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“Clever Man with an Absolutely Strategic Thinking”: how Natalia Fileva and her husband turned Siberia into an aerospace S7

The life story of one of the most successful businesswomen in Russia.

On March 31, 2019 Natalia Fileva, co-founder and chairman of the board of directors of the S7 group of companies, died in a plane crash . Father Valery Karachev and pilot Andrey Dykun died with her.

Colleagues in the industry spoke of her as a great strategist who was not afraid to go ahead in difficult situations, and her S7 colleagues called her “mother.”

Filyova Natalia Valerievna was born on November 27, 1963 in Novosibirsk, graduated from the Novosibirsk Electrotechnical Institute, becoming a radio engineer. Later she received a diploma in the organization of production management at the Institute of National Economy.

In the early 1990s, Fileva worked in Novosibirsk “Garantbank”, and then received a license to work with securities. Together with her husband Vladislav, she opened a branch of the investment company Eurofinance. She owned an army friend Fileva and the founder of the perfumery network “Ile de Bote” Alex Gribkov. Now he owns a 10% stake in S7, writes The Bell.

Filyov began working with securities: they bought out the issues of city and regional bills of exchange of enterprises, and when they could not pay their debts, they offered financial assistance in exchange for products that could be sold.

Coming to Aviation

Work at Eurofinance brought Filyov to aviation: in 1998, one of the aircraft of the Siberia squadron was repaired in Mineralnye Vody, the company could not pay for the work. Filev paid off a debt of 3 million rubles and received the company’s planes, Vedomosti reports .

Vladislav Filev wanted to be involved in the aviation business, and the regional administration, which was looking for investors for Siberia, found out about the emergence of young entrepreneurs.

Filev offered to collect a controlling stake, promising to buy them back later. The spouses had to borrow $ 20 million from Moscow acquaintances and Novosibirsk companies to buy the missing 26% of Siberia shares.

According to Forbes, Sibir was in a pre-bankrupt state at that moment, and Filev was slowly restoring the company. When the administration of Novosibirsk refused to repurchase a controlling stake, Filyov decided to consolidate it: they dismissed the management of Siberia, closed their financial organization and began to develop the entire airline.

Their mentor was Vladimir Tasun – at that time the head of the West Siberian Directorate of the Federal Air Transport Agency, now he is the head of the Association of Air Transport Operators. In his words , the center of the creation of the company was Filev. She was an ideologue, task director, searched for new personnel and “was a leading element in tandem.”

Within two years, Filyov, on the advice of Tasun, bought five more bankrupt regional companies: Sayan, Enkor, Tomsk, Kemerovo and Barnaul airlines. Thus, Siberia received new licenses for routes.

The development of “Siberian Airlines”

The couple shared responsibilities: Natalia was engaged in marketing, commerce and communication with the state, and Vladislav – strategy and production.

In 1999, Sibir made the first attempt to buy Vnukovo Airlines – the combined company could receive about 10% of the total passenger traffic and more than 40 main trunk routes out of 150.


Tu-204-100 of Siberia Airlines, 2003 Wikiland

In 1998, before the completion of the transaction, Filev was appointed general director of Vnukovo Airlines. He moved the team to Moscow, but later the owners of the controlling share of the airline Suleiman Kerimov and Tatevos Surinov reduced the offer to 49%, and Filev refused to buy, returning to Novosibirsk.

After the failed transaction, Kerimov left Vnukovo Airlines, and Surinov withdrew all the assets and bankrupted the company.

In 2001, Sibir bought the fleet from Centrolizing, the seller was the owner of the Domodedovo airport Dmitry Kamenshchik. After the deal, Siberia transferred the company to Domodedovo and helped the airport become the largest passenger traffic in Russia, writes The Bell.

Then “Siberia” received the routes of “Vnukovo Airlines”: the head of Rosaviatsia, Alexander Neradko, agreed to give back the routes, provided that all the company’s debts were repaid to state-owned enterprises, an acquaintance of Fileva told Vedomosti.

Eight years the company had to pay Vnukovo Airlines’ payables, estimated at 600 million – 1 billion rubles. By the end of 2002, Siberia took the first place in shipments within Russia.

In 2004, the controlling stake of Sibir was registered with Natalia Filev, she became the company’s chief strategist, transferring her public activities to her husband, RIA reports . In 2006, she entered the rating of the most successful women in Russia according to the Finance publication, her capital was estimated at $ 155 million.

