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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

LUKoil Purchases City Printing House

Oil giant LUKoil has purchased a controlling stake in Pressa 1, the printing house that publishes about 80 percent of all newspapers and magazines read in Moscow.

A subsidiary of LUKoil last month snapped up a 60 percent stake for about $50 million in the printing house, which puts out about 150 magazines and newspapers including The Moscow Times, a LUKoil spokesman said.

Pressa 1 is operated by Pressa, an administrative body that also runs a sprawling complex of newspaper offices in Moscow.

The LUKoil spokesman declined to identify the subsidiary that bought the stake.

Pressa director Pavel Kolosov declined to comment.

LUKoil's spokesman confirmed Russian press reports that before the LUKoil acquisition, the Pressa shares had been under the control of Ashot Yegiazaryan, former first deputy chairman of Unikombank. Yegiazaryan took the spotlight last year when he attempted to run as a candidate for parliament on the Liberal Democratic Party's list and it was disclosed that a videotape of former Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov - or someone much like him - allegedly frolicking with prostitutes, was filmed in his brother's apartment.

Before Pressa, LUKoil already had a major interest in the press through its pension fund's 20 percent stake in the Izvestia newspaper. Former Izvestia editors have said LUKoil and its subsidiaries own up to 42 percent of the paper.

The acquisition of Pressa may raise some eyebrows in the journalism community since LUKoil has kept a tight house at Izvestia. LUKoil went on the warpath in 1997 when Izvestia reprinted a French newspaper story saying that then-Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had amassed $5 billion in the privatization of gas monopoly Gazprom. The oil giant took over control of Izvestia's board at a shareholders meeting and reshuffled the newspaper's staff.

Pressa has also been at the center of a struggle in recent years as major newspapers and influential business leaders vied to get a stake from the presidential administration, which has controlled Pressa since 1996.

Back in 1998, then-presidential administration head Pavel Borodin said that $52 million was urgently needed to keep the printing house from falling apart. He said a tender had been called under which a bank would pay that sum in exchange for 30 percent of Pressa's equipment.

Borodin said six banks - companies he said he preferred because of their lack of political ties - were participating in the tender.

A winner was never announced, although the Pressa administration and the government have said they were taking every step possible to ensure that the printing house would not fall into the hands of a party that could then effectively control what most of Russia reads.

Little was known regarding Pressa and its ownership structure until this week, when the Russian press announced the LUKoil acquisition.