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Dmitry Rybolovlev: Inspired to Succeed

Dmitry Rybolovlev: Inspired  to Succeed

Thirty years ago, Dmitry Rybolovlev seemed destined to become a doctor but, thanks to an inspiring novel, his father’s guidance and an accumulation of experience and wisdom, he is a billionaire investor with his own private Greek island. Here he looks back at his beginnings in Russia and talks about his love of sport, nature, philanthropy and art.


You were the largest shareholder of Uralkali, Russia’s largest producer of potassium fertilizers. How did you turn this company into a global industry giant?

For over 15 years, I focused on developing Uralkali and eventually turned it into a major global enterprise. By 2000, I had consolidated my controlling interest in the company and begun to reform and develop it. I changed the management team completely and made greater productivity a top priority. In 2005 Uralkali and Belaruskali joined forces as Belarusian Potash Company (BPC), of which I became Chief Executive. Over the next three years, potash prices increased more than fivefold. The price increase and the creation of BPC had a transformational impact on Uralkali. In 2007 Uralkali’s IPO on the London Stock Exchange coincided with the sharply rising global potash prices and was therefore described by the financial media as one of the most successful Russian IPOs ever. In 2010-2011, I sold my shares and moved onto other things.


What do you remember most from your entrepreneurial years?

As a teenager I remember reading “The Financier”, a novel by Theodore Dreiser, and that book was such an inspiration. It taught me how the world of business and finance works. It made a huge impression on me, especially as, during the Soviet era, nobody knew much about business and the mechanisms of the market economy. In the early 1990s, the situation began to change rapidly and new opportunities opened up. The country’s social and economic systems were in complete turmoil but I was fortunate to have my father by my side, guiding me through my first steps when I got started. In 1990, we created my first entrepreneurial project together, setting up a company that offered a form of alternative medical treatment using magnetic fields. Since then, I have crossed paths with many people in the global business community, and this has enabled me to recognize the importance of interpersonal relationships. Effective interaction with people is crucial to the success of any project. I was inspired by people who could speak directly, clearly and sincerely and, in the course of my business career, I have come to realise that our most valuable resource is time.


What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs and business leaders?

One of the most important qualities for success in the business world is the ability to have a strategic vision, develop the skills needed to see long-term and focus on long-term goals. This is not always easy because day-to-day issues that have to be managed are constantly arising but if you manage to stay focused on the course, despite all the shockwaves, the chances of success increase significantly. This is the advice I give my two daughters: to set long-term goals and to find the will and courage to give everything to achieve them. That said, learning to relax and being surrounded by your family are just as important for success. This allows you to regain your strength and do marathons rather than sprints!


Since selling Uralkali, you have invested in various sectors, including Real Estate, Art and Football. What do you consider your best investment?

Family trusts have made several significant property purchases around the world since 2008. These trusts have bought properties in Florida, Hawaii, New York City, Monaco, Greece, the Cote d’Azur and Switzerland. Artworks were also acquired through trusts, enabling us to add some amazing masterpieces to our private collection. A trust also bought a stake in AS Monaco FC, at a time when the Club was in a bad state, at the bottom of the French second division and highly indebted. Each and every investment has its own logic, duration, purpose and, of course risk. I’m a strong believer that, in anything you do, no matter if you are leading a successful life or not, you should always try to give something back. Giving back can lead to greater personal fulfilment. Over the years, my family and I have been happy to be involved in various community projects, from the construction of the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas in Limassol, Cyprus, the renovations of Saint Petersburg’s Oranienbaum Palace and the Zachatievsky Monastery in Moscow, the foundation of Les Arts Gstaad, which is a new cultural centre dedicated to music, arts and literature in Switzerland, to providing work opportunities for the people of Lefkada and offering ongoing support to the local community and the nearby region.


You mentioned property purchases. Do you still consider real estate to be a good investment offering a good return?   

