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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Editor: MOSTGroup Seeks Stock Takeover of Izvestia

The head of one of Russia's largest banking and media conglomerates is seeking to add Izvestia, one of Russia's most influential daily newspapers, to his empire, the paper's editor said Monday.


Igor Golembiovsky said that he was approached last month by Vladimir Gusinsky, head of the MostGroup, which already has controlling stakes in NTV Independent Television, the weekly news magazine Itogi, the daily Segodnya and Ekho Moskvy radio, and the weekly "Seven Days" TV magazine.


Gusinsky, according to the editor, repeated offers made last year to buy shares in the company, which is presently controlled by the newspaper's employees.


"We said that this does not interest us," said Golembiovsky, who is also president of Izvestia's shareholders committee. "We don't see him as a partner. We want control."


Golembiovsky said he believed it would be impossible to keep editorial control of the paper if Gusinsky had a large stake.


Izvestia employees currently own a 30 percent controlling stake in the company. Other shareholders include Troika Dialog and Mezhdunarodny Promyslovy Bank with 19 percent and 15 percent respectively.


"The management of Izvestia doesn't want to have a [controlling] shareholder because that's not good for independence," said economics editor Mikhail Berger. "And Gusinsky does not want to be a minor shareholder."


But as long as shares are on the market, Izvestia's management has no direct say in who buys them.


"We are an open shareholding company and if Gusinsky offers big money there's no way anybody can stop him," Berger said. Indirectly, however, the paper's senior staff can use their own potential resignations to make Gusinsky keep his distance, he said.


"It's very difficult to [buy control] against the will of our top management and leading journalists," Berger said. "He can do it, but if the top managers don't agree then they can leave the company and the paper will lose its position and influence."


With a circulation of 550,000, the paper has been making a small profit since 1993, and therefore has no particular need for outside investment, Berger said, adding that control of the company would cost "dozens of millions of dollars."


MostGroup denied having any interest in buying a stake in the company.