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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Jordan, Dybal to Lead Gazprom's Media Sale

MTBoris Jordan, right, and Alexander Dybal announcing their new roles at Gazprom-Media to reporters in Moscow on Thursday.
NTV general director Boris Jordan and Gazprom information supremo Alexander Dybal have been picked to lead a divided Gazprom-Media team that will see the company sell off the media outlets it seized from Media-MOST, officials said Thursday.

Jordan, who retained his NTV post, replaces his longtime friend Alfred Kokh as general director of Gazprom-Media, and Dybal takes over as board chairman.

A shareholders meeting Wednesday picked the new board. Unlike the previous board, which was chaired by Kokh's privatization-era colleague Alexander Kazakov and included people close to Press Minister Mikhail Lesin, the new board is made up entirely of Gazprom officials, some of whom were brought over by new Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller. Jordan is not on the board.

Dybal and Jordan confirmed at a news conference that NTV and its sister companies will be evaluated, restructured and prepared for sale by Jan. 15.

Gazprom has pledged funding for the transitional period, which is crucial for the 23 companies, some of which are on the verge of bankruptcy after months of not getting funding from their old and new owners, the officials said. Gazprom-Media assets include NTV, the NTV Plus satellite television station and second-tier THT television.

The main question remains whether NTV and its sister companies will be sold separately or together and whether a consortium of investors that Kokh and Jordan reportedly have all but formed will be allowed to bid.

Dybal said that, to avoid conflict of interest, he will be in charge of a pre-sale makeover of the media outlets, their valuation and negotiations with potential buyers. The decision on the structure of sale will also be his.

Jordan, a U.S.-born businessman, will be in charge of completing the transfer of ownership of the 23 companies from Media-MOST to Gazprom -- something the two sides have dragged their feet on -- and will restructure and manage the companies in the interim period.

"I have worked in independent media for more than 10 years and can thus lead to the creation of a new media company that will be based on business, not politics," Dybal said.

Jordan made it clear that he favors a sell-off in which NTV and some of its sister companies would keep their ties. He stressed that NTV uses the same transmission center as NTV Plus and would have difficulty functioning without the NTV Kino and NTV Profit film libraries.

"All Gazprom-Media assets are closely entwined," Jordan said. "If I don't help restructure all Gazprom-Media assets, NTV, which is not only the main asset of Gazprom-Media but also has a major public responsibility, will be strongly affected.

"It is not by coincidence that [Media-MOST founder Vladimir] Gusinsky built the holding in such a way," he said.

Jordan said that a decision on whether he would bid for Gazprom-Media assets depends on Gazprom's asking price and the manner they are sold. "I will not hide the fact that we have different opinions on what the company should look like at the end of the process," Jordan said. "My interest in these assets will strongly depend on the structure and price at the end of the process."

Both Dybal and Jordan said that they are seeing interest from investors but no concrete negotiations have taken place.

Asked about the consortium that he, Kokh and unnamed foreign investors had reportedly set up to buy NTV, Jordan said: "It is impossible to speak about any consortium before Gazprom makes up its mind [on the sale structure and price]."

In a possible sign that Jordan has little trust in Gazprom's approach to the sale, he said it was most important for him to force Gazprom management to make the sale. He said he had bet his reputation on making sure that NTV is eventually sold.

Jordan made such a promise when he took the reins at NTV in April.

Jordan also said that Kokh had asked him to accept the Gazprom-Media post.

Kokh resigned from his post earlier this month amid differences with Miller over the future of NTV and its sister companies.

Dybal, a former commercial director at St. Petersburg's Baltika Radio, was brought to Gazprom by Miller and is believed to be close to President Vladimir Putin's inner circle.