Hedge fund honcho Bill Browder was once the largest foreign investor in Russia–especially active early in President Vladimir Putin’s reign. Asked recently to estimate Putin’s current wealth, Browder told CNN: “I believe it’s $200 billion.” (Bill Gates, widely considered the world’s richest man, is said to be worth near $80 billion.)
Putin’s early years saw a Russia in massive, lightning fast transition. The country was a powerhouse of newly liberated financial gluttony, cronyism (around Putin), and corruption–driven by oil wealth. (In the six years leading up to 2007, Russia GDP grew 600%.) Putin’s power has been unchecked–he controlled the police and the military–and he has been able to keep huge amounts of money for himself. Browder claims he was ulimately pushed out by Putin–and his lawyer killed–because he threatened Putin’s crooked enterprises. For more check out Karen Dawisha’s book Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?