Metals tycoon Potanin becomes Russia's richest man: Forbes

Vladimir Potanin, CEO and co-owner of Norilsk Nickel, speaks as he attends the Reuters Russia Investment Summit in Moscow September 23, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Metals tycoon Vladimir Potanin has become Russia’s wealthiest businessman with an estimated fortune of $15.4 billion, overtaking Alisher Usmanov who had worn the crown for three years in a row, according to the latest rating from U.S. magazine Forbes.

Potanin, the chief executive and co-owner of nickel and palladium miner Norilsk Nickel, has seen his wealth rise $2.8 billion over the past year, propelling him from the No. 8 position he held in 2013, Forbes said.

Norilsk’s market capitalization jumped 55 percent last year as global prices for nickel soared amid fears of supply shortfalls. Norilsk, in which Potanin owns a third, is a major exporter and has also benefited from a slide in the rouble.

Usmanov slid to the No. 3 position as his fortune tumbled $4.2 billion to $14.4 billion, Forbes said.

He is co-owner of Russian metals firm Metalloinvest, No.2 mobile operator MegaFon, Internet group, and the British Premier League soccer club Arsenal.

The value of his shares fell significantly last year as part of a broader sell-off of Russian-related stocks triggered by the conflict in Ukraine and sliding oil prices.

Mikhail Fridman, co-owner of Alfa-Bank and the biggest investor behind emerging markets telecoms operator Vimpelcom Ltd and Russia’s No.2 food retailer X5, remained Russia’s second-richest tycoon with wealth of $14.6 billion although his fortune fell by $3 billion from a year ago.

Potanin was also ranked 60th in the Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people, topped by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates.

Reporting by Maria Kiselyova and Andrey Kuzmin; Editing by Christian Lowe