A young Russian businessman received a host of proposals to buy stakes in some of the nation’s largest companies shortly after marrying a woman reported to be President Vladimir Putin’s youngest daughter, a new investigative report shows.
Kirill Shamalov, who married Katerina Tikhonova in February 2013, had received at least four deals by April 2014 to buy shares in Russian companies in the telecommunications, real estate, oil services, and metals industry worth billions of dollars,a trove of his emails that were leaked to Istories and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and published on December 7 show.
The emails, which go back to 2003 and whose authenticity have been confirmed with multiple sources, may give an inside peek into how quickly people can acquire enormous wealth upon entering Putin's inner circle. Shamalov was just 30 at the time he married Tikhonova. Putin has never admitted that Tikhonova is his daughter.
Shamalov would eventually agree in August 2014 to buy a 17 percent stake in petrochemicals giant Sibur from Putin’s long-time associate Gennady Timchenko, who decided to cut his stake in the company after being sanctioned by the United States, the report said.
The emails do not state how much Shamalov paid for the Sibur stake. Shamalov would later claim that the company was worth $10 billion, potentially valuing the deal at $1.7 billion. However, Sibur is not a publicly traded company and its market value cannot be precisely determined.
The report says it is unclear how Shamalov would have been able to buy Timchenko’s 17 percent stake since he would not have had enough collateral for such a large loan. However, an earlier proposal may give some indication.
When Shamalov was given an offer to buy stakes in three telecommunications companies worth billions of dollars in May 2013, just three months after his marriage, his assistant suggested he borrow from "friendly financial institutions" like Gazfond, the pension fund of state-controlled Gazprom, which was headed by Shamalov’s brother, the report said.
Shamalov did not randomly meet Tikhonova. He had known Putin’s daughter since childhood, the report states. His father, Nikolai Shamalov, is one of Putin's oldest and closest friends.
Shamalov began working at Sibur in his 20s and, shortly after marrying Tikhonova, received a 3.8 percent stake in the company for just $100. The stake was potentially worth hundreds of millions at the time.
Sibur’s Chairman Dmitry Konov said then that Shamalov acquired the stake as part of a company stock-option program. Many large companies offer stock to management and employees at a discount to stimulate their performance.
However, the OCCRP report shows that other Sibur managers paid millions of dollars for their stock options, indicating that Shamalov received preferential treatment.
Shortly after Russia annexed Crimea, prompting the U.S. and Europe to impose sanctions on people in Putin’s inner circle, including Timchenko, Shamalov was offered the chance to buy a 51 percent stake in titanium producer VSMPO-Avisma to potentially insulate himself.
Since VSMPO-Avisma’s clients included major Western aerospace companies, Washington and Brussels would not sanction its controlling owner for fear of hurting its own economy, his assistant reasoned.
The United States would eventually sanction Shamalov in April 2018. However, by then, he had split up with Tikhonova after less than five years of marriage and had sold his stake in Sibur for an undisclosed price.