Galimzhan Yessenov has lost control of two valuable companies following his divorce from the daughter of one of Kazakhstan’s most powerful politicians.

Yessenov had been seen a rising star in Kazakhstan’s business world and was estimated by Forbes to be worth more than $500 million.

However, he was recently forced to give up a 50% stake in a fertilizer business called Kazphosphate, which had annual revenues of $330 million according to its most recent accounts. The shares were given to his wife Aizhan Yessim last March, although the share split was only revealed in company filings last month.

Yessenov has also lost control of ATF Bank, which he acquired in 2012 for $500 million. ATF has been merged with Jýsan Bank and Yessenov will not be given any representation on the board of directors despite retaining a shareholding.

The loss of control of Kazphosphate and ATF comes as Yessenov’s 13-year marriage to Aizhan Yessim has broken down. She is the daughter of Akhmetzhan Yessimov, one of Kazakhstan’s most powerful politicians and a close ally of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Akhmetzhan Yessimov is also a former deputy prime minister of Kazakhstan and is currently head of the country’s sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna. It has been reported that Yessenov may have received help from his father-in-law and the family’s political connections in building his business empire.

Yessenov acquired Kazphosphate in 2007 for $120 million, just a few months after his marriage to Aizhan Yessim. Yessenov was 25 at the time of the Kazphosphate deal and he had no independent wealth, leading to speculation that the acquisition was backed by his new father-in-law.

The Kazphosphate deal was funded using loans from companies in the British Virgin Islands that were described in company accounts as “related” to Yessenov.

Similarly, there was speculation that Yessenov’s purchase of ATF was funded by his father-in-law and other powerful political figures. While the bank was under Yessenov’s control, it benefited from a number of government bailouts and also received hundreds of millions of dollars in cash deposits from Samruk – the state fund run by his father-in-law.

The surprise merger of ATF and Jýsan Bank, which is ultimately owned by former President Nazarbyaev, was announced at the end of 2020. The acquisition brought together two banks with roughly equal assets: Jýsan Bank has assets of 1.57 trillion tenge while ATF has assets of 1.37 trillion tenge. The loan portfolios are 874.5 billion tenge and 872.8 billion tenge respectively.

In a statement, Jýsan Bank said: “As a result of the transaction, the total assets of the two banks belonging to the Jýsan group will amount to about 3 trillion tenge, or about 10% of the assets of the banking sector in Kazakhstan.”

Despite the similar size of the banks, the merger is not one of equals. Yessenov will receive shares equivalent to only 19.96% of the enlarged bank and no board seats, which implies he may have been holding a stake in ATF on behalf of family members or other members of Kazakhstan’s elite.

Yessenov’s loss of control at Kazphosphate and ATF shows that when an individual falls out of favour with the political elite in Kazakhstan, their assets can disappear as quickly as they were gained.