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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

WSJ: Kremlin Turns Away CNN's Turner

The Kremlin has refused to give CNN founder Ted Turner the green light to buy a blocking stake in NTV television, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

This was bad news for Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinsky, who hopes to sell the 25 percent plus one share stake to a foreign investor such as Turner in order to settle a debt with shareholder Gazprom-Media and keep his flagship television station out of state hands.

Gusinsky also came under new pressure from state-controlled Gazprom Media, which moved to take full control of NTV, and from the Prosecutor General's Office. Prosecutors on Wednesday demanded personnel files of Media-MOST employees and asked the company to turn over the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all its employees Thursday, said company spokesman Dmitry Ostalsky.

Turner has expressed interest in buying NTV but first wants President Vladimir Putin's approval and a guarantee that the station would remain free of political influence.

Turner's representatives, including Taylor Glover of Merrill Lynch's Atlanta office, failed to get these assurances during a meeting this week with Dmitry Medvedev, who is deputy head of the presidential administration and chairman of the board of Gazprom, the newspaper reported.

Turner, however, said Wednesday that he still held out hope of getting Putin's approval. "I have always had a longstanding interest in Russia, and I have communicated my interest to President Putin," Turner said in a written statement regarding NTV. "I look forward to his reply."

Turner's spokeswoman, Maura Donlan, declined to comment further. The presidential press service said it had no comment on whether the meeting with Medvedev took place or on its substance. Glover could not be reached for comment in Atlanta.

But Turner says he is still waiting for Putin to weigh in on his proposal to buy NTV.

Gazprom-Media, however, officially gave up on the plan to find a foreign investor and asked a court to give it full control of NTV by raising its stake from 46 percent to 65 percent.

Gazprom-Media filed suit Tuesday in the Moscow Arbitration Court, company spokeswoman Aelita Yefimova said. Gazprom-Media believes it is now entitled to the additional 19 percent because Media-MOST failed to supply the stocks to Deutsche Bank London as stipulated in a Nov. 17 agreement.

Under the agreement, 19 percent of NTV is transferred to Gazprom-Media as collateral against a $261 million loan that matures in July. However, it has a clause under which the stake becomes Gazprom-Media's property, with $61 million to be paid to Media-MOST, if Media-MOST fails to supply its stocks to Deutsche Bank London two days after an agreement is signed between Gazprom-Media and the bank. Deutsche Bank London was supposed to act as an intermediary in the sale of NTV's blocking stake to a "recognized foreign investor."

Gazprom-Media claims that it is entitled to the stake since the contract with Deutsche Bank was signed on Dec. 28.

Media-MOST disagrees, saying the contract between Gazprom-Media and Deutsche Bank contradicted the Nov. 17 agreement, and has filed suit in Gibraltar and London.

Yefimova said Gazprom-Media had abided by the agreement but was locked out of the negotiations with Turner. "According to the agreement, there has to be a tender of investors," she said.

Gazprom-Media general director Alfred Kokh said Medvedev endorsed the legal action to gain control of NTV, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Media-MOST spokesman Ostalsky tied the reported Kremlin meeting with the moves by Gazprom-Media and the prosecutor's office, saying they showed the Kremlin's real intention, to take NTV under its full control.

"It dots the i's and crosses the t's," Ostalsky said. "Neither Gazprom-Media nor the Kremlin need any foreign investor, they need full control of Media-MOST, first of all of NTV. … Medvedev explained all this to Turner, Gazprom-Media tries to explain it to us with the help of the court, and the prosecutor's office, as always, monitors the transaction."