She is involved in making a significant part of serious strategic decisions related to the development of the business group as a whole, the activities of the airlines that make up the group. And, of course, solves issues related to marketing, advertising policy and so on.

And here it must be said that her female instinct and intuition do not fail. The group managed to position very noticeably.

And today, S7 and the airlines included in it are, perhaps, the most prominent players in terms of perception, color schemes of aircraft and the provision of services.Oleg PanteleevHead of Analytical Services of the Aviaport Company in the Echo of Moscowcommentary

Transition to S7

In the mid-2000s, Filyova was engaged in the rebranding of “Siberia” after several plane crashes: in 2001, the Tu-154 was accidentally shot down during Ukrainian exercises, in 2002, an act of terrorism was committed on the same plane, and in 2006, belonging to Siberia A310 rolled out outside the runway during landing and caught fire.

Fileva wanted the company to be real, professional, not just a company that came to remove the foam. I do not detract from the merits of other airlines, but they were the first to introduce all the innovations that appeared on the global aviation market.Vladimir TasunHead of the Air Transport Operators Association

The company changed its name to S7 Airlines, the planes received a recognizable bright yellow-green color, advertising campaigns were launched – “tens of millions of dollars” were spent on rebranding .


Airlines Inform

The structure of the company has also changed – S7 Group has become the main organization. It includes the main assets of the airline: a travel agency, ticket sales, a maintenance base at Domodedovo, a subsidiary of Globus, founded in 2008, as well as S7 Airlines itself. Fileva headed S7 Group, and Vladislav headed S7 Airlines.

Rescue from crisis

In 2009, the company defaulted on bonds for 2.3 billion rubles, the total debt amounted to 10.7 billion rubles, half of which fell on Sberbank, and the bank also held a controlling stake in the pledge, writes The Bell.

The only solution for saving the business that the government proposed was to merge with Aeroflot, but Filevs were able to negotiate with another lender, Alfa Bank, and received a loan of 8.9 billion rubles.

Alfa-Bank explained its decision by the “adequacy of shareholders”: plans, according to sources from The Bell, were developed jointly. Filev knew how to act in the market, and Natalia was “the most brilliant financier and manager.”

She simply had no equal. The clever person with absolutely strategic thinking, instantly grasped and solved any problem. And a very tough businesswoman.Vyacheslav Breshtfriend Filev, former co-owner of the titanium holding VSMPO-AVISMA

To pay off the payables, the company sold 37 Russian Tu-154 and IL-86, refused the contract for 15 Boeing 787 aircraft and fully switched to the leasing model – 35 aircraft remained in the S7 aircraft fleet. S7 also refused low-income routes and reduced more than 30% of the personnel – they spent $ 20 million to compensate pilots.

The crisis forced us to revise business processes and behave more cautiously: S7 started serving the fleet more efficiently on the market, saving on domestic needs and buying the most energy-efficient airplanes on the market, Forbes writes.

In the calculations, the daughter of Filev, Tatyana, was responsible for marketing and advertising in the company. She had a diploma in determining the cost of aircraft models and its reduction during operation.


Tatyana Filyova “Skolkovo”

By 2010, Siberia had lost part of the market, moving from second to fourth place in terms of air travel, but started earning. By 2013, S7 had zero net debt and the lowest adjusted debt among Russian airlines was about 50 billion rubles.

Spacewalk

In May 2013, Filev bought out 25.5% of the shares of Siberia owned by the state. The company acquired a blocking stake for 1.33 billion rubles after a discussion in the government of the idea of giving Siberia to Aeroflot.

Then Fileva said “Vedomosti” that the possibility of combining airlines – “blackmail by the state.” In 2017, a 10% stake in Siberia was sold to Eurofinance Real Estate.

In 2015, Siberia returned to second place in air travel and continued to develop. In 2016, Filyov entered the international market through the purchase of a share of Charlie Airlines in Cyprus and announced the launch of the aerospace company S7 Space.

S7 has invested about $ 150 million in the purchase of the floating launch site “Sea Launch”. The couple believed that due to increased competition in the field of commercial launches of missiles, the site would become economically efficient.


Sea Launch

On December 21, 2018, the S7 Group was renamed the S7 AirSpace Corporation, and on December 25, 2018, S7 Space announced the creation of an orbital space center based on the ISS elements. As conceived by Filev, the spaceport can become a key station of the space transport system “near space” – “deep space”. The project is scheduled for 2022-2024.

