LONDON: Boris Berezovsky, a self-exiled and outspoken Russian tycoon who had a bitter falling out with Russian President Vladimir Putin, was found dead in southeast England on Saturday. He was 67.
In recent years, the one-time Kremlin powerbroker-turned-thorn in Putin’s side fended off verbal and legal attacks in cases that often bore political undertones — and bit into his fortune.
The cause of Berezovsky’s death was not immediately clear, and Thames Valley police said it was being treated as “unexplained.” The police would not directly identify him, but when asked about Berezovsky by name they read a statement saying they were investigating the death of a 67-year-old man at a property in Ascot, a town 25 miles west of London.
Lawyer Alexander Dobrovinsky told Russian state TV that his client — who had survived assassination attempts in the past — lately had been in “a horrible, terrible” emotional state.
“All he had was debts,” Dobrovinsky said. “He was practically destroyed. He was selling his paintings and other things.”
A mathematician-turned-Mercedes dealer, Berezovsky amassed his wealth during Russia’s chaotic privatization of state assets in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In return for backing former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, he gained political clout and opportunities to buy state assets at knockdown prices, making a fortune in oil and automobiles.
He also played a key role in brokering the rise of Yeltsin’s successor, Vladimir Putin, in 2000. But Berezovsky later fell out of favor with Putin, and eventually sought political asylum in the U.K. in the early 2000s to evade fraud charges he contended were politically motivated.