character, in contrast to what most people think of entrepreneurs in the West.
He has a somewhat shady history that coincides with the shady history of Russia as Perestroika started moving it toward free markets and entrepreneurship.
Of course it's difficult to separate fact from fiction as some of the losers in his business battles are supplying the information, but he has evidently admitted to doing some things which were unethical in his past business dealing.
Roman Abramovich and girlfriend Daria Zhukova
Rags to riches story
Abramovich is a rags to riches story, as he took an expensive wedding gift from his in-laws and turned into the multi-billion dollar empire he now runs.
He actually started by selling these plastic ducks from an apartment in Moscow, and multiplied that into oil investments, which were the foundation of his huge wealth.
Eventually there was a brutal battle over the aluminium industry in Russia, and when the smoke cleared, Abramovich was sitting at the top of the heap.
Estimates are up to 100 people had been murdered or killed during the ensuing gangland-style feuds to control the extremely profitable smelters.
These weren't just the muscle getting hit either, it was the executives and government officials also losing their lives in the battle.
According to some news outlets that assert they've seen the court documents, Abramovich allegedly admitted that he had paid out billions in political favors and protection fees in order to not only gain share in the aluminum industry, but the Russian oil industry as well.
So while he started off selling retail items, his interests and wealth are largely in the commodities markets
Chelsea Football Club
As sports can be the playground of many of the wealthy, that's true of Roman Abramovich.
To scratch that itch, he bought the Chelsea Football Club, which plays in the Premier League, and is based in West London, in a primarily working class area.
Abramovich had a goal of making them an international brand, and while that has happened to a small degree, it's not anywhere near where it possibly may end up, but hundreds of millions have been spent so far, and it'll probably take a lot more if that is to ever become a reality.
Chelsea Football Team
What's probably the most interesting and entertaining to watch about Abramovich is his seemingly endless acquisition of big toys, which is definitely a sign of being noveau riche, and wanting people to know it.
Before I get into the really fun stuff, there was one thing he bought his young girlfriend Dasha Zhukova recently, and that was a piece of the moon. This isn't a piece of the moon in the sense of a space rock brought back from a past mission, it's a piece of 100 acres on the moon given to his bride-to-be as an act of contrition to be forgiven for not marrying her because the economic crisis has cost him several billion dollars.
Now you'd think about $7 billion would be enough to marry with, but maybe she's a big spender. I don't know.
Big rich boy toys
No talk about Abramovich would be complete without the extravagance of the big toys he buys, including yachts, planes, helicopters and limousines.
As of this writing, Abramovich rides in his own private 767-33A/ER, which he calls the bandit. It is seen quite often parked at Stansted Airport in the UK at the Harrods Aviation facility.
He also has a new private aircraft, an A340-313X, built by Airbus for him.
If that's not enough air power for Abramovich, he also had three Eurocopter helicopters for use on his yachts, airports, and Fyning Hill estate.
Roman Abramovich Yacht 'Eclipse' - Largest private yacht in the world
Several years ago Abramovich acquired to Maybach 62 limousines which seem to reflect either paranoia or protection from past shady exploits.
Both of them came with bullet-proof glass, and are also made to be bomb proof. Unconfirmed reports say he paid over a million US for the two.
Among his sports cars, Abramovich has quite a collection. His prize auto is probably the Ferrari FXX he owns, which was built only for racing. The $2.2 million car is one of only 30 built.
Other four-wheel toys he owns are a modified Porsche Carrera GT, Bugatti Veryron, Maerati MC12 Corsa and a Ferrari 360.
Super Yacht ECLIPSE Abramovich's new boat
Admiral Abramovich and his fleet of yachts
All the above toys are impressive and interesting, but they pale in comparison to the fleet of yachts he owns, reputed to be the largest in the world for a private owner.
While he has several of them, the one I want to talk about is his most recent yacht acquisition named the Eclipse, now the largest yacht in the world.
I can't tie down the actual length, as almost every report I've read has it listed differently. I've seen lengths anywhere from 482 feet long to 575 feet along, and other in between those numbers. In meters it seems the correct length is right around 170 meters long.
Either way, the cost of the floating behemoth is $590 million, and it's equipped with everything.
Included with the yacht are 11 guest rooms, several hot tubs, a disco dance floor, and two swimming pools.
As far as the James Bond stuff, there are two helicopter pads, three launch boats, systems for detecting intruders, bullet-proof glass in the master suite, and a missile defence system.
Lastly, it comes with a mini-submarine which can dive to about 50 meters. That's hard core man.
The yacht was recently seen leaving the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Germany, and is due to be delivered sometime in 2010 after the final touches are added.
Flamboyant life and accomplishments
Roman Abramovich works hard and plays hard, and he started it all by selling little plastic ducks from his apartment in a country that had just allowed its first entrepreneurs to try their hand at success.
He's had a fascinating and bumpy ride, and typical of the Russian entrepreneur which has emerged in the early years, he has fought hard to not only survive, but also to wildly succeed.
Coming from Russia, this is more impressive than at first glance, because we couldn't understand what it took in a country that until that moment had fiercly opposed capitalism and private enterprise.