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By Matt Handley
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has invested in an Oxford University green technology start-up that develops ways of turning household waste into jet fuel.
The Chelsea Football Club owner bought a 3.5 per cent stake in Oxford Catalysts Group Plc (OCG), valued at £6 million, and intends to help the commercialisation process of the company.
OCG was formed from the University’s Chemistry Department in 2004, and is marketing breakthrough technology based on a number of innovative catalysts for generating clean fuel.
After extensive development, its technology is on the cusp of being marketed following demonstration projects and orders last year from OAO Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer, and British Airways Plc.
The investment was made through his Ervington vehicle, set up by Abramovich to buy into green technologies. His purchase of shares in the Oxford outfit follows recent investments into AFC Energy, a producer of hydrogen fuel cells, and Waste2Tricity, a clean tech consultancy.
OCG’s business development director Neville Hargreaves was enthusiastic about the addition of a “strategic” partner. He said: “We believe we’ve got mutual interests… and we look forward to working with him.”
Abramovich’s investment comes just four months after a High Court Judge ruled in his favour during a trial against former partner Boris Berezovsy, who claimed he’d been a victim of blackmail.
Despite his controversial reputation, though, Abramovich has never been found guilty of a crime in any world court.
However, not all students are happy about Mr Abramovich’s association with a project that bears the Oxford name, particularly given the University is also a shareholder in the company.
A second-year chemistry student at Keble commented: “Given the allegations about Abramovich’s less-than-hidden dark side, it just seems inappropriate for the University to be linked to him, even indirectly.”
Abramovich, the fifth wealthiest Russian and no. 50 on the Forbes global list, allegedly began accruing his fortune on the back of black-market goods, and has since been accused of share dilution, theft, and loan fraud, independent of the Berezovsky case.