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Oligarchs are some of the most controversial, consequential, complex, and poorly understood figures in global business and politics. They generate important economic and political outcomes, the origin story of which deserves to be better understood by businesses, NGOs, and ordinary citizens.

This course seeks to open up the black box of the oligarch phenomenon, enabling students to understand how these actors make decisions, gain wealth and power, and increasingly dominate our world. The course focuses on the oligarch process as seen through the lives of 16 oligarchs active around the world from 1946 to the present.

This course will be of interest to both undergraduate and graduate students, particularly 1) business, economics, finance, and management students who may interact with oligarchs and their structures during their careers, 2) political science and public policy students who wish to complement and enrich their understanding of the processes through which wealth, income, and power inequality are generated, and 3) others who wish to participate in a more informed way as citizens in their countries’ political dialogues.

Regular students at the University (students who are studying for an undergraduate or graduate degree) will not be able to register through the Educación Continua for this course. In case of registration, the Management will proceed with its return.


By the end of the course, participants should be able to:

  • Describe how oligarchs think and act to acquire wealth and power, and transform one into the other.
  • Apply the oligarch’s process in a series of case study-based decisions and a live team-based simulation.
  • Create, manage, and add value to a simulated oligarch “team” with participants from different backgrounds.


The course employs a mixture of learning strategies, including short lectures, discussion, case studies, and a final simulation structured around a complex, contemporary oligarch-related decision. At least one guest speaker with oligarch expertise will also participate in the course.

Evaluation System:

  • Four case study writeups 40% (10% each)
  • Team formation 10%
  • Final exam 20%
  • Team-based simulation 20%
  • Class participation 10%


  • In the first module, Types, the course introduces and defines oligarchs. The literature on oligarchs is summarized, and the development of the oligarch phenomenon since the end of World War II is described. Then, the two main oligarch types are introduced: business and political. Sixteen oligarchs–including three from Latin America–are introduced as the main data sources for the course.
  • In the second module, Strategies, the four strategies employed by oligarchs are introduced and elaborated. First, oligarchs are entrepreneurial. Second, they have many “friends with benefits,” repeatedly coupling and decoupling with their stakeholders. Third, oligarchs employ strategic timing to wait for the main chance to accumulate wealth and power, and then transform one into the other. Fourth, oligarchs utilize secrecy and stealthiness to fly under the radar, avoiding significant public scrutiny for as long as possible.
  • In the third module, Endings, the course first looks back, then looks forward. The historical experience of oligarchs prior to 1946 is analyzed. Then the future of oligarchs in an increasingly uncertain world is considered, as well as the ethical dimensions of oligarchs’ behavior. This module concludes with a team-based simulation of a contemporary series of decisions being made by an oligarch.


David Lingelbach

David Lingelbach (BS, MS, MIT; PhD, Exeter) is a Professor of Entrepreneurship at The University of Baltimore. He is the author (with Valentina Rodríguez Guerra) of The Oligarchs' Grip: Fusing Wealth and Power (2023). David has been awarded Fulbrights to Myanmar and Colombia and nominated twice for a Carnegie Fellowship. Prior to becoming an academic, he worked in international finance and development, including as CEO of Bank of America's businesses in the former Soviet Union and President of the first venture capital fund in post-communist Russia.

Valentina Rodríguez Guerra

The Center for the Study of Oligarchs


Eventualmente la Universidad puede verse obligada, por causas de fuerza mayor a cambiar sus profesores o cancelar el programa. En este caso el participante podrá optar por la devolución de su dinero o reinvertirlo en otro curso de Educación Continua que se ofrezca en ese momento, asumiendo la diferencia si la hubiere.

La apertura y desarrollo del programa estará sujeto al número de inscritos. El Departamento/Facultad (Unidad académica que ofrece el curso) de la Universidad de los Andes se reserva el derecho de admisión dependiendo del perfil académico de los aspirantes.