London; New York
Investments (media, industrials, and real estate)
The Ukraine-born billionaire Len Blavatnik made his money from early investments in aluminum and energy companies as they were being privatized during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He made even more money in 2013 when he sold his stake in a Russian oil company, TNK-BP, for $7 billion, according to Forbes. But perhaps his biggest recent investment came when he bought Warner Music for $3.3 billion in 2011. (An industry analyst told Bloomberg in April 2019 that the company is probably worth twice that now, though a spokesperson kept Warner’s valuation at $3.3 billion.)
Some of his other high-profile business investments, according to Bloomberg, include Spotify, Facebook, Amazon, the design label Tory Burch, and the Broadway hit musical Hamilton. While many of these have paid off, a merger he engineered between two chemical companies in 2007 almost brought about financial ruin when it declared bankruptcy in 2009. But, he was able to resurrect the company, eventually pocketing $1.5 billion in shares, with the help of Apollo Global Management, the company of Leon Black, another Top 200 Collector.
On the real estate side of things, Blavatnik’s lavish purchases include a £41 million mansion in London’s Kensington Gardens and the Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat located on a peninsula not far from Nice in the French Riviera. In Miami, Blavatnik is the financier—to the tune of $1.2 billion—behind Argentine entrepreneur Alan Faena’s Faena district which has a cultural center alongside a hotel, condos, and a retail complex; it opened in Fall 2016.
In a 2014 profile of Blavatnik in New Yorker, British publisher Lord George Weidenfeld said that Blavatnik has been “systematically collecting very good art recently—contemporary art, and also a Modigliani, one of the best I’ve seen.” In 2014, Blavatnik also scooped up a Damien Hirst woolly mammoth sculpture at a charity auction at the Cannes Film Festival.
In 2016, he donated a tidy (confidential) sum to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, which renamed the entrance hall of its new extension for him, and Tate Modern’s Switch House extension was renamed the Blavatnik Building after he donated £50 million. In 2020, he donated £10 million to the Courtauld Institute in London; the year after, he put up nearly half the funds to buy a £20.1 million rare manuscript collection for the U.K. organization Friends of the National Library.
Blavatnik’s wealth has grown in recent years, and in 2021, he topped the Sunday Times’s rich list of U.K. billionaires, with an estimated fortune of £23 billion. Yet he soon fell under scrutiny after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022. (Despite having been born in Ukraine, he was raised in Moscow.) Blavatnik has repeatedly claimed that he has no connections to Vladimir Putin or other Russian politicians, and that he is not an oligarch, but Bloomberg questioned that narrative in a lengthy exposé in which it reported that Blavatnik had “seeded his massive fortune with winnings from the so-called ‘aluminum wars’ and Siberian oilfields.” Others have drawn connections between Blavatnik and the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, but Blavatnik has said he merely has an indirect minority interest in the same company as Vekselberg. Blavatnik was not among those who faced sanctions in 2022 amid the war in Ukraine.