When you’re the owner and president of a Ligue 1 football club, an art collector, and someone mentioned in the same sentence as the current sitting U.S. president, you’re bound to get quite the media attention.
Such is the story of Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Russian businessman and investor. Of course, the focus on Mr Rybolovlev isn’t just due to his business interests; he also happens to be in Forbes’ list of billionaires. But who is he and why does he make international headlines?
Much of Rybolovlev’s wealth can be credited to the sale in 2011 of two fertilizer producers in his native Russia. He sold 53% of his stakes in Uralkali to a group of Russian investors: Suleiman Kerimov and Alexander Nesis (both metals tycoons) and cement magnate Filaret Galchev. The company was merged with fellow potash producer Silvinit in 2010. Together, they produce about 20% of the world’s potash.
Potash is a nutrient that is in demand all over the world; Brazil, China, India, Southeast Asia, Europe, and America are major markets. It is used to improve the yield of crops such as corn, palm, and rice. Rybolovlev saw the potential with the product and invested in a company that produced it.
After seeing Uralkali rise to a global success, he sold his stake then invested in the Bank of Cyprus. Although the institution was going through some deep troubles, Rybolovlev bought a 9.7% stake. This investment was made only a few months after he sold his Uralkali shares. In short, 2010 was a pretty busy year for Mr Rybolovlev.
Rybolovlev didn’t just stop at investing in a troubled bank; he also bought a 66% stake in equally troubled French football club, AS Monaco F.C. The year was 2011 and AS Monaco was not just relegated to the second tier of French football, the team was also suffering financially. The club, which is owned by the crown prince of Monaco, was looking for an investor to help turn their fortunes around. Rybolovlev answered the call and was also appointed club president.
Under Rybolovlev’s presidency, the club was able to win the French second division, which got the team back in the first division. All this in just a year.
Back in its glory days, Monaco enjoyed the services of footballers like Thierry Henry. When Rybolovlev became president, the club was able to spend large amounts on securing the services of talents such as James Rodriguez (now with Bayern Munich), Radamel Falcao (from Atletico Madrid to Manchester United then Chelsea and back to Monaco), and Ricardo Carvalho (from Real Madrid but now retired).
In 2017, Monaco enjoyed a successful season by winning Ligue 1 and advancing to the semi-final of the Champions League.
Mr. Rybolovlev owns different properties in many parts of the world. In the U.S. alone, he owns homes in Florida, Hawaii, and New York City. Of all the U.S. properties he bought, it is the Florida property that gained much attention thanks to its ties to the current president of the United States of America.
In 2008, a purchase was made by the trust in the name of Rybovalovlev’s daughter, Ekaterina. The purchase was an 18-bedroom property owned by then businessman Donald Trump. Acquired for $40 million in 2004, Trump sold the property to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for $90 million. With concerns raised over Trump’s connection with Russians, the now president of the U.S. says that this sale of the Palm Beach property was his only dealing with a Russian.
Although Rybolovlev’s U.S. property in Florida has gained much attention, he also owns other properties, including two Greek islands. Being the owner of a football club in Monaco, it isn’t surprising to find that he owns property in the country. Rybolovlev also owns property in Switzerland.
Mr. Rybolovlev doesn’t just concern himself with business and football; he also collects art. He owns paintings by artists such as Paul Gaugin, Henry Matisse, Pablo Picasso, August Rodin, and Mark Rothko.
One of the pieces he owned – before he sold it at Christie’s – was the painting by Leonardo da Vinci called Salvator Mundi. That painting was sold for $450 million in 2017.
Rybolovlev is followed by controversy even in his dealings with art. In 2015, he accused art dealer Yves Bouvier of overcharging for several paintings. This was followed in 2016 by the purchase of three alleged stolen Picassos from art dealer Olivier Thomas.
After years of being on one side of art disputes, Rybolovlev was charged in 2018 in relation to a corruption investigation.