Fish Baron Planning Pugachyova Hall

VedomostiVorobyov said that although he is a friend of Pugachyova's, the project is "a business venture, not patronage."
Maxim Vorobyov, co-owner of the Russkoye More fish-processing company, and his partner Mikhail Kenin are moving into the concert business with a plan to build a theater for pop star Alla Pugachyova in St. Petersburg.

The two are planning to build a cultural and business center on a 3.3-hectare plot at the mouth of the Smolenka River on Vasilyevsky Island. The plot was leased by the Theater of Alla Pugachyova's Songs for surveying work in late December, according to the St. Petersburg's building committee. After an 11-month lease, the company can purchase the land for construction.

Vorobyov's company says it is the largest importer and processor of seafood in Russia, with preliminary 2008 earnings before interest, taxes, debt and amortization of 1.3 billion rubles ($41.9 million) under international financial accounting standards.

According to the state registry of legal entities, the founders of the Theater of Alla Pugachyova's Songs are Maxim Vorobyov (33 percent), Mikhail Kenin (33 percent), Alla Pugachyova (17 percent) and Kristina Orbakaite (17 percent).

The plot will be used to build a multipurpose complex with a modern concert hall, Vorobyov said in an interview.

"For its primary function, we had in mind a contemporary, first-rate hall, which St. Petersburg doesn't yet have. The remaining parts of the complex have yet to be decided," Vorobyov said.

In 2009, he said, the company expects to do "active planning" for the complex and begin construction in 2010. "We're not afraid of the crisis. Building costs will drop dramatically, and we're expecting to get very favorable terms from a general contractor by 2010," Vorobyov added.

Overall figures for investment in the project, which is being developed by Jones Lang LaSalle, have not yet been determined, he said, but they could be more than $100 million, including funds raised from shareholders and by loans. An exact investment figure and funding sources will be outlined in their business plan, he said.

"In St. Petersburg, there aren't any modern, well-equipped concert halls, but they are very much in demand there. After all, it's the cultural capital of Russia," he said, adding that the project's participants hoped that symposiums and conferences could be hosted there in addition to pop concerts.

While Vorobyov said he was on friendly terms with Pugachyova, the project is "absolutely a business venture, not patronage."

This is not the first time that the Russkoye More co-owners have ventured outside the fishing industry. In 2007, Vorobyov and Kenin took stakes in Bank St. Petersburg. According to figures from last fall, they own a combined 9 percent of the bank's shares.

Rimma Shchegolkova, Pugachyova's official representative, was not available Sunday evening to comment on the singer's development plans in St. Petersburg. In March, Governor Valentina Matviyenko, who promised the city's support on the project.