There are people who reach certain heights, stop and reap the fruits of their labors. And there are people like Natalia Valerievna, who over the course of entire decades can gain altitude and not stop.Oleg PanteleevHead of Analytical Services, AviaPort Agency

The group includes more than ten companies: Siberia and Globus Airlines, as well as a retail network for the sale of aviation and railway tickets, travel vouchers, an aviation training center, an aircraft maintenance and repair company, a floating cosmodrome .

On November 7, 2018, Natalia Fileva changed her husband as chairman of the board of directors of Siberia. Vladislav himself focused on the space business of the S7 Group. In 2017–2018, Forbes edition estimated Filevoy’s fortune at $ 600 million. In 2018, she became the fourth in the ranking of the richest women in Russia, according to Forbes.

In 2017, Sibir took the second place in the rating of Russian airlines according to Forbes. Now S7 Group is Russia’s largest private aviation holding, ranks second in terms of passenger traffic among Russian airlines after Aeroflot. In 2018, Siberia and Globus Airlines, members of the S7 Group, served 16 million passengers.

“Mama” aviation industry

S7 is considered a family company: daughter Tatiana is the senior vice president of S7, she is responsible for the commercial unit, sales, development of loyalty programs and strategic development of the company, and the other daughter, Mary, owns the “Student Design Bureau of Aviation Rotary Engines”. In total, Natalia has four children.

Successes in business are outstanding, but the most important thing is that Natalia was a talented, very kind, good, sincere and cheerful person.

I always considered them the benchmark of a happy family.Sergey Kravchenkofriend Filev, president of Boeing in Russia and the CIS in the comments of The Bell

Fileva not only developed her own airline, but also represented business interests in the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, in which she was the head of the aviation transport and infrastructure commission, was not afraid to go into conflict, did not keep silent about industry problems and did social work, says Oleg Panteleev.

In 2016, Fileva defended the owner of Domodedovo, Dmitry Kamenshchik, who was accused of failing to meet security requirements. For this reason, according to the investigation, there was a terrorist attack in 2011.

“You know, in Domodedovo, there are very law-abiding people. Money is squeezed from customers – yes, there is such a flaw. But at the airport there is no corruption, everything is well organized: smart clarity of work. I want to say that he is a very efficient owner, ” Fileva said in an interview with Forbes.

In 2018, at the investment forum in Sochi, Fileva asked not to call officials on such forums, because “they do not do business, they are not real people”. Despite the purpose of the investment forum, the front rows were occupied by civil servants.

What did they do there? They joked, laughed, talked about their problems. This is ridiculous. In the front rows should sit those who are willing to bring money.

You are talking about the fight against corruption, and I wonder: “Where do they get money for suits and shoes?” Each costume costs at least $ 1,000.Natalia Fileva

In a conversation with Forbes, one of the federal officials-acquaintances Filevoy admitted that the businesswoman was “emotional, bright and very charismatic, very sorry that she is no longer with us.” He does not take offense at her words.

Filyova was also engaged in charity work: in 2017–2018, she gave her native Novosibirsk four test cars for donating blood for HIV and hepatitis C, each of which cost more than 70 million rubles. The project is four times more effective in detecting diseases than testing in medical institutions.

She planned to further develop projects to help people with HIV, palliative care at home and post-exposure prophylaxis for patients, said Kommersant chairman of the board of directors of the public organization “Humanitarian project” Denis Kamaldinov.

“We know that Natalia Fileva was interested in this work. She just did good, without advertising, without making PR out of charity, ”Kamaldinov says.

In the company, everyone called Filev a “mother, ” former S7 Space CEO Sergei Sopov told Kommersant. “Mom said it’s the law. I talked to her a lot and respected her. She was a good person. This is an irreplaceable loss, ”he said.

The head of the Russian Association of Air Transport Operators (AEWT), Vladimir Tasun, believes that Filevu was distinguished by unconventional thinking and rigidity in matters of company management.

Loss can not be repaired. She was the ideologue of the company, led the processes and she selected the performers. S7 was largely created thanks to the energy of Natalia Fileva, she knew how to set goals and was persistent in achieving them. Today we can say with full confidence that the S7 is the product of the Filev spouses.Vladimir Tasun

The death of Filevoy commented on the head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin: “She was a great enthusiast of aviation and astronautics, for all of us her death is a personal tragedy.”

It is not yet known what will happen with the further development of the space division – S7 Space has postponed the consideration of a new company strategy.


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