"There were a lot of people who wanted to buy them, and he parlayed that -- as so many of these oligarchs did -- into something much, much bigger."
While Berezovsky made a good portion of his money from luxury car sales, his wealth and political influence skyrocketed when he bought into Russian media.
He invested in the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corp., which -- with TBS as a partner -- founded Moscow's first independent television station, TV-6.
Under President Boris Yeltsin, the Russian Federation's first president from 1991 to 1999, "there were really no rules governing anything," Dougherty said.
Businessmen who came to be known as oligarchs amassed massive wealth and political influence in the 1990s during the privatization of Russia following the fall of the Soviet Union.
Businessmen like Berezovsky wound up lending the fledgling Russian government money "when it was desperate for money," Dougherty said. "These guys picked up companies on the cheap -- for pennies on the dollar."
A year or two later, the companies were worth much more, and the owners became wealthy.
In return for backing Yeltsin, Berezovsky gained political influence within the Kremlin.
He later backed Putin for president, pouring money into the latter's political party.
Fall from political favor
But after he was elected, Putin saw that the oligarchs had the potential to gain too much political power and moved to thwart them, Dougherty said.
It has been widely reported that Putin resented the meddling of the oligarchs, particularly Berezovsky.
"He was obviously very ambitious, and he wanted, I think, to be in political control of Russia during Yeltsin's time, and that didn't work out for him," said Stuart Loory, a former Turner Broadcasting System executive vice president, who was a consultant to Berezovsky during the 1990s.
Berezovsky did not have an easy time of it as an oligarch.
"There were two attempts on his life, one at his country home outside Moscow in a gated community. Somebody planted a bomb in his car and, fortunately, it didn't work very well," Loory said.
"And the other was when he was leaving his club and there was a car bomb in the car and his driver was killed and he escaped without injury."
Fleeing to England
Within months of Putin's election in 2000, the government began trying to collect on tax claims against the oligarchs, including Berezovsky.
That's when Berezovsky fled.
Berezovsky began agitating from Britain against Putin, calling for a coup to oust the Russian president.
In 2003, as Russia was seeking his return, Berezovsky was granted political asylum by British authorities after they realized he was wanted on political grounds, not criminal, according to published reports at the time.
The case strained relations between Moscow and London.
Berezovsky was convicted of fraud and tax evasion in absentia by a Russian court in 2007.
But about two months ago, he sent a letter to Putin asking permission to return to Russia, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
"He admitted that he had made a lot of mistakes, asked forgiveness for the mistakes and asked Putin to let him return home," Peskov said, according to a duty officer with the presidential press service.