Putin's hockey pal and Russia's richest man Vladimir Potanin has been 'snapping up banks for cheap' amid an exodus of Western owners

Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) greets billionaire businessman Vladimir Potanin (L) while billionaire Gennady Timchenko (R) looks on during a group photo at the Night Hockey League gala match at the Bolshoi Ice Dome in Sochi, Russia May 10 , 2019.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin played ice hockey with Vladimir Potanin.Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images
Putin ally Vladimir Potanin is reportedly snapping up Russian banks at a discount rate.
After Putin's invasion of Ukraine, Western companies fled the country en masse.
According to Forbes, Potanin is said to be Russia's richest man - with a fortune of almost $30 billion.
Russia's richest man has reportedly been buying up domestic banks at a discount rate after their Western owners left the country.
The Russian economy has been in freefall since invading Ukraine, after Western powers imposed sanctions on a number of President Vladimir Putin's closest allies, seized and frozen their assets and shut down a host of leading companies - from McDonald's to Goldman Sachs - to operate have set across the country.
Metal magnate Vladimir Potanin, a longtime Putin ally, has largely avoided Western sanctions despite his close personal ties to the regime. Experts say Potanin, who has played hockey with Putin in the past, has largely slipped off the West's radar due to his personal importance in global metals markets.
On Thursday, the Financial Times reported that Potanin, believed to be worth $30 billion, tapped into his estimated $30 billion fortune to buy stakes in major Russian banks, which have shrunk in value after Western interest groups had left the country.
The billionaire's Interros group is said to have acquired Rosbank after French bank Société Générale (SocGen), which bought Potanin's business in 2008, opted for a quick exit from Russia. Insiders previously reported that banks still operating in Russia are preparing to lose huge amounts of money to exit.
Potanin reportedly bought Oleg Tinkov's stake in TCS Group Holding, for which Tinkov, who was forced to sell his shares after criticizing the war, complained that Potanin paid only 3% of the real value of the shares, according to the newspaper . Insider reached out to TCS and SocGen, but didn't get an immediate response.
Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of political analysis firm R.Politik, told FT: “The Kremlin had a geopolitically problematic asset [in Tinkoff] and Potanin had a solution.”
Potanin's recent acquisitions make him a key figure in the banking sector. In February, Rosbank and Tinkoff, TCS' top assets, together hit nearly $45 billion (3 trillion RBS).
Someone involved in the negotiations for SocGen told the FT: "We wanted to find a way to exit in the most orderly way possible while preserving our 12,000 employees."
They added, "Potanin ... says he wants to preserve the bank and its culture," so they decided to accept his offer, which was quick and he knows the bank, the report said.
Potanin founded Interros - a conglomerate with interests in industries such as mining, energy and real estate - in 1990 and is the richest man in Russia, according to Forbes. But he is best known for dominating the "loans-for-shares" schemes that have made their fortunes through the schemes for many other oligarchs, including Roman Abramovich.
Under the "loans-for-shares" schemes, wealthy entrepreneurs and banks lent money to the Russian government in the 1990s in exchange for stakes in the country's resource companies. The government was often unable to repay these loans, leaving many of the resource companies in the hands of wealthy individuals.
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