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Major Businessman, “Wealthiest Man in Armenia” Dies

Major entrepreneur, owner of Grand Holding Hrant Vardanyan (pictured), 65, died from cardiac arrest last night at Nairi Medical Center in Yerevan. He was taken to hospital by ambulance, but doctors were unable to save his life. 

Included in Vardanyan's holding company are the largest producers of confectionary and cigarettes in Armenia. His two sons, Karen and Mikael Vardanyan, were elected as Members of Parliament in 2007. Karen Vardanyan entered parliament on the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) slate, while Mikael Vardanyan, from the 40th precinct in Tavush marz (province). 

During former prime minister Tigran Sargsyan's term, Vardanyan and his sons repeatedly criticized the economic policies pursued by the government, arguing that the government was not acting in the interests of local manufacturers. In interviews, Vardanyan also alluded to the fact that creating problems for him was State Revenue Committee chair Gagik Khachatryan, one of the largest importers of confectionary products in Armenia. At the same time, Vardanyan's companies continued to record growth. In various interviews, the entrepreneurs confirmed that the consumption of locally produced cigarettes in the Armenian market is 50–60%.

Vardanyan's two sons did not succeed in the 2012 parliamentary elections, while elected from the 40th precinct, according to official figures, was the director of International Masis Tabak, a company owned by the Vardanyan family, Marine Marabyan, who was called to protect the Vardanyan family's business interests in parliament. AR TV also belonged to Vardanyan. 

In a classified US diplomatic cable dated November 17, 2009, and leaked by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks in 2011, then US Ambassador to Armenia Marie L. Yovanovitch, referring to "two major political/economic pyramids" headed by Serzh Sargsyan and former president Robert Kocharian, categorized Hrant Vardanyan in the Sargsyan camp. 

"We were told he is the wealthiest man in Armenia," wrote Yovanovitch, referring to Vardanyan. 

Photo credit: Hayeli.am