IMPORTANT NEWS: National Electric Vehicle Sweden has agreed to buy the assets of Saab Automobile and the sale is expected to be finalized during the summer.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Vladimir Antonov - not your usual banker

Today Swedish TTELA has a big piece on Vladimir Antonov, the guy who might become biggest part owner of Saab. If you want to get to know him a little better, then read on. If you are Swedish, then visit TTELA.

Vladimir Antonov - not your ordinary banker
He has been in the Swedish media's attention since Spyker's purchase of Saab. Then he had to leave the deal he had helped to prepare. Now he is hoping for a green light.
TTELA can present Vladimir Antonov, the somewhat unassuming 35-year-old owner of an increasingly global billion empire with interests in everything from banks in Switzerland to telecom companies, tram manufacturers and media companies in Russia and the Baltics.
20 June 1975 the 24-year-old scientist and engineer Alexander Antonov, had a son, who according to Russian custom was given the middle name after his father, Vladimir Alexandrovitj Antonov. There was no shortage of talent in the family - Alexander's father and Vladimir's grandfather was one of the founders of the Soviet atomic weapons program. Even Alexander ended up in this field. As an engineer, he worked on sites where they enriched uranium and before the Soviet collapse he reached the position as one of the chief engineers at a plant in Tjkalovsk in northern Tajikistan. There the activity, when it reached its peak, had 30 000 employees.
Moved to Moscow
In this Soviet republic, which borders to China and Afghanistan, Vladimir grew up. But with the dissolution of the Soviet empire and the subsequent independence, it was difficult for ethnic Russians living and working in a country that became increasingly nationalistic and where the majority of the people were Persian-speaking Tajiks people.
But even before the father Alexander left the country, the 17-year-old son, Vladimir, had went to Moscow, with the plan to follow in his father's footsteps and begin an engineering degree at a prestigious university in Moscow. But soon he realized that his mind was set on a different track: economics and banking. His career change was motivated by there being a greater need for bankers than engineers in Russia following the Soviet collapse. And the choice would prove very successful.
In 1993 he began the business education in Moscow and completed an business degree in 1998, 23 years old. But even before that he had engaged into the professional life that would offer a quick way up for talented people with business sense in a strongly growing economy. It is worth noting that the first car he bought, 19 years old, was a Saab 9000. The interest in cars had been there a long time, among other things, he collected model cars. This interest in cars, many years later become of crucial importance for the car company which has its headquarters in Trollhättan, 2350 kilometres from the place the young Antonov bought his first car of that very same make.
Bought a bank
The start of the business empire that currently has assets of at least SEK 44 billion, was done when Antonov was 22-23 years old and had earned a hefty sum of money after successful investments as the Chief Financial Officer with a focus on companies at the Moscow Bank Lefko. With the help of this money, and possibly also with his father's resources and contacts in the academic world, he was able to acquire a bank, Akademkhimbank, which was owned by the university but was on the brink of extinction due to the Russian banking crisis of 1998, for a very small amount of money. What would be a successful business model got its first display here: Vladimir Antonov with the help of his father acquires a bank, or a company that was undervalued and on the brink of extinction and get it back on its feet, with a competent board, internal control and IT systems.
From here you can also trace one of the things that have been a burden for Vladimir and Alexander Antonov: a person who did not belong to the bank, but had affairs with Akademkhimbank was shot and Russian media wrote about this bank and several others could be dodgy. However, there were no allegations against Antonov from the police or prosecutors. But there are sources in one of the reviews of the incident which shows that corrupt officials may have had an interest in spreading such rumors for their own personal gain.
Lives in England
In 2003 a big step was taken towards the empire which Vladimir Antonov now controls: Russian Conversbank found itself in a raging storm after an ownership battle and Antonov, who did not belong to any of the fighting parties, were able to acquire the then-undervalued bank. That same year Antonov also bought the Lithuanian bank Snoras, after the bank had been discredited due to a link to money laundering. The reason Antonov was able to buy the bank was because the Lithuanian authorities wanted to have an owner who could get the bank back on its feet.
And after that, the wheels have spun very fast in Antonov's empire, which is controlled from England where he now lives with his family. And from there he has continued to build the business empire that soon may also have Saab as an asset in the portfolio. The companies controlled by the holding company Convers Group is not just about banking and financial institutions like Snoras in Lithuania, Conversbank in Ukraine, Prince Tower in England, Banco Transatlantico in Panama or Mulitasset in Switzerland.
A family man 
In the transport sector one can mention Baltic Aviation Systems, which owns the Latvian airline AirBaltic. And here is also one of the largest Russian manufacturers of telecom networks, Svyazstroy. And Antonov is through his group of companies a large owner of media: Latvian Telegraph newspaper, Lithuanian Lietuvos Rytas and Russian business daily Odnako. And in the automotive industry the Convers Group owns the companies Spyker, Zagato which manufactures luxury automobiles and British CPP. And when it comes to sports, Antonov is very active through Convers Sports Initiative.
Recently they have opened the fast lending institution Convers Money in the UK and in the same country also DBG Convers that specialize in "apps" for mobile phones and social media. Not bad for a 35-year-old who by the people around him are described as friendly, polite, a bit shy, and a family man.
Photo: Vladimir Antonov - a 35-year-old who can be considered as a business genius.
Antonov sports empire
In particularly through Convers Sports Initiative, Vladimir Antonov is sponsoring or co-owning the following activities: 
• Spartak Moscow (hockey team)
• Lietuvos Rytas (basketball team)
• PowerPlay Golf (golf tournament with Saab as a sponsor)
• Polo World Series (polo tournament)
• Ferrari Team Russia (racing team)
• Spyker Squadron (racing team)
• Clipper Round the World (yachting competition)
• Fia World Rally Championship (race)
In addition, plans are to buy a English football team - for example, Portsmouth FC, who are in distress.
Sources: Project report Etna IV by Kroll, the report on the Convers Group by Ipsa International, a major Internet research, oral sources and an TV reports by SVT. 

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