len blavatnik

How Len Blavatnik conquered the world

With investments in everything from metals to music, boxing to art, Len Blavatnik has become one of the wealthiest, and savviest, investors in the world

In 2015 he was Britain’s richest man. In July 2020, Forbes listed him as the 45th wealthiest person in the world, with a net worth of $25.2 billion. His portfolio includes over $3.8 billion in art and real estate, as well as a $2 billion share of the DAZN group and a $6.8 billion stake in chemical giant LyondellBasell Industries.

He also boasts dual citizenship with the US and UK and, in 2017, was granted a knighthood for services to philanthropy, his foundation having donated more than $700 million between 2009 and 2019, including $65 million to the Tate Modern in 2017, $13 million to the US Council on Foreign Relations in 2018 and $10 million to the Mount Sinai Health System also in 2018, alongside numerous donations to universities including Harvard Medical School ($200 million) and Oxford.

But, if there’s one thing Leonard Blavatnik is likely to go down in history for, it’s his purchase of Warner Music for $3.3 billion in 2011. At the time, total global record sales were $15 billion and the deal was widely derided as financial suicide with Blavatnik’s advisors strongly warning him against the deal. Blavatnik, however, was unfazed. As he later told Forbes, “I was risking my money, not their money.”

warner music

Today, thanks to an industry-wide bounce-back, Warner Music is estimated to be worth more than $6 billion, while global streaming shares have grown more than 900 per cent. In other words, Blavatnik has pulled off an astonishing success that almost no one predicted. It is a deal that Music Business World Wide (MBW) has suggested may just be “the shrewdest deal in the history of the record business.”

Not only has the Warner Music deal and subsequent growth catapulted Blavatnik’s already dizzying fortune into the stratosphere, it’s gained him a new level of respect, and perhaps just a small bit of jealousy, among his peers. According to Bloomberg, “There are billionaires, multi-billionaires and then there’s Len Blavatnik—a man whose net worth is so big, his network so broad and business goals so ambitious that, these days, he’s seemingly everywhere.”

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Before he was everywhere, Blavatnik was next to nowhere. Born in Odessa, Ukraine in 1957, Blavatnik grew up in the depths of the Cold War. Raised not far from Moscow by his professor parents, he would later emigrate to the US and complete a master’s degree in computer science at Columbia University. He landed early roles at Arthur Andersen and General Atlantic Partners, and earned an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1989.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Blavatnik recognised the opportunities back east were not to be missed out on. Partnering with Russian businessman (and now 119th richest person in the world) Viktor Vekselberg, Blavatnik co-founded holding company Access Industries in New York.

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