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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gusinsky Calls NTV Meeting in Gibraltar

In an attempt to block Gazprom's efforts to take control of the board of directors of his NTV television, Vladimir Gusinsky has called an emergency shareholders meeting for March 12 — in Gibraltar.

The meeting was requested by major shareholder Gazprom-Media, and Gusinsky, as chairman of the board, was obliged to comply. But by setting the meeting in Gibraltar rather than Moscow, he hopes to prevent Gazprom-Media calling the shots and stacking the board with Gazprom representatives.

Gazprom-Media general director Alfred Kokh announced late last month that with 19 percent of disputed shares frozen by courts, he controlled NTV with 46 percent. He demanded a shareholders meeting and announced plans to oust Gusinsky from the board.

Click here to read our Special Report on the Struggle for Media-MOST.

The shareholders meeting is certain to become a new milestone in the politically loaded struggle for control of NTV, the flagship of Media-MOST and the only national television station outside Kremlin control.

NTV spokeswoman Tatyana Blinova confirmed Monday that Gusinsky has called the shareholders meeting. "Gazprom has already determined its candidates, we are going to do it shortly," Blinova said.

Although the 19 percent stake was frozen by a court in Gibraltar as well as by a court in Moscow, the difference — Media-MOST says — is that the court in the British colony allowed Media-MOST to retain the voting rights.

About 49 percent of NTV belongs to Media-MOST, which includes the disputed 19 percent stake; 4.5 percent is held by the U.S. mutual fund Capital Research and small stakes are held by several private individuals, including NTV management.

Last week, Gazprom CEO Rem Vyakhirev appealed to other NTV shareholders either to pool their shares in a voting trust with Gazprom or sell their stakes to the state-controlled natural gas giant. If Gusinsky is allowed to vote with the 19 percent stake, which is held by Gazprom-Media as collateral for a loan that comes due in July, minority votes become decisive.

Gazprom-Media spokeswoman Aelita Yefimova could not say Monday whether Kokh would travel to Gibraltar for the meeting.

"We had hoped that we live under Russian law, but Gusinsky seems to think differently," she said.

Media-MOST spokesman Dmitry Ostalsky said Monday that the meeting was called in Gibraltar because Media-MOST's 49 percent stake in NTV is held by Gibraltar-based offshore company Media Most Capital Management. Gazprom-Media's stake is held by a Cyprus-based company. Gusinsky is in Spain fighting extradition to Russia.

The Moscow arbitration court is scheduled to decide the fate of the 19 percent on Wednesday.

Blinova said she could not predict the outcome of the March 12 meeting. "Let's see what happens before March 12, how the courts in Moscow, Gibraltar and London are going to behave," she said. Media-MOST has filed suit in Gibraltar and London to try to prevent Gazprom from taking control of the 19 percent stake.

The Financial Times newspaper reported Monday that bankers from Merrill Lynch who advise U.S. media tycoon Ted Turner planned to arrive in Moscow this week for further discussions of plans of a Turner-led consortium to invest $330 million plus into NTV and its sister companies.

A source close to the negotiations said Monday that representatives of five members of the foreign consortium are in Moscow this week to hammer out a deal with Gazprom.

The other confirmed investors are billionaire financier George Soros; the Sweden-based Modern Times Group; Capital Research Management, which already owns a 4.5 percent stake in NTV; and Grigory Beryozkin, chairman of oil company Evroseverneft, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Putin Orders Ustinov Investigation



President Vladimir Putin has ordered Kremlin auditors to investigate how Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov got his apartment, The Associated Press reported, citing Vyacheslav Ivanov of the audit department.

NTV reported last year that Ustinov had not paid taxes on the luxury apartment he received from the government and implied a conflict of interest. Ustinov has denied wrongdoing.

Ustinov received use of the apartment from former Kremlin property manager Pavel Borodin, who became a target of corruption investigations in Russia and Switzerland. In December, Ustinov's office closed the Russian investigation, citing lack of evidence.