Sports, leisure activities, hobbies and pastimes are an integral part of modern life and they can be an important factor in the successful development of a career or business. They help to expand social networks, relieve stress and prevent executive ‘burn out’. They fill the mind with positive energy and encourage creativity. In short, these activities can have a significant impact on the entire lifestyle and personal development of an individual. Forbes magazine has gathered information about how the 200 richest businessmen in Russia choose to spend their free time. We have selected a few examples.
Alpine skiing and snowboarding
In early 2000, Vladimir Potanin, the head of Norilsk Nickel decided to spend $70m building his own ski resort near Sochi. However, the Canadian contractors presented him with designs for a far larger resort than he had ever envisaged and requiring an estimated budget five times larger than planned. Ultimately, the resort ended up costing over $1bn and became a key part of the infrastructure for the Sochi Olympics.
Andrey Bokarev, another major Russian businessman, has occupied official positions in the world of Russian snow sports for more than 10 years. From 2006 until 2010, he headed the National Alpine skiing and Snowboard Sports Federation and later became President of the Russian Freestyle Federation.
Martial arts are very popular in Russia, not the least because of the support and example of President Putin who holds an 8th dan black belt in judo. Martial arts are also some of the most demanding sports as they require an extremely high level of physical fitness and regular training. However, many rich Russians have practised sambo, judo, and boxing since childhood and now hold [professional] rankings. Famous followers of Putin’s favorite sport include Arkady and Boris Rotenberg who used to attend the same judo classes as Putin. The co-owner of Metalloinvest, Andrei Skoch and the main owner of FosAgro, Andrey Guryev, are ‘Masters of Sports’ and ’Honoured Coaches of Russia’
Hunting is a traditional and highly popular sport for Russian men and business leaders are no exception. Alfa Bank shareholders German Khan and Petr Aven together with Iskander Makhmudov even own a hunting concession in the Arkhangelsk region. Others enjoy hunting in special parks in Russia and elsewhere throughout the world.
Alexander Smuzikov is one of the country’s foremost investors and also one of its greatest hunters. Safari Club International credits him as Russia’s number one hunter of Sika deer.
Fishing, like hunting, is an open-air activity allowing its followers to enjoy wilderness, nature and to travel the world. However, fishing is seen as a rather less bloodthirsty pursuit than hunting as the fish can be released allowing them to survive and give birth to new generations.
One of the most prominent fishermen among Russian millionaires is Ilya Sherbovich, the founder of the investment company United Capital Partners (UCP). He started fishing as a young boy with his father and grandfather. Later, his interest in fly-fishing drew him to the quest for taimen, also known as the Siberian salmon. Two taimens caught by Sherbovich are included in the record books of the International Game Fish Association.
In 2006, Sherbovich purchased the Ponoy River fishing camp in the Murmansk region. The camp has an excellent reputation among high-ranked Russian and foreign government officials who are attracted by its unique natural setting and plentiful fish. Among its guests are Dmitry Medvedev, Sergey Ivanov, Jimmy Carter, Dick Cheney and Paul Volcker. Sherbovich is sponsoring the preservation of the unique fish resources on the Ponoy River. He is also a director of the Wild Salmon Center, the largest charity organization for the protection of the wild salmon.
Other fishermen from the Forbes rich list are Andrey Bokarev, Chairman of Transmashholding; Alexander Abramov, Chairman of Evraz Plc and Sergey Tsikalyuk, owner of VSK Insurance company, who caught a 14kg pike in 2014 on the Yamal peninsular.
It is a well-known fact that a capacity for strategic thinking can be developed through playing board games. That is why many successful business people are good at chess, backgammon and similar games.
Andrei Filatov, the Chairman of Tuloma and shareholder of N-Trans was elected president of the Russian Chess Federation back in 2014.
A childhood passion for chess probably influenced the career development of the aforementioned Ilya Sherbovich (who began his career in the investment division of the World Bank as early as his second year of his university studies). Mikhail Shishkhanov, Co-owner of the Safmar group also plays chess as a hobby.
Travel to exotic and inaccessible places is one of the favourite leisure activities of Russian businessmen.
Eugene Kaspersky, the founder of Kaspersky Lab, likes to explore the craters of active volcanoes. The co-owner of Silvinit, Petr Kondrashev, climbed to the peak of Kilimanjaro on the eve of his 57th birthday.
Horse Riding and Farming
The co-owner of the united company Danone and Unimilk, Andrey Beskhmelnitsky, and the Chairman of the coordinating council of the Moscow school of management Skolkovo, Andrei Rappoport, have their own stud farms. Beskhmelnitsky purchased the Khrenovo stud farm in the Voronezh region and Rappoport bought the Zlynsky Stud in the Orel region. Zylnsky is one of Russia’s oldest and most famous stud farms.
The desire for risk and the quest for adrenaline are synonymous with motor racing and these are essential skills in the world of business. This is especially true in Russia. Airat and Radik Shaimiev, sons of the first president of Tatarstan, have repeatedly won titles in the world of European motor sport. Another pair of brothers from business community – Sergei and Nikolai Sarkisov, owners of the RESO insurance group regularly participate in car rallies. Viktor Vekselberg, President of the Skolkovo Foundation, together with his partner Mikhail Fridman, has participated in off-road safaris in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Yoga enhances concentration and the ability to focus. Roman Avdeev, the owner of the Moscow Credit Bank and the father of four children as well as a further 19 adopted children, practices yoga every morning from seven to nine o’clock.
Golf, tennis, fencing
The classic hobbies of the rich, such as golf, tennis or fencing, do not attract much attention from the Russian millionaires and billionaires.
However, some people still pay tribute to these aristocratic forms of leisure. Founder of USM Holdings, Alisher Usmanov, is the president of the International Fencing Federation. Leonid Fedun, the Chairman of IFD Capital, prefers to play tennis despite being the owner of the football team Spartak Moscow.
From early childhood billionaire Sergey Galitsky dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player. When he turned forty Galitsky realized his dream by founding his own club, FC Krasnodar, which succeeded in gaining a place in the Russian Premier League within just three years of its foundation. He plays soccer himself and even gives goal-scoring advice to his team players. He recently spent over $60m to build one of the finest soccer stadiums in Russia.