Judge Says Usmanov Doesn't Have to Be Party to Lawsuit

The Moscow Arbitration Court on Wednesday turned down a petition by United Press asking that Metalloinvest half-owner Alisher Usmanov be named as a third party in a suit filed by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov against fellow billionaire Vladimir Potanin.

Prokhorov filed the suit against Potanin and United Press, the parent company of The Moscow Times, after the newspaper published an interview in June, in which Potanin claimed that Prokhorov had reneged on an agreement to sell his stake in Norilsk Nickel to Potanin and Usmanov and buy Potanin's stake in Polyus Gold saying Prokhorov should not behave like a "Zhirinovsky in business."

Moscow Times reporter Nadia Popova was later added as a defendant.

"We believe it is necessary to involve Mr. Usmanov in the process as a third party, as the plaintiff has demanded a retraction of the entire phrase, including the part mentioning Mr. Usmanov … so the court's decision might also touch upon Mr. Usmanov's interests," said Anna Volodina, who represented United Press at the preliminary hearing.

Prokhorov's lawyer, Marina Baryshnikova, argued that granting the move would delay the legal process.

Judge Nikolai Tarasov admonished Prokhorov and Potanin during the hearing, saying that arguing in court was not going to help them finish splitting their assets.

Potanin's lawyers said they were ready to consider "reasonable offers from Prokhorov's side to settle the dispute." Baryshnikova said she would brief her client on the position of the court and the defendant.

The first hearing for the case proper is scheduled for Oct. 22.

"You understand, after all, that filing a suit to defend your business reputation is not going to help you divide your business," Tarasov said. "Like children in a sandbox, one is calling the other names."