Russian steel tycoon and Arsenal shareholder's $6bn Facebook payout

Alisher Usmanov set to win big at Facebook IPO.

The New York Times reports on the winning bet made by Russian steel tycoon Alisher Usmanov on Facebook. After the IPO later this week his stake, bought for $900m in 2009, is set to be worth around $6bn.

The magnate bought into Facebook significantly later than most investors who stand to substantially profit from the IPO, but the NYT reports how:

Mr. Zuckerberg turned to the Russian investors in 2009 at a meeting quietly brokered by Goldman Sachs. Other sources of financing had slowed because of the crisis. And, because of the popularity of online social games in Russia, investors here had a keen sense of the value of social networking sites and were willing to pay more than others for a stake in Facebook.

The Russians were also willing to accept another condition important to Mr. Zuckerberg. Despite owning 10 percent of Facebook, they would get no voting rights or seat on the board. They would also have no say in the site’s policies on privacy or political organizing — preserving independence that has become especially important as Facebook has played a major role in domestic politics in Russia.

Usmanov is better known in Britain as the minority shareholder of Arsenal FC. He owns almost 30 per cent of the club, including 16 shares historically held by Rangers FC, but his seeming attempt to become the majority owner was thwarted in 2011 when American businessman Stan Kroenke increased his holding to 63 per cent.

Alisher Usmanov, owner of 10 per cent of Facebook. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.