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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Primakov, Volsky Join Race For TV6

MTOleg Kiselyov, left, and Yevgeny Kiselyov attending the news conference on Monday.
With two days left to register for the highly politicized tender for Channel 6, a consortium of businessmen backing the ousted TV6 team scrambled Monday to finalize its composition as two unlikely new participants entered the fray.

Former TV6 general director Yevgeny Kiselyov said that the consortium is holding 11th-hour negotiations with Arkady Volsky, chief of the Russian Union of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists, and former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who now heads the Russian Chamber of Commerce.

The two men unexpectedly decided last week that they wanted to join forces with the consortium or independently bid for the frequency license March 27, Kiselyov said.

"The situation with Primakov and Volsky is not quite clear for me," Kiselyov said at a joint news conference with Oleg Kiselyov, the former head of the Metalloinvest holding company and a member of the consortium backing the TV6 team.

"We welcome the participation of any public organization, including those representing business," he said. "But so far I don't understand the configuration in which both individuals and public organizations would take part [in a television company]."

Without identifying any sources, media reported late last week and Monday that Volsky and Primakov planned to take part in the tender -- and that they had President Vladimir Putin's blessing.

Neither the Chamber of Commerce nor the RSPP -- which have become the most powerful business lobbying groups in the country in recent months -- have confirmed their interest. Primakov hastily called a news conference Monday and then abruptly cancelled it. Representatives from both organizations could not be reached for comment.

But a high-level source in the Press Ministry confirmed Monday that the ministry has received an application from Media-Socium -- a noncommercial partnership founded by the RSPP and the Chamber of Commerce -- to register a mass media organization, and it planned to approve it. Such a registration is necessary to apply for the March 27 tender.

A noncommercial partnership consists of members who each get one vote on the board and are obliged to reinvest any profits into the business.

The Press Ministry source, who did not want to be identified, said that Media-Socium intended to bid for the Channel 6 license together with Yevgeny Kiselyov's team, just like the consortium of businessmen that formed ZAO Shestoi Telekanal together with the TV6 journalists' company, OOO TV6.

Primakov's entry presents a serious challenge to the delicate balance of power in the consortium behind the TV6 team. During his tenure as prime minister, Primakov proved to be very aloof to journalists, and he publicly proposed using criminal investigations as a tool to force businessmen to bring back to Russia the capital they had channeled abroad.

The two Kiselyovs, who are not related to each other, said Monday that despite the wrench thrown into the works by Primakov and Volsky, weeks of complicated and often dramatic negotiations within the consortium have produced a list of businessmen who will participate in ZAO Shestoi Telekanal. They said the businessmen, most of whom are acting as private individuals, are: Oleg Kiselyov; Unified Energy Systems head Anatoly Chubais; banker Alexander Mamut; MDM-Bank chairman Andrei Melnichenko; metals and media mogul Roman Abramovich; United Heavy Machinery chairman Kakha Bendukidze; Vimpelcom founder Dmitry Zimin; SPI Group vodka exporter shareholder Yury Shefler; low-profile oil businessman Igor Linshits; aluminum baron Oleg Deripaska; Sistema holding head Vladimir Yevtushenkov; and EvrazHolding metallurgical company shareholder Alexander Abramov.

OAO TV6, founded by several dozen former TV6 employees, owns 10 percent of ZAO Shestoi Kanal, and each businessman has an equal share of the remaining 90 percent.

Oleg Kiselyov said the consortium should eventually have about 30 shareholders, each holding an equal stake and OOO TV6 keeping 10 percent.

The main precondition for participation is "basic values of liberal economy and basic values of open information society," he said.

The businessmen, who plan to come up with what Oleg Kiselyov said could be "several tens of millions of dollars" of investment in the project, signed on Feb. 18 a memorandum with Yevgeny Kiselyov's team under which the station's chief editor would be elected by the journalists and the general director would be nominated by journalists. A vote has already determined that the posts would go, respectively, to Yevgeny Kiselyov and former TV6 chief producer Alexander Levin.

Levin stepped in after former TV6 executive director Pavel Korchagin, who had been tipped for the general director post, threw in the towel last week. Korchagin is expected to bid for the frequency with the backing of another investor -- U.S.-owned investment fund TPG Aurora.

The Press Ministry said four applications for the tender have already been filed. The bidders are the little-known Vysshaya Liga television company, run by former TV6 chief producer Ivan Demidov; the LUKoil-Garant pension fund-backed ZAO TV-VI, run by Viktor Merezhko, Sergei Moskvin and Stanislav Kucher; former TV6 news chief Mikhail Ponomaryov, who is still looking for an investor; and the Mir television company, whose financial backer is also unclear.

By Wednesday morning, the Press Ministry expects to receive applications also from TPG Aurora, ZAO Shestoi Telekanala and Media-Socium, as well as the ATV production company and the 7TV sports channel.

Yevgeny Kiselyov was calm about Korchagin's departure. "The reason is his personal doubts and hesitations [about the consortium's success], for which every person has a right," he said.

He did not rule out working with Korchagin in the future.

The TV6 consortium, which Yevgeny Kiselyov jokingly referred to as Kiselyov, Kiselyov & Partners, met Monday with Press Minister Mikhail Lesin and received assurances that it would be granted a mass media registration by Tuesday at the latest, thus meeting the Wednesday deadline, Yevgeny Kiselyov said.

Oleg Kiselyov was upbeat about the consortium's chances of winning the tender.

"The list of founders shows that these are people who are successful in business," he said. "We are facing a struggle and, I hope, a fair one. We have no intention of failing."