Twitter has received an $800 million dollar infusion of venture capital from Yuri Milner’s Digital Sky Technologies investment fund, the largest VC investment in history. The amount is double Digital Sky’s much touted earlier investment of $400 million in Facebook. The investment doubles the value of the micro-blogging company, since its last round of investments in December.
It also bolsters Milner’s position as a key player in Silicon Valley financing. Milner called Twitter “one of the few companies that has truly changed the world. We couldn’t pass up the chance to be a bigger part of its future.”
The deal comes on the same day that Russian prime minister, former president and likely presidential candidate Vladimir Putin said in the wake of the debt crisi that the U.S is “living like parasites off the global economy and their monopoly of the dollar.” Milner is considered to be very close to Putin.
According to a DST spokesman, “Yuri Milner in his personal capacity is a member of the president’s commission on modernization. In this capacity he acts as an adviser on the promotion of broadband development and electronic government in Russia.”
Nevertheless, that same spokesman denied claims that Milner and DST receives “any formal support from the Kremlin.“ An unnamed Russian source has denied this, saying, “DST has the backing of the big boys at the top in the Kremlin, which is why it will go from strength to strength.”
In fact, its top shareholder is Alisher Usmanov, who owns a 32 percent stake in DST. Usmanov was awarded a Medal of Honor of Russia in 2004—when Putin was President—and is a member of the Board of Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs and the chairman of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs committee on regulatory activity improvement and removal of administrative barriers.
This is part of the reason why CNN referred to Usmanov as, “one of Vladimir Putin’s ‘oligarchs,’ as the businessmen in Moscow with deep ties to the Kremlin have come to be called.”
Usmanov himself is better known as the CEO of GazProm’s investment holdings. Gazprom is the largest extractor of natural gas in the world and Russia’s largest company (the Russian government still owns a controlling stake). He has, however, been expanding into media in recent years, including publishing both books and magazines, television, and the internet. He now dominates the Russian internet market, and through DST is making inroads into the American market as well, as a leading investor in Facebook, Zynga, and now Twitter, through Milner and DST.
In February, Businessweek reported that DST plans to invest at least $1 billion in social networking. Monday’s announcement that the company was investing in Twitter covers a substantial part of that, but there is still a couple of hundred million dollars left. That means another major investment could be coming soon.