Holland & Barrett (H&B), the UK’s largest store for supplements and wellbeing products, is under pressure over its links to oligarch Mikhail Fridman. The private equity firm ‘LetterOne’, founded by Fridman, holds a major stake in H&B. On Twitter, people thus urged us to buy our supplements elsewhere. One customer tweeted: ‘Please boycott Holland & Barrett as it is owned by a Russian oligarch with links to Putin.’

Fridman who owns Athlone House, a sprawling £65million mansion in Highgate, North London, was sanctioned by the European Union. His assets were frozen and he is banned from traveling. Consequently, he spoke out against the fighting in Ukraine but refused to denounce Putin. He has since stepped down from the board of LetterOne.

Holland & Barrett itself is unlikely to face sanctions as the oligarch owns less than half the shares in the parent company LetterOne. Fridman convened a press conference last week, which was broadcast on television. However, the move might have backfired, as it alerted H&B shoppers to his connection with the stores.

Fridman was born in Ukraine and has an Israelian passport. He made most of his £11billion fortune from oil, gas, banking, and telecoms. He founded Alfa Bank in January 1991, which grew to become one of the largest private banks in Russia. In 2013, he set up LetterOne in London using £11billion raised from the sale of his stake in TNKBP to Kremlin-backed oil giant Rosneft, whose petrol is currently fuelling Russian tanks. Fridman and Aven (another oligarch) own just under 50 percent of LetterOne. The rest of the company is split between board members German Khan, Alexey Kuzmichev and Andrei Kosogov – who all left the board recently.

A spokesman for LetterOne said: ‘Holland and Barrett is a fantastic business. The business employs thousands of people and we will do everything to protect them.’ Holland & Barrett’s made a gross profit of £445million for the year to the end of September 2020. Fridman and Aven said the EU sanctions are spurious and unfounded and vowed to contest them.



Quite apart from the oligarch co-ownership, I did ask myself some time ago: is H&B a recommendable shop? It is advertised on Facebook as follows:

Book your online wellness consultation today and speak to one of our qualified health & wellbeing advisors.
We are able to advise on a range of health topics including gut health, immunity, anxiety & more.
Several times during the last months, I went to my local H&B and asked specific questions about supplements. The overall impression I got was far from positive.

28 Responses to ‘Please boycott Holland & Barrett as it is owned by a Russian oligarch with links to Putin.’ 

  • Incredible that a business can make nearly half a billion pounds in gross profit (not turnover!) based on products that are entirely unnecessary.

  • I had this response when I contact them today:
    Thank you for taking the time to contact Holland & Barrett, and for sharing your concerns with us.

    Holland & Barrett stands with Ukraine. We are opposed to the invasion and are distressed by the humanitarian crisis. We have already donated over £380,000 of aid and are actively looking at more ways to help.

    Holland & Barrett is proud to be a UK-registered company that has grown over the last 150 years from one store in the UK to over 1,600 stores and operations in 19 countries around the world employing over 8,000 colleagues.

    In 2017, Holland & Barrett was acquired by LetterOne. Russian citizens Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven were minority shareholders in LetterOne, but are no longer involved with the company. Holland & Barrett has never paid any dividends to LetterOne shareholders since its acquisition.

    Our efforts are fully focused on helping with the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and continuing to support the wellness of our customers and colleagues in the UK and around the world.

  • Yeah people should definitely boycott Holland and Barrett and boycott supplements. A balanced varied diet, at least five fruit and vegetables a day, regular exercise, moderate drinking and avoiding smoking will do more good.
    There’s something wrong with humans – we’ll fall for all sorts of things with no evidence behind them and not do the things which do work.

    • There are times when supplements are crucial, for example when eating a plant-based diet. A lot of vegans dislike taking supplements, and they end up with B12 deficiencies etc. Nutrients that may be lacking in a plant-based diet.

      • Such dietary supplements are available from multiple retailers, not just H&B.

        Which part of John’s “A balanced varied diet” did you not understand.

        • “Such dietary supplements are available from multiple retailers”, and many are much better value.

        • Such dietary supplements are available from multiple retailers, not just H&B.

          I know … I have never bought anything at H&B anyway.
          A plant-based diet can be quite balanced and varied; and should be if possible.

