A Russian oligarch was forced by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration into selling his entire stake in the bank he founded after he publicly criticized Russia’s war in Ukraine on Instagram last month.
Oleg Y. Tinkov, the founder of one of Russia’s biggest banks, Tinkoff, slammed the Russian government’s decision to invade Ukraine as “crazy” in the social media post, in which he said he didn’t see any beneficiary to the war and claimed 90 percent of Russians did not support the war.
The very next day, the Kremlin contacted bank executives and threatened to nationalize the bank if it refused to cut ties with Tinkov, who founded the bank in 2006, the rare self-made Russian billionaire told The New York Times.
Last week, he sold his 35 percent stake in the bank to a Russian mining magnate with closer ties to Putin, which he said he was forced into doing by the Russian government, according to The Times.
Tinkov — who is worth over $8.2 billion, according to Bloomberg — said he was not allowed to negotiate the price, telling the paper he felt “like a hostage — you take what you are offered.”
His 35 percent stake was valued at more than $20 billion on the London stock exchange last year, according to The Times. Without revealing the price, he said he sold his stake for a lowly 3 percent of what he believed to be its true value.
The 53-year-old oligarch told The Times Sunday that he had hired bodyguards after he was informed by friends of contacts in Russian security services that his life was in danger.
He said that many of his business and government pals who are worried about their wallets agreed with his criticisms of the war, but were afraid to speak up.
“I’ve realized that Russia, as a country, no longer exists,” Mr. Tinkov told The Times, adding that he believes Putin will not be in power much longer. “I believed that the Putin regime was bad. But of course, I had no idea that it would take on such a catastrophic scale.”
The bank, which announced that Tinkov had sold his entire stake in the company on Thursday, did not agree with his narrative of how the deal went down, telling The Times in a statement there were “no threats of any kind against the bank’s leadership.”
Tinkoff said that the billionaire had not been in Moscow for years and “was not involved in any matters.”
Tinkov had not been in Russia since 2019 when he left to receive treatment for leukemia. He stepped down as leader of the company but kept his majority stake.
Following Tinkov’s Instagram post on April 19, pro-war Russians posted their shredded Tinkoff bank cards on social media, the Times reported. A popular state TV host blasted Tinkov, saying his “conscious is rotten.”
Tinkov announced on April 22 that it would change the name of the bank, which had been planned. Tinkov told the paper he had already been frantically trying to sell his stake after its value plummeted after the United States and its allies imposed strict economic sanctions on Russian financial institutions.
“I don’t believe in Russia’s future,” he told the Times. “Most importantly, I am not prepared to associate my brand and my name with a country that attacks its neighbors without any reason at all.”
In October 2021, Tinkov was sentenced to pay over $500,000,000 to settle a federal tax fraud case in the United States — more than double what he had sought to defraud the government through a scheme to renounce his U.S. citizenship and conceal large stock gains he knew were reportable from the IRS, according to the Department of Justice.