From Russia with Love — for Facebook

If you haven’t heard already, Facebook just announced a $200 million cash infusion from the Russian investment firm, Digital Sky Technologies, a major stakeholder in some of Russia and Europe’s biggest Internet companies. In return, Digital Sky is getting a 1.96 percent stake, meaning the transaction values Facebook at roughly $10 billion. The two companies say that Digital Sky is also planning to buy up too $100 million in employees’ Facebook stock, providing former and current employees some liquidity while the company marches toward an IPO that most expect to happen in 2011.

You can read plenty about the deal pretty much everywhere. In the meantime, if you’re interested in the man behind the transaction (not Zuckerberg — the other guy, Digital Sky’s founder, Yuri Milner),  you might be interested in a 1990 profile that appeared in the Daily Pennsylvanian. Here’s a snippet:

Dressed conservatively in a sweater and slacks, Yuri Milner looks like any other Wharton MBA candidate.

But, unlike many of his classmates, this first-year student from Moscow has no plans to pursue a position in a prestigious Wall Street investment banking firm or in a Los Angeles consulting outfit.

Milner, the first Soviet citizen ever to study at Wharton, instead intends to return with his degree to the Soviet Union to take advantage of the developing free markets.

“My idea is to be in the most useful place in the proper time,” Milner said.

He said he wants to be “like a bridge” between the developing markets in his country and those in Europe and the United States.

Until a year and a half ago, Milner says he was “a different man.” After earning his master’s degree in theoretical physics from Moscow State University, Milner took a job as a manager at a small “independent” company — Milner hesitates to use the word “private” — organizing business forums and conferences on topics “of interest to both Russians and Americans.”

This company soon began a business night school, under the auspices of Moscow State University, which hired two American professors, one in business and one in English.

He then decided that he wanted to learn business the way Americans learn it, which of course meant crossing the ocean.

He contacted Decision Sciences Professor Aron Katsenelinboigen, whom he knew from his childhood in Moscow.

Katsenelinboigen, who has been in the U.S. since 1973, said he has known Milner since Milner was a baby. He said he thinks Milner has a bright future in business if the Soviet economy continues to liberalize.

“He has many advantages,” Katsenelinboigen said. “In addition to knowing the language [English], he has a very sharp mind to formulate problems and to analyze them.”

Katsenelinboigen also said he thinks that Milner’s lack of experience in Soviet economics helped him at Wharton.

“His mind was not spoiled by Marxism,” he said. “They spend too much time on it in economics in the Soviet Union.”

The rest of the nearly 20-year-old article  is here. (H/T: Bart Schachter)

Interestingly, like some of Facebook’s other investors, Milner doesn’t appear to derive much from using the service personally. His profile lists just six friends.