* Moscow becomes capital for billionaires
* 15 Russians among world’s top 100 richest people
MOSCOW, March 9 (Reuters) - Russian oligarchs are back with a bang, making Moscow the billionaire capital of the world.
Profiting from a boom in commodities, the number of billionaires in Russia, most of whom built their empires during the country’s anarchic 1990s, grew to 101 from 62 last year, Forbes said in its annual list of the world’s richest people. [ID:nN09281785]
Moscow is home to 79 of Russia’s billionaires, more than any other city in the world.
Russia accounts for a third of Europe’s 300 billionaires, and 15 of the world’s 100 richest people, more than all the other so-called BRIC countries combined (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and more than Saudi Arabia.
Leading Russia’s billionaires is steel baron Vladimir Lisin. His estimated personal wealth of $24 billion has increased by some $10 billion since last year, moving him up 18 notches to place 14th among the richest.
Lisin’s worth, and that of many other Russians on the list, has reflected increases and declines in commodity stock valuations and Russia’s economy. Oil, metals and other natural resources account for most of the country’s budget revenue.
Lisin, 54, has seen Novolipetsk Steel (NLMK.MM), which he controls, return to nearly pre-financial crisis levels.
Russia’s benchmark commodity-heavy RTS exchange has reversed most of the losses it incurred during the crisis. It crossed the 2,000-point mark earlier this month, far above the 500 points seen in late 2008.
Lisin, one of Russia’s secretive tycoons, is followed by another metal magnate, Alexei Mordashov, the major shareholder and chief executive of Russia’s biggest steelmaker Severstal (CHMF.MM). Mordashov moved to 29 on the list from 70 a year ago.
He replaced Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team in the United States, as Russia’s second-richest man. Russia’s billionaires are known for fantastic displays of wealth that include buying sport teams around the world.
Prokhorov, chief executive of Russia’s largest gold miner Polyus Gold (PLZL.MM), listed by Forbes at No. 32, has an estimated wealth of $18.0 billion, nearly $5 billion more than a year ago.
The ranks of Russia’s billionaires swelled by 31, second only to China, reaching beyond the metals and energy businesses that have traditionally helped some of their peers achieve billionaire status.
Yuri Milner, who started the DST Internet investment company and is featured in Forbes’ cover story as “The Billionaire Who Friended The Web,” placed 1,140 on the list.
The full Forbes ranking of the world’s billionaires can be seen at www.forbes.com/billionaires. (For a list of the top 10 billionaires click [ID:nN08177230]) (For a factbox of interesting facts click [ID:nN08196924]) (Writing by Lidia Kelly)