Fridman to Take Smaller Role at Bank, Focus on Alfa Group

Billionaire Mikhail Fridman is set to resign Friday as chairman of Alfa Bank to focus on the overall management of Alfa Group.

Fridman's first deputy, Pyotr Shmida, will replace him as chairman of the bank on Friday, vice president Alexander Gafin said Wednesday, Interfax reported.

Fridman is to remain on the bank's board. He will also continue as chairman of the Alfa Group's supervisory board and his other companies, including TNK-BP, VimpelCom and X5 Retail Group.

"He has many, varied businesses. Mikhail Fridman is primarily focusing on projects in the telecommunications sphere," Gafin said, the agency reported. "He will continue to be one of the people formulating the bank's strategy."

Repeated calls to Alfa Bank's press service were not answered Wednesday.

Fridman's resignation is in line with Alfa Bank's new strategy, according to which a major shareholder must not be involved in the day-to-day running of the bank, Kommersant said, citing a source inside the bank.

"Mikhail Fridman is joining the rank of Russian businessmen who are relinquishing their positions at the helm to allow professionals to manage the companies," said Leonid Slipchenko, a banking analyst at UralSib.

"His decision could also signal the beginning of a big reorganization in Alfa Bank."

Fridman indirectly controls about 36.1 percent in Alfa Bank, while German Khan, TNK-BP CEO, and Alexei Kuzmichyov, Alfa-Eko chairman, control 23 percent and 17.9 percent, respectively, according to the memorandum that accompanied the bank's euro bond placement in 2006. Alfa Bank president Pyotr Aven also disclosed in 2006 that he controls a 14 percent stake in the bank.