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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chubais Might Get Control of TVS

After months of infighting among its powerful owners, TVS television may finally get a single majority shareholder: Unified Energy Systems chief Anatoly Chubais.

Aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska has offered the 45 percent stake that he controls along with his allies in TVS's parent company, Shestoi Telekanal, to a group of businessmen led by Chubais, a TVS source said.

The Chubais group already has 45 percent, while the remaining 10 percent is held by a team of TVS journalists headed by Yevgeny Kiselyov.

Any major decisions at TVS require 75 percent of shareholder votes.

"The offer has been made. The tentative deadline for a decision was May 23, but that was not written in stone," the TVS source said Saturday.

When TVS was formed in March 2002 with support from a consortium of wealthy businessmen, each of the group's dozen members held an equal stake. Since then, however, the channel has been plagued by management disputes, low ratings and huge debts, and the consortium has split into two rival factions: one centered around Chubais and the other around Deripaska, tycoon-turned-politician Roman Abramovich and banker Alexander Mamut, said the TVS source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Spokesmen for Chubais and Deripaska declined to comment, saying only the outcome would be clear in the near future, perhaps as early as this week.

But the TVS source confirmed reports that Deripaska's group has offered its stake to Chubais for something to the tune of $10 million plus reimbursement of $7.5 million in investments. "Money won't be the deciding factor for Chubais. The main thing will be getting approval from on high," the source said.

The consortium members -- who have competing business and political interests -- have long been at odds over how the channel should be operated. This year, Shestoi Telekanal has been negotiating with advertising giant Video International about coming to run the channel, which has accumulated some $70 million in debts.

The TVS source said Deripaska and his allies hope to turn the channel into a "fluffy" entertainment station that will target a young audience attractive to advertisers. If the shareholders cannot agree, their ways will have to part.

Under an agreement drawn up last month, the TVS source said, one group of shareholders can offer its stake to the other for a particular price. However, if the potential buyer refuses, he must then sell his stake to the original seller at the same price. In either case, the channel would get a single majority shareholder.

It is unclear how a Deripaska-Chubais deal would affect the talks with Video International, which have been put on hold until the channel's ownership issues are resolved.

Whoever takes over TVS will have plenty of problems to solve. On top of debts and poor viewership, the legal status of the channel's license has been in dispute for months. Unless this is resolved, the Moscow city-controlled Mostelecom service provider has threatened to begin cutting off the station's access to transmission lines as of June 1.