Billionaire oligarch and Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich has joined Independent News & Media, publisher of the Sunday Independent, as a backer of cutting-edge communications firm Truphone.
Abramovich invested over €81m to buy a 23.5 percent stake in the UK firm.
Independent News & Media Investments holds over 141,000 shares in the company, which are now worth up to €700,000 based on new valuations following the Abramovich investment, representing a significant upside on previous estimates. Abramovich invested in the company through his Minden vehicle. The price paid for his shareholding, sees the company valued at close to €330m.
Truphone was set up in 2007 by inventor James Tagg, who developed the touchscreens used in ticket machines on the London Underground. Truphone's technology enables travellers in the US, the UK and Australia to use a mobile to surf the web, make calls and send texts at local rates – without having to change their handset or SIM card.
INM invested in Truphone back in 2006, as part of a fund-raising round led by pan-European venture capital firm Wellington Partners, global media group Burda Digital Ventures and Eden Ventures.
Apart from his bankrolling of Chelsea Football Club, Abramovich's investment in Truphone is one of his largest in western Europe.
The Russian billionaire was a major bondholder in the Irish banks during the boom. Abramovich held a sizeable chunk of subordinated bonds in Irish Nationwide Building Society.
His firm Millhouse was involved in a UK lawsuit in which it tried to extract full payment for its bonds in the building society as part of a tender offer. Abramovich and his partners lost, but many other bondholders were repaid in full despite backing bust banks.
Forbes Magazine currently pegs Abramovich's wealth at $14.6bn, which would make him the 12th-richest man in the world. He owns huge stakes in steelmaker Evraz, as well as Highland Gold.