Blavatnik was born in Odessa to a Jewish family. He attended Moscow State University of Railway Engineering, but did not complete his coursework due to the family's request for emigration visas. His family emigrated from Soviet Union to the United States in 1978, and he received a masters in computer science from Columbia University and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1989.
In 1986, Blavatnik founded Access Industries, an international conglomerate company located in New York, of which he is chairman and president. Access has long-term holdings in Europe and North and South America. Initially, he moved into Russian investments, just after the fall of communism. He and a friend from university, Viktor Vekselberg, formed the Renova investment vehicle, and then the two joined with Mikhail Fridman's Alfa Group to form the AAR venture. Access has since diversified its portfolio to include investments in industries such as oil, entertainment, coal, aluminum, petrochemicals and plastics, telecommunications, media, and real estate.
Petrochemicals and oil
In August 2005, Access Industries bought petrochemicals and plastics manufacturer Basell Polyolefins from Royal Dutch Shell and BASF for $5.7 billion. On December 20, 2007, Basell completed its acquisition of the Lyondell Chemical Company for an enterprise value of approximately $19 billion. The resulting company, LyondellBasell Industries then became the world's eighth largest chemical company based on net sales. On January 6, 2009, the U.S. operations of LyondellBasell Industries filed for bankruptcy.
On April 30, 2010, LyondellBasell emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a significantly improved financial position. As part of its exit financing, LyondellBasell raised $3.25 billion of first priority debt as well as $2.8 billion through the rights offering jointly underwritten by Access Industries, Apollo Management, and Ares Management. LyondellBasell stock has increased 103% in value since April 2010. Access currently owns approximately 14% of LyondellBasell.
AAR gained a controlling stake in Russian oil company TNK through privatization auctions, then in 2003 sold a 50% stake to British Petroleum to form TNK-BP, one of Russia's largest oil companies, where Blavatnik served on the board of directors. On March 21, 2013, Rosneft completed its $55 billion acquisition of TNK-BP. Blavatnik also has interests in UC Rusal, the world's largest aluminum producer, where he sits on the board. On May 6, 2011, Warner Music Group announced its sale to Access for US$3.3 billion.