Roman Avdeev: Moscow’s most unlikely billionaire

Philosopher, philanthropist and father of 23 – Roman Avdeev is a far cry from the stereotype of Russian oligarch. Yet his ownership of Credit Bank of Moscow, one of the country’s fastest-growing lenders, along with canny deal-making in sectors from retail to pharmaceuticals, is fast propelling him up the rich list. And his status as one of Russia’s most independent billionaires gives him a unique insight into the country’s current pariah status.

Roman Avdeev is not your typical Russian billionaire. For one thing, there is the way he turns up for interviews with journalists – five minutes early and unattended by so much as an assistant, let alone the traditional entourage and security detail.

For another, there is his home life. Not for Avdeev the London mansion, Côte d’Azur villa, trophy wife and brood of spoilt brats at pricey English private schools. Children he certainly has – 23 of them, in fact, 19 of whom have been rescued from orphanages around Russia – but they live with Avdeev and his wife of nearly 30 years in the town outside Moscow where he grew up, where they travel daily to the local state school in two minibuses.

Then there is his charity work on behalf of the rest of Russia’s several hundred thousand orphaned children, an unfashionable cause to which he devotes a considerable...