Mikhail Shelkov: Harnessing success to make a difference

Mikhail Shelkov

Mikhail Shelkov is a prominent businessman and the majority shareholder of VSMPO-AVISMA, the world’s largest titanium producer. He is also the owner of the Samara Metallurgical Plant (SMZ), a gigantic plant that produces aluminum. He has consistently appeared on Forbes’ rankings for six consecutive years and was also recognized as an impact investor in both 2021 and 2022.


May 30, 1968, marked the birth of a visionary entrepreneur, Mikhail Shelkov, in Moscow. From his early days, Shelkov displayed a passion for knowledge. In 1991 he graduated from the renowned Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) armed with a degree in molecular and chemical physics.

Shelkov’s career took off in 1993 when he assumed leadership at Eurosibbank, elevating himself to the chairman of the board just two years later. His acumen in the financial sector shone brightly as he joined the board of directors of the esteemed Russian Bank for Reconstruction and Development in 1995. In 2001, his entrepreneurial drive propelled him to become head of Prominvest, an investment holding firm.

In 2012 Shelkov embarked on a transformational journey. This odyssey ended in 2014, when he acquired a controlling stake in VSMPO-AVISMA, one of the largest titanium producers worldwide, becoming its majority shareholder. With each step forward, Mikhail Shelkov’s accomplishments reached remarkable heights. In 2017, he made his debut appearance on Forbes’ prestigious “200 richest businessmen in Russia” list, securing the 200th spot with a net worth of $500 million. Since then, his relentless pursuit of excellence has propelled him to the 29th position with $4.4 billion.

Empathy Foundation

Beyond business triumphs, he always recognized the importance of giving back to society. In 2019, he founded the Empathy Charitable Foundation, driven by the mission to support community-oriented projects to encourage education, culture and science. Through this foundation, Shelkov strives to create meaningful change and make a lasting impact on society.

One of the foundation’s primary initiatives is providing monthly grant payments to teachers in the towns of Verkhnyaya Salda and Nizhnyaya Salda. Recognizing the invaluable role educators play in shaping young minds, Empathy ensures these dedicated professionals receive their due recognition by offering grants equivalent to 50% of their salaries.

Empathy goes beyond financial support and pays much attention to the professional development of teachers. The foundation offers free advanced training courses covering diverse fields such as information technology, psychology and teaching methods. By equipping teachers with new knowledge and skills, Empathy empowers them to deliver innovative and impactful education to their students.

Nurturing the bright minds of tomorrow, Empathy has launched an engineering accelerator program for school children in Verkhnyaya and Nizhnyaya Salda. This initiative provides young minds with hands-on experience, mentorship and access to cutting-edge technology, fostering a passion for engineering and innovation from an early age.

On May 24, 2023, the foundation and the Ministry of Education hosted a qualifying round for the Gifted Girls and Brainy Boys Olympiad in Yekaterinburg, marking its first occurrence in the Urals in 30 years. Six Sverdlovsk students emerged victorious, earning the chance to enter the Moscow State Institute of International Relations without an exam. In total, 30 outstanding students from various local cities converged in Yekaterinburg for the final round.

The foundation’s commitment extends beyond education as well. Empathy supports the rehabilitation center for minors, as well as orphanages in Verkhnyaya and Nizhnyaya Salda. After the natural disaster in these areas in 2021, Empathy offered financial assistance to the affected residents. By extending aid during challenging times, Empathy strives to alleviate the burdens faced by the community and restore hope.

Oktava Cluster

Is there anything that suits workers of the creative industry better than factory premises? Especially if it is the legendary Tula microphone manufacturer, Oktava. The plant gained worldwide fame back in Soviet times when Yuri Gagarin loudly uttered his famous words, “Let’s go!” into his microphone. Among modern performers, Oktava’s acoustic equipment also has a lot of fans, such as U2, Sting, Iron Maiden, Radiohead and many others.

Once the pride of Soviet industry, in the 1990s the enterprise became unprofitable. In 2017, new investors revitalized it, replacing old equipment and transforming part of the industrial space into the Oktava Creative Industrial Cluster. Amid the 12,000 square meters of the worn-out factory, silent machines stood here and there in the halls. Then the idea was born to give them a breath of new life and create the Machine Tool Museum, where each exhibit represents a part of the great history of Russian industry. Here, visitors learn something new about well-known Russiandomestic entrepreneurs and may even consider becoming one of them.

Since it was challenging to bring together digital and mechanical production environments, the project called for a sponsor. The entrepreneur and founder of the Empathy Foundation, Mikhail Shelkov, answered the call. He believes Oktava is a place that encourages people to lose track of time and enthusiastically dive into art, science and music. It’s a platform for creativity, where anyone can be inspired to become a founder of their own future.

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