      • A volitional exclusion of a whole food group which leads to a nutritional deficiency does not prove any necessity for dietary supplements, it just reinforces my point about humans doing silly and dangerous things. Thank you.

        • Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets

          It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes. Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage. Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity. Low intake of saturated fat and high intakes of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds (all rich in fiber and phytochemicals) are characteristics of vegetarian and vegan diets that produce lower total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and better serum glucose control. These factors contribute to reduction of chronic disease. Vegans need reliable sources of vitamin B-12, such as fortified foods or supplements.

          There are huge health advantages to eating a plant-based diet, as long as one is willing to take a few supplements.

        • Also see the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020

          A healthy vegetarian dietary pattern can be achieved by incorporating protein foods from plants. Compared with the Healthy U.S.-Style Dietary Pattern, the Healthy Vegetarian Dietary Pattern is higher in soy products (particularly tofu and other processed soy products); beans, peas, and lentils; nuts and seeds; and whole grains. Inclusion of dairy and eggs make this an example of a lacto-ovo vegetarian pattern.

          It describes healthy eating styles, including vegetarian and vegan.

          • Robin H

            Perhaps you are not aware that many many people gave up vegan diets due to ill health. Conversely, many many people have rid themselves of chronic disease, and feel much better eating a diet of nothing but animal products… many many of them with meats only.

            And perhaps you could explain how plants which need fertilizer and chemicals and water are so much more planet friendly vs animals that are grass fed. Yes I know, methane gas, that’s part of the argument.

            In the end, there is not specific diet that works for everyone.

          • James Joromat,

            And perhaps you could explain how plants which need fertilizer and chemicals and water are so much more planet friendly vs animals that are grass fed. Yes I know, methane gas, that’s part of the argument.


            It is many times more efficient to grow plants for human consumption than for animal feed, which ends up requiring much more land, fertiliser and water for the same amount of calories by the time the animal is eaten.

            Grass more-or-less stops growing for about six months of the year, and most grass-fed livestock have to have their diet supplemented by other fodder, particularly soya beans, which are not particularly environmentally-friendly to grow and transport. Grass itself requires fertiliser and water, and is often grown on land which could be used for other crops.

            Reducing the area of land used for farming is an urgent priority for the health of the planet; this is one of the reasons that I do not particularly support organic farming, which generally has very low yields (there is very little evidence that organically-produced food is healthier to eat, or better for the environment as a whole; as far as I can see it is an expensive luxury).

          • Dr. Julian

            Evidently the moderator has determined this conversation is off subject.
            Thanks for your opinion.

          • James Joromat,

            It isn’t opinion. Ask any farmer about the practicalities of producing meat.

  • The oligarch is currently banned from receiving dividends or participating as a shareholder in H&B but make no mistake once the war is over he’ll be back eventually as owner of all those shares as his assets have been frozen rather than taken over by the state. And the statement by H&B that he received no dividends since taking over the company in 2017 is true but misleading as he probably chose not to take any dividends. And H&B stating they’ve donated money to ukrainian causes is an attempt to whitewash their company so it’s not all sorted unless you want to fool yourself into believing you can shop there with a clear conscience.

  • I have limited time to engage with the details of this due to other commitments. I engaged here in good faith, taking the time to use the information found here on this site to write to H&B asking for information and then taking the time to come back here and share that and ask for input.
    The often unhelpful, superior-in-tone, possibly even sarcastic responses, and seen being given to others as well, don’t really encourage me to do so again.
    It’s saying something when the ‘right on’ people meant to be doing the right thing and opposing Russian oligarchs are less helpful and less polite than the companies they accuse of representing them.
    I won’t let it put me off looking into this further. Brian – thanks at least for responding in detail above and sharing your interpretation of H&Bs response. Not so impressed with the tone of your ‘unless you want to fool yourself’ comment.

    • [EMK wrote] I engaged here in good faith, taking the time to use the information found here on this site to write to H&B asking for information and then taking the time to come back here and share that and ask for input.

      Your first comment began “I had this response when I contact them today” followed by an unverifiable reply: a reply to what exactly you didn’t bother to tell us. Furthermore, your first comment did not “ask for input”.

      If you don’t like the ‘tone’ in the comments then damned well lead by example, instead of whinging.

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