By Duncan Mackay

Alisher Usmanov St Petersburg 2 June 2012November 12 - International Fencing Federation (FIE) President Alisher Usmanov, Russia's richest man, today found himself at the centre of controversy after a London-based public relations firm edited his Wikipedia entry to remove information that could cast him in a bad light.

The Russian oligarch is preparing to float his MegaFon mobile phone company on the London Stock Exchange at a value of more than $12 billion (£7.5 billion/€10 billion).

An investigation in The Times found that RLM Finsbury, which is owned by Sir Martin Sorrell's WPP group, was behind a series of deletions on Usmanov Wikipedia page.

Among the items that were removed were references to a criminal conviction that was given to Usmanov during the time of the Soviet Union.

They also removed details of a "freedom of speech" row, in which Usmanov issued threats to bloggers repeating critical comments made by a former British Ambassador who said the tycoon was a "gangster and a racketeer". 

These details were replaced by sections alluding to Usmanov's philanthropic activities and passion for fine art.

Alisher Usmaov wikipedia edited2A PR firm working for Alisher Usmanov has been forced to apologise after deleting negative information from his Wikipedia entry

The PR firm has since apologised for editing the Wikipedia entry and claimed that Usmanov was not aware of this tactic.

"This was not done in the proper manner nor was this approach authorised by Mr Usmanov," said Finsbury in a statement.

"We apologise for this and it will not happen again."

According to the 2011 edition of Forbes magazine, Usmanov has a fortune estimated at $18.1 billion (£11.4 billion/€14.2 billion), making him the world's 28th richest person

The 55-year-old Usmanov beat Frenchman René Roch 66 votes to 61 to be elected the new President of the FIE four years ago. 

Usmanov, a former sabre fencer who once formed part of the Uzbek Republic team. had previously been head of the European Fencing Confederation (EFC) and pumped much-needed cash into the sport.

Usmanov is also a major shareholder in Premier League Arsenal.

In the coming weeks, MegaFon, a major telecommunications operator controlled by Usmanov, which is a Tier One sponsor of the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi, is expected to carry out one of the largest stock market listings by a Russian company in London.

Usmanov also owns Kommersant Publishing House, the official media partner of Sochi 2014.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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