Arsenal’s second largest shareholder, Alisher Usmanov, owns 30.4% of the club and is worth an estimated $16bn, so how did the 64-year-old make his money and are all those stories about him true?


1. Background

The Arsenal shareholder grew up in a small town in the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic.

His father was a state prosecutor, and the young Usmanov was a sabre fencer, competing with the Uzbek republic team. He then went on to study at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations.

After that he returned to Tashkent, and the Foreign Economic Association of the Soviet Peace Committee appointed him as a director. That’s according to The Guardian, who write that it’s “widely suspected that the Peace Committee was a front for the KGB”.

That’s something Usmanov denies any involvement in. He told The Guardian that the Soviet Peace Committee story was “based on misinformation”. He also denied serving in the KGB, or any Russian or Uzbek intelligence agency.

In 1980, Usmanov was convicted of fraud and embezzlement and sentenced to eight years in jail. He served six before his release. Later, the Uzbek supreme court ruled that the original conviction was unjust, and that evidence had been fabricated. The billionaire says this was “common judicial practice in the USSR”.

After his release from jail, the future Arsenal shareholder got involved in plastics. He discovered that with one ton of polymer he could make over 30,000 bags. The polymer cost 437 rubles, the bags sold for about one each.

Understandably, he saw an opportunity and got rich.

Since then, Usmanov has moved into a number of other business ventures. He has a 60% stake in USM Holdings in the metals and mining industry. He’s also co-owner of Russia’s second-largest telephone operator, MegaFon.