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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Dark Horse in Turner Consortium

When the tentative members of Media-MOST's investment consortium were announced, one name stood out simply because of its relative obscurity — Grigory Beryozkin.

Beryozkin once succeeded in rescuing a failing energy company, making a bundle in the process, and for that he's well known but only within small circles of businessmen.

Even though he's not yet a household name in the tradition of oil magnate Roman Abramovich or media mogul Vladimir Gusinsky, his influence looks likely to grow.

Because Beryozkin, 34, is in the middle of intense negotiations with Media-MOST, Gazprom and other investors, he declined to comment for this article.

Gusinsky's Media-MOST is fighting off a takeover attempt by state-controlled Gazprom-Media, its shareholder and creditor, and is trying to bring in some desperately needed cash by selling stakes in some of its companies to a consortium of foreign investors.

Click here to read our special report on the Struggle for Media-MOST.

When the members of the consortium were announced earlier this year, there was Beryozkin's name together with CNN founder Ted Turner and billionaire financier George Soros. Other potential investors are Swedish media company Modern Times Group and Capital Research Management, a U.S. mutual fund that already owns a 4.5 percent stake in NTV.

A friend and business associate of Beryozkin's, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity, was clear as mud when explaining how exactly Beryozkin got involved with the investors.

"It's kind of a two-way street," the friend said. "Beryozkin is looking for projects to work on, and then there are those looking for Beryozkin."

The other investors chidingly refer to Beryozkin as "Mr. President" and jokingly ask when he plans to run for the top Kremlin job. "Mr. President" has already dappled in politics: He made an unsuccessful run for the State Duma in 1995 and now says he will put off politics until middle age.

Born in Moscow, Beryozkin received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in chemistry from Moscow State University. After successfully defending his doctoral dissertation at the age of 27, he promptly entered the world of commerce. In his opinion, he had no future as a chemist. That is, if he wanted to make any money.

Friends describe him as a fountain of energy. He is a renowned downhill skier. He drives race cars. He has three daughters. During a normal business day, it is almost impossible to get in touch with him.

"You should see his office," the friend said. "He has diagrams and charts all over the wall. Arrows pointing all over the place."

After a stint selling computers, Beryozkin went to work for Komineft, an oil-extracting business, as a middle manager. In 1996, he became general director of Komitek-Moscow, the parent company of Komineft.

With an eye to rebuilding Komitek, he went on to become CEO of Evroseverneft, an oil-focused management consultancy. It was here that he made a name for himself.

By mid-1997, the federal government was ready to put Komitek, the energy provider for the Komi republic, up for bankruptcy and sell it off piece by piece. Komitek shareholders — desperate to avoid liquidation of the company — appointed Beryozkin to the position of chairman of the board of directors.

Within two years, he succeeded in completely turning the company around: All money owed to the regional and federal government was paid off, outside investment was brought in and financial reports were audited according to international standards.

He even saved Komi from default in June 1998 when it couldn't come up with the funds for its external debt. Komitek took out a $10 million loan from a foreign bank just to restructure the republic's debt.

In the words of those who worked at Komitek at the time: "It became a completely different company."

Beryozkin considered his masterpiece done on Sept. 15, 1999, when Komitek merged with LUKoil. He also earned a windfall from the deal. Now, he is preoccupied with breathing new life into Kolenergo, a Unified Energy Systems affiliate in the Murmansk region.

So, considering that Beryozkin already has a lot of experience with Western investment funds and banks that turn to him with questions about investing into Russian businesses, it was of little surprise to his friends and acquaintances that he was brought on board to help save Media-MOST.

And now, those involved in the negotiations are waiting to see if he can still work miracles.