First of all, it is important to recognize that real estate investment does not simply mean buying a property and holding onto it in the hope that it will appreciate in value. Real estate investment is much more than that. I once read something that I found very smart: ‘Most people think buying is investing, but they’re wrong. Buying doesn’t make you an investor any more than buying groceries makes you a chef’. Successful real estate investors are constantly paying attention to the market, observing trends, price fluctuations and much more and, at all times, this involves a great deal of risk. Making an investment with the potential for offering a good return requires strategy. You need to set a goal and do your research to have insight; you don’t jump into a project just because it looks exciting. It requires thorough planning, good connections and, above all, vision. Investing in real estate is like riding a rollercoaster. You should be willing to take the ride but be aware of the safety rules as well!


The Greek island of Skorpios is one of your more high-profile acquisitions. With construction/renovation work currently taking place there, what is your vision for Skorpios?

The basic idea is the creation of an ecological island, making the greatest possible use of the present landscape, structure and incomparable beauty. The investment project, which is expected to be completed in the next two or three years, includes a luxury complex with spas, restaurants and a marina as well as exhibition halls, an amphitheatre, a helipad, a farm and swimming pools. Our family’s aim is to create the first luxury accommodation complex in Greece, located on one of the world’s few private islands. It is probably unique in the Mediterranean region. At the same time, all the steps towards the island’s rebirth and refurbishment are being taken very carefully and vigilantly, in full harmony with the environment.


What is your favourite travel/holiday destination?

For many years, when my daughters were very young, we were fascinated by Skorpios. We used to admire the island’s shores and enjoyed sailing around it on the family yacht. I remember being captivated by this ‘heaven on earth’ and feeling mesmerized by its natural beauty. Having bought it through a trust fund and spent many holidays there, Skorpios means so many things to me. It is not just a private shelter, where I can relax, recharge and return to my commitments. It’s the sacred place where my first daughter, Ekaterina, was married. There, I feel completely free to absorb the harmony and serenity of this special scenery. The whole region of Lefkada is such a beautiful place and one where I’m lucky to receive warm Greek hospitality. Every time I visit, I’m greeted by the locals as a friend and it really feels like a home away from home. 


Do you have any hobbies or special interests?     

I have a special love and respect for sport and especially football. I also have a passion for kitesurfing and sailing. The sea is very close to my heart. Whenever I visit Skorpios, I never miss an opportunity to go sailing. Together with my team, which is also called Skorpios, I’ve participated in various international regattas and have been awarded some distinctions. Surfing is another hobby that I really enjoy and I get to practice it whenever I visit Hawaii, since the waves there are phenomenal! It’s a really great sport that fills you with adrenaline and exhilaration! And last  ̶  but definitely not least  ̶  the arts. I have a keen interest in the world of art. To me, art is the ultimate expression of freedom and emotion, in monumental, historical and poetic ways. 


Dmitry Rybolovlev

was born in Perm, Russia in 1966. Both his parents were doctors and he also studied medicine, graduating with honours from the Perm Medical Institute in 1990 before working in the emergency cardiology department at the local hospital. At the same time, he began buying shares in various financial institutions and industrial companies in Russia and, in 2000, he became Chairman of Uralkali, one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of potash fertilizer. The company has been listed on the London Stock Exchange since 2007. In 2010, Rybolovlev bought a 9.7% stake in Bank of Cyprus but his involvement ended in 2013, following the Eurogroup’s decision to impose a haircut on deposits. In 2011 he became Chairman of AS Monaco FC and he is a permanent resident of Monaco. In April 2019, Rybolovlev was ranked 224th on Forbes’ list of billionaires with an estimated net worth of $6.8 billion.

The advice I give my two daughters is to set long-term goals and to find the will and courage to give everything to achieve them

In the course of my business career, I have come to realise that our most valuable resource is time.


The interview was first published in The Cyprus Journal of Wealth Management, by Eurobank Cyprus.


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