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Elena Baturina: Female Symbol of Russian Capitalism

Sunday, 09 August 2009

Elena BaturinaThere is a phrase «the face of the war does not belong to a woman». It is no secret that the conditions of the business world, where huge money is spinning, are not much different from the conditions of wartime. And if big business is not ready for the «war», it is unlikely to survive. So, perhaps we can say that the face of the capitalism does not belong to a woman, because, most likely, not many women have earned billions of dollars. Therefore, the life of Elena Baturina, the first and the only woman billionaire and one of the richest people in Russia, looks even more interesting and remarkable.

There's no denying the fact that when we mention the name of Elena Baturina, we often imply Yuriy Luzhkov, another power figure of the present-day Russia and the Mayor of Moscow. All right, they're husband and wife, a family after all. Most analysts and journalists are linking the commencement of Elena's career in business and her impressive success with her powerful and influential spouse. In fact, Baturina's life before the fateful meeting with Yuriy M. Luzhkov gives no reasons to expect a successful business career.

The future richest woman of Russia was born in 1963 into a family of ordinary workers in Moscow. Her parents worked at one of the capital's factories. After high school, Elena Baturina, too, pursued family career and found a job at the same factory. Then Baturina attended evening courses at the Institute of Management, where the strong-willed girl with organizational skills was noticed and delegated to work at the Moscow Institute for Economic Problems of the Integrated Development of the National Economy of the City. And then the Fate interfered to bring together Baturina and Luzhkov: the former has been working in the executive committee on self-employment and cooperative activities of the Russian capital since 1986, and the latter was a senior city official. In 1991, Baturina and Luzhkov got married, in 1992, their daughter Alena was born, two years later their second daughter Olga was brought into the world.

Clearly, Elena Baturina was involved in the cooperative business before 1991, but the fact remains - the beginning of her direct business activity concurs with the date of creation of Baturina-Luzhkov family. One can only wonder whether Mr. Luzhkov directly supported business undertakings of his spouse and whether he has engaged «administrative resources» for that purpose or not (and Luzhkov and Baturina deny this assumption unanimously). In any case, there is no doubt that Elena Baturina's business has evolved under the most favorable conditions, even if its development simply met no obstructions as obstacles to business in the early to mid 90's were numerous. In any case, the most famous Russian business lady has managed to fully seize the opportunities.

A detailed description of the making of the fortune of any Russian (and non-Russian) oligarch can take a whole book of significant volume, so we shall limit our story to the short chronicle of transformation of Elena Baturina - the wife of Moscow Mayor into Elena Baturina - the multimillionaire. So, in 1991, Elena and her brother Victor (who is now known primarily due to a dispute over Dima Bilan) co-founded the «Inteco» company which initially produced a wide variety of products made of synthetic plastic material. Fifteen years ago this market was accessible, so the production of plastic disposable tableware used by both ordinary people and catering institutions, granted Baturina substantial income. Do not forget that the privilege to install plastic seats at all sports facilities in Moscow (we're not talking about one and two hundred thousand seats) was also given to the «Inteco».

Then a very aggressive and extensive penetration of the company into the construction market took place. See for yourself: by the early 2000-ies the «Inteco» corporation has acquired Moscow integrated house building factory No.3, then a whole series of cement plants all around the country: «Pikalevskiy Cement», «Podgorenskiy Cement», «Oskoltsement», «Belgorod Cement». Experts pointed out that by that time «Inteco» controlled nearly 15% of all cement production in Russia. In addition, Elena Baturina's business expanded into the agrarian field. The business lady started to buy agricultural land in Belgorod region in massive amounts.

However, starting from the mid-2000's the economic expansion of the «Inteco» corporation noticeably weakened. In 2003, «Inteco» decreased the extent of its agricultural production (according to some sources, it was due to the conflict with the Belgorod authorities and the interests of businesses, close to the V.S. Chernomyrdin). In 2005, «Inteco» virtually quitted Moscow panel house building market, selling some of its cement plants. Since 2006, Elena Baturina has been transferring her funds from the production to financial sectors of economy and became a member of the board of directors of the «Russian Land Bank». In 2006, the disagreement between Elena and Viktor Baturin became public, leading ex-partners to mutual legal actions. However, today Elena Baturina is the full owner of the «Inteco» corporation (she owns 99% of the shares while her brother owns only 1%).

It's difficult to predict further development of the business career of the wife of Moscow Mayor and possible success. However, it should be noted that in 2007 the fortune of Elena Baturina was estimated at $3 billion.

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