They’re two of Russia’s most powerful tycoons, each with a reach that extends into Vladimir Putin’s inner sanctum, and now they’re fighting over one of the country’s most lucrative assets.
The dispute between the billionaires—Vladimir Potanin and Oleg Deripaska—runs from Arctic mines to the High Court in London. The legal proceedings provide a glimpse into the rules, written and not, that govern the vast fortunes that exist at the pleasure of the newly re-elected president.
As a British judge prepares to rule on small ownership changes that may have a big impact on Siberian metals titan Norilsk Nickel, initial signs from Kremlin insiders suggest one longtime Putin ally may have an edge over the other.
Putin is displeased when leading business figures opt to resolve feuds publicly abroad, as Deripaska is doing, instead of privately, one senior official said. The issue is particularly sensitive now that Britain is blaming Russia for the nerve-agent attack in an English park on a turncoat spy. Both parties need to understand this isn’t a good time for a fight, he said.
Deripaska has also irritated senior officials for what two other people close to the Kremlin called a string of missteps. They cited his publicized connections to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and a sex scandal that’s become a media sensation. All three people said Putin prefers not to get involved in business conflicts, though he has before in the case of Nornickel, even hinting at possible nationalization.
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