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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deripaska to Take Control of TVS


Vedomosti

Aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska



In a deal expected to bring stability to the debt-laden TVS television station, shareholders previously allied with UES chief Anatoly Chubais announced Friday that they are selling their 45 percent stake to a rival group of owners headed by aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska.

The sale, which has yet to be finalized, would concentrate 90 percent of the station's parent company, Shestoi Telekanal, in the hands of Deripaska and his allies.

"We have decided that the consolidation of Shestoi Telekanal's shares by the group of shareholders led by Oleg Deripaska would maximally foster the development of TVS and decided to sell our shares," Chubais' associates Oleg Kiselyov and Igor Linshits said in a statement. "We based our decision on the fact that an independent general-interest channel is vital for Russia today ... [and] the channel will be able to become truly independent only if it becomes successful as a business," Interfax quoted the statement as saying.

Kiselyov, who heads the station's license holder, