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The Big Take

Russian Oligarchs’ Billions Lead to 'Madness' at This Buyout Firm

The standoff between Mikhail Fridman-founded LetterOne and its key investment Pamplona is a case study in trying to split from Russian cash.

Mikhail Fridman, left, and Petr Aven.
Mikhail Fridman, left, and Petr Aven.

Photographer: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The board of investment firm LetterOne is an esteemed bunch: a British lord, a former ambassador, a pharmaceuticals titan.

They help oversee more than $22 billion in assets around the world, from gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea to Spanish supermarkets and U.S. pet spas. The group’s holdings and impeccable directors are plainly visible. That’s no longer the case for its true backers.