Andrey Melnichenko: From College Dropout to One of Russias Wealthiest Businessmen

Andrey Melnichenko. Photo credit: 2 via Wikipedia Commons.

Andrey Melnichenko probably is not a familiar name in America. That's largely due to the fact that he was born in Belarus, and has spent most of its career in Russia.

However, there's a valuable lesson to be learned from Russia's 12thwealthiest man. That lesson: Be sure to seize that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when it arises because it can really pay off.

Communism falls but onceMelnichenko grew up in communist Russia, but because his father was a respected Soviet physicist, he was able to attend the respected Boarding School of the Specialized Education and Research Centre, where he excelled. Then, upon graduation, he was admitted to the prestigious School of Physics atMoscow State University.

However, he ended up dropping out of school in 1991, which was the year communism fell. Instead of finishing school, he and some schoolmates took advantage of the unique opportunities that opened up in a newly capitalist Russia, and started a number of businesses involved in tourism, selling computers, and a chain of currency-exchange booths.

However, his big business break came in 1993, when he co-founded MDM Bank, which handled the accounts of oil tycoon Roman Abramovich, and other businessmen favored by the Kremlin. From 1993 to 1997, he chaired the management board of the bank, while also returning to school as he transferred to Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, and then graduated in 1997.

Upon graduation, he bought out his partners at the bank, and became its sole shareholder. It was that ownership stake in the bank that he used to build his vast business empire.

Diversifying his portfolioThat empire started a few years later when he co-founded MDM Group with Sergei Popov, and began buying industrial assets in Russia. They created TMK, which is now Russia's largest pipe exporter, Siberian Coal Energy Company, or Suek, power generator SGK, and the mineral and chemical company EuroChem.

However, in 2006, the business partners began to split up the assets, with Popov slowly acquiring the bank, while Melnichenko exchanged the bank for 92.2% stakes in EuroChem, Suek, and SGK. Those businesses have grown in value over time, and combined are currently worth $8.5 billion according toForbes.

If there's one thing Melnichenko is known for around the world it's not the valuable businesses he owns, but what he has done with the wealth those businesses have generated. He has used his wealth to have some of the most spectacular yachts built. The most well-known is a $300-million submarine-style 394-feet superyacht known as A, which is named after the first initial of his and his wife's name.

However, he's also reportedly commissioned the largest-ever sailing yacht, which is said to be 482-feet long. That boat, which will be known as the White Pearl, is said to be reminiscent of the ship from the Pirates of the Caribbean. Both vessels are his reward, if you will, for taking advantage of the opportunity to be an entrepreneur when Russia opened up for capitalism.

Andrey Melnichenko's A. Photo credit: MatthiasKabel via Wikipedia Commons.

Investor takeawayAndrey Melnichenko's story started when he dropped out of school so that he could take full advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become an entrepreneur and business owner as soon as communism fell in Russia. It's a rare opportunity, to be sure.

Each one of us will have our own opportunity to make a wealth-changing decision. Maybe it's a stock market crash where we can be greedy while others are being fearful, the opportunity to get into the ground floor of a start-up, or taking the risk to buy stock in a company with revolutionary technology. The key to building life-changing wealth is to take advantage of that opportunity when it does present itself.

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