Mikhaïl Prokhorov, a billionaire oligarch industrialist, is an independent candidate in Russia’s presidential race. He is 46. He first got rich after the collapse of the USSR, banking for the government.
He branched out into precious metals, then capital investment, for instance in mining and hybrid cars.
Briefly last year he led the pro-business party Right Cause then quit.
Prokhorov also likes basketball. He is 6’8” (2m04) and bought the team the New Jersey Nets in 2009. His father was high up in Soviet sports organising, his mother a plastics engineer.
He got into politics saying he would pursue stable development, but quickly backed out of the Right Cause party saying the Kremlin was pulling its strings.
With a strong claim to being a self-made man, some of Prokhorov’s ultra-liberal ideas alarm some people – like his proposal that the working week should be lengthened to 60 hours, that mandatory military service be abolished or opening up the Communist era archives and throwing light on crimes committed then.
He is pro-European, favours replacing the rouble with the euro, and promotes joining the EU’s internal borders-free Schengen Agreement to let Russians move around in Europe freely.
Even more certain to vex some in Moscow is his pledge to pardon fellow oligarch Mikhaïl Khodorkovsky, imprisoned on a conviction of tax evasion till 2016 – and to name him his prime minister.
He has been known to lavish his guests at parties. This got him in trouble with the police in the French Alps in 2007. They arrested him for flying in young women who were suspected of being prostitutes, but he was quickly released, cleared of charges and the case was dismissed.
Prokhorov is a bachelor but promises to marry if he is elected president.