|Source of wealth||TNK-BP, Access Industries, DAZN|
|F1 involvement||TV broadcast, Team sponsorship|
Ukraine-born Sir Len Blavatnik, like many of his fellow Russians, made his early fortune from the ‘privatisation’ of Soviet Union assets, in his case, aluminium.
Click here to subscribe to our print edition!
There is a Russian saying that you should never ask an oligarch how he made his first million!
In 2013 Blavatnik sold his stake in Russian oil company TNK-BP for $7bn.
Today his investments are channelled through his industrial group Access Industries which includes over $3.8 billion in art and real estate and a $2 billion share of the DAZN group.
He holds a $6.8 billion stake in chemical giant LyondellBasell Industries which he saved from bankruptcy during the financial crises back in 2009.
In 2017, he received a knighthood for services to philanthropy, and his foundation has donated more than $700 million between 2009 and 2019.
His involvement in Formula 1 comes through his ownership of the global sports subscription service DAZN.
DAZN has just launched a 24/7 dedicated Spanish language channel DAZN F1 in Spain after reaching an agreement with Telefonica’s Moviestar+ to broadcast races until the start of 2024.
The channel will have veteran Spanish F1 commentator Antonio Lobato and ex-F1 driver Pedro de la Rosa heading up the coverage.
DAZN is already covering most sports and is involved in motorsport covering Indy car, FormulaE, ExtremeE, the Dakar Rally, the World Endurance, and the World Touring car series.
DAZN set their sights on 20 Spanish speaking countries, and the next step will include a Portuguese F1 channel to cover 11 Portuguese speaking countries.
In February, DAZN announced its sponsorship of the Scuderia AlphaTauri team for the 2021 season and signed Yuki Tsunoda as a brand ambassador in Japan.
DAZN means business, and in March 2020, they announced the expansion into 200 countries worldwide, with its boxing coverage spearheading the growth.
The company is going into battle with the likes of SkySports, winning rights to boxing previously held by Sky and recently securing the rights to show seven exclusive Italian Serie A football matches per week in a deal worth $987m per season.
They are taking on Amazon in the UK, which has broadcast Premier League football matches since 2019 and has bidding rights for the 2022-25 seasons.
DAZN chairman Kevin Mayer recently stated: “Yeah, I think we are in the position to do it. We have the capital to do it, and Len Blavatnik is committed to it. And it’s going to work.
Well, Blavatnik is indeed committed to growing the company. He lent the group $1bn to facilitate its growth during the pandemic.
Blavatnik is well connected, citing former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ukrainian-born Russian oligarch Victor Vekselberg as friends. However, he will no doubt regret his friendship with the disgraced Harvey Weinstein.
Blavatnik has all the billionaire toys, including the obligatory $80m 242 ft superyacht Odessa 11 and four private jets, including a $150m Boeing 767.
He owns a home in Kensington Palace Gardens worth $315m.
Famously he was partying aboard his yacht in Cannes with the likes of Jane Fonda, Melanie Griffith, and Sarah Jessica Parker, and when a certain Mick Jagger pulled up looking to join the fun, Blavatnik turned him away.
Blavatnik will undoubtedly be pleased with the recent announcement of a race in Miami as he invested $1.2bn into Faena district back in 2016.
What influence does Sir Len Blavatnik have in F1?
In terms of the TV landscape, he is a considerable force. He has facilitated a bidding war for the broadcast rights in F1, with Liberty collecting the spoils from the victor.
This influence is a concern for Formula 1 fans, as DAZN will only accelerate the move away from free-to-air and place coverage behind a paywall.prev View full list next