Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg will name Conor Lenihan, former Irish science minister, as a senior adviser for his Renova Group investment company, according to two people with knowledge of the move.
Lenihan, 50, will soon leave his post as vice president at the Skolkovo Foundation, a Kremlin-backed technology hub being built in Moscow, to join Renova, said the people, who asked not to be identified as his appointment hasn’t been made public. Lenihan said last year that he met Vekselberg through a mutual acquaintance in Rome after an exhibit of the billionaire’s Faberge egg collection in the Vatican. Alexander Petrov, a Renova spokesman in Moscow, declined to comment by phone.
Vekselberg, 56, has run the Skolkovo Foundation since 2010 as then-President Dmitry Medvedev sought to duplicate the success of Silicon Valley in a bid to reduce Russia’s oil dependence. The project has faced challenges this year as police raided offices and current President Vladimir Putin overturned an order directing state companies, the biggest of which are run by his loyalists, to contribute more than $900 million to the its technical institute, Skoltech.
Skolkovo’s downtown offices were searched by police in April following the alleged misspending of 3.5 billion rubles ($109 million) in state funds. Investigators also said they opened a criminal case into two Skolkovo managers over the alleged theft of $720,000. Lenihan, present during the raid, hasn’t been connected to either of the cases.
Lenihan was hired by Skolkovo in 2011 to help lure international companies to the 400-hectare (1,000-acre) campus in the southwestern Moscow suburb of the same name.
Vekselberg has a net worth of $14.5 billion and is the 63rd richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Vekselberg sold a 12.5 percent stake in a Russian oil venture with BP Plc in March for about $7 billion. In April, he told state television that Renova plans to invest 15 percent to 20 percent of the proceeds in electricity, machinery, industrial, technology and pharmaceuticals.