Putin Ally Puts TV Channels Into National Media Holding

Bank Rossiya, whose largest shareholder is Yury Kovalchuk, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, is gathering television channels Ren-TV and St. Petersburg-based Channel 5 under a single holding called National Media Group, the new company said Friday.

Bank Rossiya, steelmaker Severstal, oil firm Surgutneftegaz and insurance group Sogaz will pool the 68 percent of Ren-TV and 72 percent of Channel 5 they currently control, the holding said.

Lyubov Sovershayeva -- the head of Bank Rossiya unit Abros who has chaired the board at Ren-TV since 2006 and the board of Petersburg TV and Radio Company, the owner of Channel 5, since last year -- will also head the new company, National Media Group said.

Bank Rossiya, which currently owns a 38 percent stake in Channel 5 through Abros, will initially have a controlling stake in the holding, the statement said.

Other media assets, including daily newspaper Izvestia, may also be included in the new holding, the statement said.

Sergei Fursenko, head of Lentransgaz and president of Zenit Football Club, has been tapped for the post of general director, Interfax reported.

The founders of National Media Group are uniting their media assets "with a view to making the channels more competitive and their management more efficient," the statement said. The group would be "guided by the need" to educate young people and to establish "efficient information exchange among the public, business and the authorities," it said.

The media group will have an advisory council, to be headed by Olympic champion and State Duma Deputy Alina Kabayeva. It will also include Italy's Angelo Codignoni, a former president of the Eurosport television channel, and Hans Mahr, head of the media group of Germany's RTL, which owns a 30 percent stake in Ren-TV, Itar-Tass reported.