Johannesburg - Alexei Fedoricsev is a pioneer, the soccer fan who led the way for Russian investors in western European football.
Billionaire Fedoricsev’s loyalty over the past two decades has been to Monaco. There it remains.
He is not the only Russian at Monaco. His business associate, Dmitry Rybolovlev, owns 66% of the club. But Rybolovlev only “arrived” in 2011. Fedoricsev, by contrast, has underpinned Monaco’s security through sponsorship for the past two decades.
Fans may fret over his star-selling strategy – Bernardo Silva, Tiémoué Bakayoko, Benjamin Mendy and, most notably, Kylian Mbappé this year alone – but Fedoricsev has no doubts about its wisdom.
And, as he says, he “never changes” his mind about any of his decisions.
Fedoricsev doesn’t experience the inner conflict of the businessman/fan, which prompts risky decisions. For Fedoricsev, maintaining a balance between business and sport is essential.
His office is a five-minute walk from the famed Casino de Monte-Carlo, but Fedoricsev’s words and actions are not those of a gambler. He is outwardly modest about his influence at AS Monaco. But the moment he talks money, there is no doubt he has all the figures at his fingertips and in his head.
It’s the same with his multimillion-dollar business empire. Fedoricsev is hands-on. Literally.
He says: “I don’t have a computer. I don’t have email. Just a telephone. My contract is my handshake".
Over 20 years, Fedoricsev’s Monaco-based company, Fedcominvest, has invested well over $100 million (R1.4 billion) in Monaco. Fedoricsev does not play with words. He is the main “sponsor”. He does not like the sport/business euphemism of “partner”.
It’s been a long journey for a boy from a “normal poor family like everyone else growing up in the Soviet Union”.
Wheeling and dealing
His father was an FC Spartak fan, but for Alexei, growing up with a love of both football and ice hockey, it was “Dynamo, Dynamo, Dynamo, though I don’t know why”.
A promising defender, he crossed paths during military service with several future internationals, but “this was the 1980s when something started to change in Russia, so I started to think about what business was possible”.
Fedoricsev built his business before the communist collapse.
“This was nothing to do with the privatisations. Nothing. I was working before the days of the guys with the big yachts. I only ever invested the money I had made.”
He began with a spare parts business. That took him to brake pads, repair centres, construction, timber, fertilisers, phosphates, wheat, steel and shipping. The journey took Fedoricsev to Geneva and then Monaco.
There rights agent Jean-Claude Darmon persuaded him to sponsor AS Monaco. Simultaneously, Fedoricsev accepted an invitation to become general director at his first love, FC Dynamo Moscow.
At Dynamo, he spent more than $100m on players from Brazil and Portugal, thanks to the wheeling and dealing of super agent Jorge Mendes, who now does good business with Monaco. But, by 2007, he had run into too many other vested interests at Dynamo and quit.
“Dynamo; a great name now but nothing else,” he says sadly and focuses his football attention on Monaco. Monaco’s director-general and transfers supremo, Vadim Vasilyev, was a Fedcominvest vice-president between 1997 and 1999.
Fedoricsev describes Vasilyev as “a very clever gentleman. Very intelligent".
That intelligence, for Fedoricsev, has been perfectly illustrated by the club’s transfer strategy.
“What is always very important is the atmosphere inside the dressing room. At Monaco, this is very good, better I think than at Paris Saint-Germain".
This is one of the reasons Fedoricsev believes the Mbappé deal was perfectly timed.
“I think it was just right. It’s not easy to keep players in our world today. Young players start to think about big amounts of money very quickly. An agent comes to you – to your father, to your mother – so the player starts to think.
“This is a very important moment. Better to accept the good deal and do it without emotion".
In other words, good business.
This article appeared in the AIPS Newsletter