Billionaire not 'smart' enough to be success on his own
Published 07/10/2011 | 05:00
Boris Berezovsky claimed yesterday that Roman Abramovich was not clever enough to build a business empire without his help.
The Russian oligarch (65) claims Mr Abramovich (44), the owner of Chelsea Football Club, forced him to sell shares in their oil company cheaply by threatening that Vladimir Putin would seize his assets if he did not comply.
He is claiming £3.5bn (€4bn) after alleging breach of trust and breach of contract.
He claimed that Mr Abramovich was not "smart" enough to win the political patronage needed to succeed in Russia in the mid-1990s. Sibneft, the oil and gas conglomerate that the two men founded with a third partner, was successful only because of his "intellectual capacity" and the influence of Boris Yeltsin, who was president at the time.
Mr Abramovich claims that Mr Berezovsky did not have any shares in Sibneft and he paid him £800m (€919m) for wielding political influence with the Kremlin.
The court heard that in the mid-1990s Mr Berezovsky became part of Mr Yeltsin's inner circle due to his close relationship with the president's daughter, Tatiana, and her husband.
Asked what the reasons for his political influence were, Mr Berezovsky told the High Court: "I think the main reason, it's my intellectual capacity.
"To get leverage, you need to be smart, he's not so (smart) and it's the reason he didn't get (leverage at) that time," he said.
Mr Berezovsky was forced to deny claims that he was "corrupt" by using his political influence to further his business interests and "fix" a privatisation sell-off.
He had made his money through founding LogoVaz, a nationwide car dealership selling Ladas.
He said he lobbied Mr Yeltsin personally in order to buy a stake in Ostankino -- the state television station that became ORT -- telling him that it would be essential to his chances of re-election in 1996.
"I never can make millions, ten millions, I can make just billions," he told the court. "I was one of the first who recognised that if you have political stability, the value of the company will increase enormously and that is reason why I convinced the president, through my connections to him, to take a decision to privatise ORT."
But the court was told that the television station was costing £130m (€149m) a year to run and Mr Berezovsky decided he needed to buy an oil company to prop up the business.
He met Mr Abramovich during a cruise on a chartered yacht in the Caribbean with other oligarchs when the younger man, whom he described as a "small scale oil trader", told him about the opportunity to merge an oil drilling company and a refinery in Siberia. The case continues. (© Daily Telegraph, London)