President Vladimir Putin has spent 18 years erecting barriers to selling alcohol to a population still recovering from the decade-long bender after communism’s collapse.
Crackdowns on kiosks and ads, electronic inventory tracking as well as higher taxes have all succeeded in suppressing consumption, but the crackdowns have also cleared the field for a Soviet-era bootlegger with a knack for navigating complex rules to make a fortune selling cheap booze from the beginning. Sergei Studennikov opened his first discount liquor store near the gritty industrial hub of Chelyabinsk 12 years ago. Today, his Krasnoe & Beloe chain is the fastest-growing major retailer in the country, with 6,700 outlets in 57 of 85 regions. A sales jump of about 50 per cent to 215 billion rubles (S$4.5 billion) in 2017 and another 40 per cent this year has turned the former wholesaler into Russia’s newest billionaire, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. (Read more….)