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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Report: Berezovsky Selling ORT Shares to Tycoon

Boris Berezovsky has almost completed the sale of 49 percent of ORT television to oil and aluminum tycoon Roman Abramovich, Interfax reported Wednesday, citing sources "in Moscow."

Abramovich, the newly elected governor of Chukotka who has good relations with the Kremlin, is likely to entrust the stake to the government, the report said. The state controls 51 percent of ORT, but for years the station has been viewed as Berezovsky-controlled.

When Berezovsky first hinted about a possible sale to Abramovich late last year, Abramovich's spokesman Vladimir Ruga said he could not comment on it "yet." Ruga was on vacation Wednesday and said he was not aware of any developments. Berezovsky, who has been abroad since fall, could not be reached.

Berezovsky has been looking for a new accommodation with the Kremlin regarding ORT since summer. In late June, he said he was considering giving his stake to the government because the political damage of controlling ORT had started to outweigh the gains after President Vladimir Putin's election. He said he no longer needed ORT, which had cost him hundreds of millions of dollars, as a "tool" to fight for Russia's "bright future."

Interfax said Abramovich will buy the 49 percent stake and entrust it to the state.

Berezovsky came up with a plan to transfer his stake to a group of journalists and intellectuals who were to form a company, called Teletrust. But after several meetings and failed negotiations, he dropped Teletrust in December.

Anna Kach-kayeva, television analyst with Radio Liberty and one of those approached by Berezovsky last summer as a potential Teletrust board member, said Wednesday that the deal with Abramovich is likely to have happened.

"Its mechanism and details are not clear at all and will certainly raise many questions," Kachkayeva said. "What is most important, however, is the political decision regarding ORT. Disregarding who will be appointed ORT's private shareholder, it has to remain under the government's control."