Bulat Utemuratov is a leading Kazakh entrepreneur and philanthropist, regularly topping Forbes’ Kazakhstan list. He is the key investor in the projects managed by Verny Capital Investment Group and oversees the activities of the Bulat Utemuratov Foundation which focuses on health, education, urban and cultural development in Kazakhstan.
After studying economics at the Almaty Institute for National Economy (Narxoz University), Mr. Utemuratov began his career as Deputy Chairman of the Society District Executive Committee in 1986. Over the next ten years, Mr Utemuratov worked for the State Committee for Foreign Economic Relations, the Kazakh Trading House in Vienna, and then the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and the Ministry of Industry and Trade in Kazakhstan.
In 1995, with a group of partners, Mr Utemuratov founded the Almaty Trade and Finance Bank (ATF Bank), and by 2007 became its controlling shareholder. During this time, ATF Bank grew from a small financial institution to one of the leading players in the national banking sector. In 2007, Bulat Utemuratov, along with minority shareholders, sold ATF Bank to UniCredit Group for a record $2.2 billion. According to experts, this transaction was the largest in the CIS banking sector at the time.
Mr, Utemuratov became the Ambassador to Switzerland in 1996 before returning to Kazakhstan in 1999, where he then held various government positions within the Security Council and the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Kazakhstan, including advising the President on economic affairs and heading the Presidential Property Management Directorate. Mr. Utemuratov’s last position in the civil service was the Special Representative of the President for Cooperation with the Kyrgyz Republic. From July 2007 to January 2022, he was a member of the Political Council of the Nur Otan political party.
Alongside his business career, Mr. Utemuratov is actively engaged in philanthropic activities incorporating the principles of sustainable development and social responsibility into his investments. The total cost of the projects implemented by the Bulat Utemuratov Foundation is more than $150 million.
The Bulat Utemuratov Foundation allocated $15 million to its flagship project “Autism. One World for All” which provides early intervention programs for autistic children and support for their families. The Foundation is one of few local organizations in Kazakhstan with a diverse portfolio of nationwide projects. This enables the Foundation to drive sustainable improvements to the country’s standard of living and respond to critical emergencies. Along with providing emergency response at the local level, in 2023 the Foundation donated $5 million to provide relief in Türkiye following the devastating earthquake. $1 million was donated to the families of the miners who died in the Kostenko mine explosion in October 2023.
To address the regional social development gap, the Foundation has initiated a variety of social infrastructure projects across Kazakhstan worth over $100 million, which will be donated to the local municipalities. In September 2023, a new school, funded by the Foundation, was opened in the city of Kosshy. It is the first school in the country to comply with the requirements of the «comfortable school» national standard. Currently, construction of an airport in Kyzylorda, a public center in Kosshy, and two schools in Almaty region is underway.
As part of its philanthropic activities, the Bulat Utemuratov Foundation actively promotes positive youth development. A unique leadership program has been incorporated into the school curriculum in 234 schools of the country to help students develop critical thinking, public speaking, and negotiation skills. Further, to foster a culture of sustainability and teamwork, the Foundation initiated the Jasyl Mektep (Green School) project in 36 schools in Almaty and Astana. Through the program, children can learn a pattern of healthy activity, by planting and cultivating plants, and grow self-confidence from achieving their goals and enjoying the food that they have grown. A total of over 40,000 students have participated in the two programs so far.
Bulat Utemuratov directly supports two not-for-profit educational institutions, namely Narxoz University, one of the leading private universities in Kazakhstan, and the Haileybury International Schools in Kazakhstan, which offer a broad liberal education following the traditions of independent British schooling. The proceeds of these institutions are reinvested into staff capacity building, infrastructure development, and improving education quality.
In December 2023, Bulat Utemuratov was named Philanthropist of the Year 2023 by the independent members of the Kazakhstan Growth Forum’s Expert Council in recognition of the Foundation’s social projects.
Contribution to the future of Kazakhstani athletes
Bulat Utemuratov allocated over $150 million to the development of tennis in Kazakhstan, training of coaches, the construction of tennis infrastructure around the country, and long-term training programs for young talented athletes. Such approach has paid off, and juniors, along with the established national team players, such as Elena Rybakina, Alexander Bublik, Anna Danilina, Zhibek Kulambayeva and others, are now demonstrating strong performance on courts. In 2022, the U14 team took the 4th place in the world, and in 2023, Kazakhstani boys and girls reached the final stage of the Junior Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup for the first time. They played at a high level and defeated the leading players of Spain, Argentina, Italy, and Australia in their age groups.
The first annual ATP 250 series tournament was held in Astana in 2020. In 2022, due to the cancellation of the tournament in Beijing and the growing recognition of the tournament in Astana, ATP agreed to temporarily upgrade the category of the tournament to ATP 500. The ATP 500 Astana Open was attended by six of the top ten players, including Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alkaras, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
In 2024, the Association of Tennis Professionals approved the relocation of the ATP 250 tennis series tournament from Astana to Almaty.
Founder of the Bulat Utemuratov Foundation
President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation, read more in the profile of The Marque