(May 31, 2018 / JNS) Billionaire Roman Abramovich of Russia became Israel’s wealthiest citizen on Monday, making aliyah upon arrival in his private jet.
A Jew entitled to Israeli citizenship by law, Abramovich is now a permanent Israeli resident. The owner of the celebrated Chelsea Football Club, he had been living in London for years, but was informed that his U.K. visa would not be renewed.
The United Kingdom has attempted to push out Russian oligarchs in recent months following the poisonings of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury in March. Abramovich also reportedly holds close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
More than 30 powerful Russian Jewish businesspeople have opted to obtain Israeli citizenship in recent years. Not only is Israel the Jewish homeland, it provides a safe backup residence, as well as rights afforded to Israeli-passport holders, including tax benefits, some protection against extradition and the convenience of visa-free travel across the European Union.
However, Abramovich’s representative said that his strong identification as a Jew and his warm feelings towards Israel motivated him to make aliyah. His ex-wife, Dasha Zhukova, is Jewish, and is the mother of two of his seven children. Abramovich is also the chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, a trustee of the Moscow Jewish Museum and a backer of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Russia.
Abramovich has invested in more than a dozen Israel startups and venture funds since 2015, acquiring equity through two of his investment firms: Ervington Investments and Millhouse Capital.
Earlier this week, Tel Aviv University announced that Abramovich donated $30 million to build a new Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. In March, he donated $20 million to go to a new nuclear medical facility at Israel’s largest hospital, Sheba Medical Center.
Abramovich is the 10th wealthiest person in Russia, worth an estimated $10.8 billion. But he didn’t start out that way: Born in Lithuania, he was orphaned by age 4 and raised by his grandparents in the Russian Arctic Circle.
His new residence is the Varsono Boutique hotel—in Tel Aviv’s artsy Neve Tzedek neighborhood—that he bought from Yaron Varsono, the husband of “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot, for NIS 100 million ($28 million) in 2015.