(Corrects paragraph 14 to show Timchenko is the second biggest shareholder in Novatek, not the biggest. Also adds spokesman for Timchenko denying media reports he had bought a stake in Murmansk Commercial Sea Port)
By Gleb Bryanski
MOSCOW (Reuters) - A former judo sparring partner of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his younger brother have advanced up the list of Russia’s richest people compiled by a respected national magazine.
Finans magazine said on Monday that Arkady Rotenberg, 59, who as a teenager trained in judo with Putin in St. Petersburg, jumped 17 positions in the list to become Russia’s 63rd richest person with an estimated wealth of $1.75 billion.
Rotenberg, who runs St. Petersburg’s judo club Yavara-Neva, where Putin is an honorary president, controls energy service company Stroygazmontazh, which was contracted to build parts of the $12 billion Nord Stream gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea.
Rotenberg is also a shareholder in construction group Mostotrest, which raised $388 million in an initial public offering last year and has lucrative contracts in the Black Sea resort of Sochi ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Rotenberg’s younger brother and business partner, Boris, also an avid judoist, shares the 63rd position with his brother. The two were in the 395th place in Finans’ list of 500 richest Russians in 2009.
The top of the list saw very few changes with steel tycoon Vladimir Lisin, an owner of Novolipetsk Steel, firmly in first place with a wealth pot up from $18.8 billion at the start of 2010 to $28.3 billion now.
The change was broadly line with the increase in metals stock valuations and Russian stock indices. There were no new faces among the 10 richest Russians.
Another metals tycoon, Mikhail Prokhorov, worth $22.7 billion, retained his second position while metals-to-telecoms magnate Alisher Usmanov pushed billionaire Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich out of third position.
The magazine attributed Usmanov’s advance to an upcoming float of his Metalloinvest company, expansion of mobile operator Megafon where Usmanov holds a 39 percent stake, and a $900 million London listing of his Mail.ru Internet firm.
Yuri Kovalchuk, 59, a scientist-turned-banker who was Putin’s country house neighbor in the 1990s, rose through 20 positions to become Russia’s 115th richest person. Another neighbor Nikolai Shamalov rose 120 positions to 184th place.
Kovalchuk’s National Media Group has rapidly expanded in recent months in what analysts see as a jostling for influential media assets ahead of the 2012 presidential election, in which Putin may stand as a candidate.
The group announced this month the acquisition of a 25 percent stake in Russia’s most popular television station, Channel One, for $150 million from Abramovich, who is now number five on the list.
Oil trader Gennady Timchenko, who has repeatedly denied media speculation that he is a close friend of Putin and that this friendship was behind his business success, rose six positions to become Russia’s 17th richest man.
Timchenko, co-founder of one of the world’s largest crude oil traders, Gunvor, expanded in the gas sector and is now the second biggest shareholder in non-state gas producer Novatek.
A spokesman for Timchenko denied media reports that he had bought a stake in Murmansk Commercial Sea Port.
Analysts and opposition media have been closely tracking the rise of the Rotenbergs, Kovalchuk, Timchenko and Shamalov, who all keep low public profiles.
Real estate tycoon Irina Baturina, wife of Moscow’s former mayor Yuri Luzhkov who lost his job after a public confrontation with President Dmitry Medvedev, was one of the biggest losers on the list dropping 47 positions to 94th place.
The dismissal of the veteran mayor who presided over Moscow’s opaque real estate market also affected owners and shareholders of several construction firms with business interests in Moscow such as PIK and LSR. (Editing by Mark Heinrich)