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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tatum Shot Dead by 11 Bullets

News of Killing Rocks Foreign Business Circles

Paul Tatum, the U.S. entrepreneur embroiled in a highly public battle for control of the Radisson Slavjanskaya hotel complex, has been shot dead in a brutal contract killing that caused profound shock in the foreign business community Monday.

The shooting took place at about 5 p.m. Sunday as Americom Business Center president Tatum and two personal bodyguards entered an underpass near Kievsky station, just a few hundred meters from the hotel. He died half an hour later as he was being taken to the hospital.

In what appears to have been a professional killing, the assassin attacked as the three men reached the bottom of the steps. He leaned over the parapet above and fired a burst of at least 11 rounds into Tatum's upper body, said Sevolod Matemyanov, deputy prosecutor for the Dorogomilovsky district.

According to eyewitnesses, the gunman then fled in an unmarked Zhiguli after discarding the murder weapon, a 5.45 caliber Kalashnikov assault rifle that had been concealed in a plastic bag for the shooting.

"It was dark," said one man working at an audio kiosk directly beside the spot where Tatum fell. "I heard a long burst of machine gun fire, but all I could see was a muzzle flash," he said, pointing out a pockmark in the tunnel wall and a fluorescent strip light overhead that had been shattered by stray rounds.

Matemyanov confirmed that one passerby, a Russian businessman, had received a leg wound, and said both bodyguards escaped "with light shock," having been unable to assist Tatum in the circumstances.

On Monday, the United States called on Russia to mount a "very aggressive investigation" an American businessman had been murdered in Moscow in recent years "and we are very, very concerned about it." But it was not immediately clear to what prior case he was referring.

Moscow's foreign business community reacted with deep shock to Tatum's killing Monday. "The incident sends a chill down the spine of anyone trying to do business here," said Peter Charow, president of the American Chamber of Commerce, who praised Tatum as a pioneer.

The U.S. Embassy extended its condolences to Tatum's family and friends, commenting only that: "We deplore the murder of any U.S. citizen."

Several businessmen said Tatum had been brave in attempting to take on "the mafia" single-handed, but had paid the price. They added that the incident had showed again how dangerous joint ventures can be as a form of business.

In a sign of what the impact of Tatum's killing could be, one "Big Six" accountant who asked not to be named said: "My advice to any foreign investors would be not to have Russian partners."

Tatum's death comes in the midst of a long and bitter tug-of-war for ownership of the Slavjanskaya complex. The $50 million Radisson Slavjanskaya joint venture was founded in 1990 as a flagship of U.S.-Soviet cooperation. It was blessed by then U.S. President George Bush, and Bill Clinton has stayed at the American-run Radisson at least twice since.

But there ensued a steady falling out between the three partners; Tatum's Americom Business Centers, which owns 40 percent of stocks; the U.S.-based Radisson Hotel Corporation with 10 percent; and the Moscow City Property Committee, which holds 50 percent.

As relations disintegrated, Tatum paid increasing attention to personal security. In addition to reportedly attending American Chamber of Commerce meetings wearing a bulletproof vest, he also hired a team of 19 bodyguards in January 1995. "It gives you a little peace of mind," Tatum told The Moscow Times in September. "If somebody wants to kill you, they will do it, but they will need to kill more than just you."

Deputy prosecutor Matemyanov suggested Tatum's minimal security Sunday as he reportedly raced to an impromptu business meeting may have been due to a communication mix-up, with Tatum's security team not fully understanding the instructions as to his intended route.

The question of the hotel's ownership was taken to a Stockholm arbitration court in September this year. When contacted Monday, several of Tatum's friends and associates said he had been increasingly confident of a successful outcome for Americom, but was having trouble raising the minimum $500,000 needed to finance the case.

Tatum had bought a series of full-page advertisements in The Moscow Times to promote the sale of his "Freedom Bonds," promising a return of 100 percent to investors in six months. But he reportedly also began to borrow large sums from unknown lenders. This has caused some speculation among business associates that his death may be linked to disputes over loaned money.

When contacted Monday, Radisson Slavjanskaya general director Umar Dzhabrailov, who represents the Moscow City Property Committee and has been Tatum's chief protagonist in the joint venture dispute, said the arbitration case over the ownership of the hotel would continue and a verdict was expected in December. When it was suggested to him that many people would link Tatum's assassination to the city, Dzhabrailov replied: "That is nonsense."

The mayor's office could not be contacted Monday for comment.

At the hotel Monday, staff said they were still in shock at the shooting. General manager John Luce said business at the Radisson Slavjanskaya would nevertheless continue as normal.

In a press release Monday, Radisson Hotels International expressed its deep concern at Tatum's "apparent" murder, calling him "a courageous entrepreneur who was pioneer in bringing American business into Russia."