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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

British Lawyer Hired to Manage Menatep

VedomostiMenatep chairman Platon Lebedev is presently detained in jail.
Group Menatep, the parent company of oil giant Yukos, announced Friday it had hired British lawyer Stephen Curtis as its acting managing director while chairman Platon Lebedev is detained in jail.

Stephen Curtis, a Gibraltar resident, was a senior partner in legal firm Curtis & Co. when he was hired on a contract basis to assist in founding Group Menatep in 1997.

As of Friday he is overseeing day-to-day operations of the group, also on a contract basis, a spokeswoman for Menatep who requested anonymity said Sunday.

Although few details about Curtis were immediately available, a source close to the company said that Curtis had worked for a number of major legal firms in the past and was "not just some kind of puppet.

"He will have full and real powers to run the company," the source said.

It was not clear whether Curtis would be coming to Moscow to run the holding, which was revealed in mid-2002 as owning 61 percent of Yukos.

Khodorkovsky remains the direct owner of 9.5 percent of Group Menatep shares and the sole beneficiary of a trust fund arrangement that controls another 50 percent of the holding.

Lebedev was arrested July 2 on charges of fraud and tax evasion. His arrest marked the beginning of a struggle between Yukos' then-CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the Prosecutor General's Office.

In a series of investigations into Khodorkovsky, his business associates and businesses related to Yukos, Khodorkovsky was arrested on Oct. 25.

On Oct. 30, the prosecutors' office also froze a 44.1 percent stake in Yukos in what it said was an attempt to protect Yukos' assets. The next day, 4.5 percent of Yukos shares were unfrozen, as prosecutors said these shares were not owned by anyone connected to their investigations.

Curtis' appointment continues the changing of the guard at Yukos after Khodorkovsky's arrest.

After Khodorkovsky resigned as Yukos CEO on Nov. 3, Russian-born U.S. citizen and former TNK executive Simon Kukes was appointed in his place the next day.

Steven Theede, also a U.S. citizen, was appointed as executive director of Yukos-Moskva, a key subsidiary under which many of Yukos' central corporate functions are incorporated.