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“No one could say no to her”: what was the memory of the co-owner of S7, who died in a plane crash, Natalia Filyova

One of the richest women in Russia ruled the country’s main private airline business and asked not to let officials on business forums.

Natalia Fileva Photo  The Bell

On March 31, one of the richest women in Russia, co-owner of the S7 company, Natalia Fileva, died in a German airport crash . She was 55 years old. A day later, on April 1, the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case on a plane crash. In Germany, for the time being, they are only forming an international group to investigate – and its reason will not be known for a long time.

The exact cause of the crash will not be determined soon

On March 31, during a landing approach at the Egelsbach Airport of Frankfurt am Main, a six-seat Epic-LT aircraft flying from France crashed . The incident killed Natalia Fileva, co-owner of S7 Airlines – the largest Russian private airline, her father and pilot. Initially, the media reported the death of her husband and business partner Natalia, Vladislav, but the airline soon rejected this information .

Rescuers got the remains of the victims from the plane, and investigators examined the crash site: debris scattered within a radius of 20 meters. The cause of the incident is still unknown.Details of the first preliminary report are planned to be disclosed to the public on May 25.. But even by this date it is unlikely that the exact cause of the catastrophe will be established: the German aviation authorities admitted that it would take “months or even years” to clear up.

The situation is complicated by the lack of flight recorders on this aircraft – on such aircraft it is not necessary. The investigation will be conducted by an international commission, which will include Russian experts of the Interstate Aviation Committee.

Inspection of the crash site Photo General Anzeiger

The ship’s manufacturer, Epic Aircraft, belongs to one of the structures of the S7 Group. In 2015, the Epic-LT turboprop airplane got into an accident because of faulty landing gear.

The Filev family created one of the largest air carriers without the help of the authorities.

“She and Vlad started literally from scratch — they had nothing at all,” says a Forbes source about Natalia and her husband. By the beginning of the 1990s, she worked in a Novosibirsk bank and, after receiving a license, went to work with her husband with securities. Filev bought out issues of bills of local factories and at the time when they lost the opportunity to pay taxes, they agreed that they would pay off debts in exchange for real products. So Natalia and Vladislav received the first aircraft.

The couple agreed to the proposal of the Novosibirsk authorities and went into debt in order to gain control of the company on the basis of the Siberia squadron. But the authorities, contrary to promises, did not repurchase the asset. As a result, the family remained in civil aviation and bought planes of other carriers-bankrupts. Later, she repeatedly resorted to this tactic. While Vladislav was in charge of production, Natalia initially performed the role of his “key second opinion”, focusing on commerce and marketing.

By 2002 Siberia was considered the second among Russian airlines in terms of passenger turnover and the first in terms of domestic traffic. However, the carrier mainly knocked down the consequences of three air crashes with deaths that occurred from 2001 to 2006. As Vedomosti wrote, each tragedy led to an outflow of customers and losses of about $ 100 million.

After the tragedies of Fileva, on the initiative of Natalia, they conducted a global rebranding – Sibir became S7 Airlines. The brand has changed not only externally: the company spent less, “won on the little things” and was among the first in the world to introduce new services, said The Bell.S7 was the first in Russia to open online ticket sales and made a deal using the blockchain.

Against the background of the crisis, the family risked losing the company due to debts – and the state offered the private carrier to unite with Aeroflot. Including due to two billion credits from Alfa-Bank, the carrier survived. S7 forcedly reduced the fleet and routes, headed for savings and reached zero debt.

Nevertheless, S7 remained the first in passenger traffic after Aeroflot and, in general, the main private aviation business in the country. The industry considers Natalia’s perseverance and ability to get out of any situation to be the decisive factor.

In 2016, Vladislav left the post of S7 CEO to take up, among other things, the acquired floating cosmodrome .

The death of Filev became a tragedy not only for relatives, but also for the industry

Forbes called Filyov the voice of Russian entrepreneurs, for all her secrecy and rare conversations with journalists. She really was one of the top women in the domestic business: she got on the list of 15 businessmen who changed Russia’s perception of the world, entered S7 into the top three airlines of Eastern Europe and from 2017 did not leave the Forbes list – with no less than c 600 million dollars .

“She rarely speaks in public, almost does not act with some strong statements with respect to those or other initiatives of the aviation authorities,” – he argued the head of the analytical service of “Airport” Oleg Panteleyev. Filev was not considered to be a serious lobbyist of the industry: more often Natalia acted within the S7 structure, but she largely influenced the civil aviation industry.

The meeting during the crisis around VIM-Avia , with which the S7 has nothing to do, looks indicative . A federal eyewitness official told Forbes that then Filyova immediately offered to invest her personal funds and take passengers to the right cities: . We listened to her as spellbound and could not resist it. ”

Fileva supported colleagues, for example, the owner of Domodedovo, accused of violating security after the 2011 terrorist attack at this airport: “[There] are very law-abiding people, in fact. Money is squeezed from customers – yes, there is such a flaw. But there is no corruption at the airport itself. ” The co-owner of S7 also urged not to call officials on investment forums, since “those who are ready to bring money should sit in the front row.”

They do not do business, they are not real people. You are talking about the fight against corruption, and I wonder – where did they get the money for suits and boots. Each suit is not less than a thousand dollars worth. They dress beautifully, make some kind of floaters among themselves. We have no coats with men. We need this country.
Natalia Filevaco-owner of S7 about officials, quoted by RBC

Despite the criticism of officials, the Filyova family was also favorably treated in power structures. “They are very decent businessmen and did the whole business with their own hands. And they are some sincere people, ”said Alexander Bellin, a former head of the presidential administration, and a friend of Natalia, told The Bell.

Fileva rarely gave out comments, but journalists remembered to be an open person. “What struck me was that there was absolutely no show off, there was a lot of charm and worldly wisdom (and at the same time it was clear that character was hoo), which perfectly combined with business acumen and the ability to count well. Natalia talked with strangers for many hours without stopping, and it was endlessly interesting to listen to her, ” Elizaveta Osetinskaya, the founder of the publication , recalled the meeting with The Bell subscribers.

“Among the employees of the S7 Group, the couple of the Filevs leadership was held under the nicknames“ Dad ”and“ Mom ”. Many have become orphaned today, ” wrote Andrei Andreev, director for perspective development of the Irkutsk airport.

Before the disaster, Fileva discussed with the head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, the first test flight of the new Il-112V light transport aircraft. According to the official, they regularly communicated and hoped to create together a “sea” version of the Soyuz-5 rocket. What will happen with the plans now is unknown.

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