Boris Berezovsky's business career has been meteoric. In just six years he managed to seize control of Russia's largest auto manufacturer, largest TV network, national airline, and one of the world's biggest oil companies. When Moscow's gangster families battled one another in the Great Mob War of 1993-1994, Berezovsky was in the thick of it. He was badly burned by a car bomb; his driver was decapitated. A year later, Berezovsky emerged as the prime suspect in the assassination of the director of the TV network he acquired. Although plagued by scandal, he enjoyed President Yeltsin's support, serving as the personal "financial advisor" to Yeltsin and his family. In 1996, Berezovsky organized the financing of Yeltsin's re-election campaign-a campaign marred by fraud, embezzlement, and attempted murder. Berezovsky became the president's most influential political advisor, playing a key role in forming governments and dismissing prime ministers. Having labored to privatize the economy, Berezovsky privatized the state. Based on hundreds of taped interviews with top businessmen and government officials, as well as on secret police reports, contractual documents, and surveillance tapes, Godfather of the Kremlin is both a gripping story and a unique historical document.
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Paul Klebnikov tells the incredible story of Boris Berezovsky, a one-time Russian car dealer who assembled a huge--and illicit--fortune after the collapse of Communism. "This individual had risen out of nowhere to become the richest businessman in Russia and one of the most powerful individuals in the country," writes Klebnikov, a respected reporter for Forbes. "This is a story of corruption so profound that many readers might have trouble believing it." Yet Godfather of the Kremlin is a careful work of journalism in which Klebnikov documents the business dealings of a man who once bragged to the Financial Times that he and six other men controlled half of the Russian economy and rigged Boris Yeltsin's reelection in 1996. Berezovsky survived both an assassination attempt and a murder investigation, and paved the way to power for Vladimir Putin. He and the other crony capitalists of post-Soviet Russia like to rationalize their deeds, writes Klebnikov: "Whenever I asked Russia's business magnates about the orgy of crime produced by the market reforms, they invariably excused it by pointing to the robber barons of American capitalism. Russia's bandit capitalism was no different from American capitalism in the late nineteenth century, they argued." Yet nothing could be further from the truth: Carnegie, Rockefeller, and their peers transformed the United States into an economic superpower. Berezovsky, on the other hand, has "produced no benefit to Russia's consumers, industries, or treasury." It's not that he didn't have an opportunity. To pick one example among many, he took over Aeroflot when it had a monopoly position in a booming market. But the company barely grew, and instead experienced myriad problems. Berezovsky controlled many businesses, but he was a lousy business manager; his only authentic success--as an auto dealer--depended on collusion. His real skill is shady dealmaking, especially with corrupt government officials. That's the way to success in modern Russia, as this well-told but troubling book reveals. --John J. MillerBook Description:
Published in hardcover by Harcourt, 2000, 0-15-100621-0
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