The son of a Russian billionaire close to President Vladimir Putin has landed the head coaching job at one of the country’s top ice hockey teams despite little, if any, experience.
Roman Rotenberg, who has never served as a coach or played the game professionally, was named to the top post at SKA St. Petersburg, one of the premium teams in the largely Russian Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
Roman Rotenberg is the son of Boris Rotenberg, one of Russia’s richest businessmen and a childhood friend of Putin. He was sanctioned along with other members of Russia’s inner circle by the EU and the United States in 2014 after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
Owned by the Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom, SKA is one of the KHL’s wealthiest teams. SKA’s president is Gennady Timchenko, another Russian tycoon with ties to Putin.
In a statement posted to its website on January 4, SKA described Rotenberg’s appointment as “improving staff management.”
The man he replaced, Valery Bragin, will remain at SKA in another role.
Roman Rotenberg has never played or coached professional ice hockey. In 2019, he did receive a coaching license from a state-run university in Siberia.
Last September, the 40-year-old told the sports channel Match TV that he’d watched 800 hockey games since 2014 and considers this to be “serious experience.”
Roman Rotenberg also serves as the vice president of Russia’s Ice Hockey Federation, where his uncle Arkady Rotenberg chairs the board of directors.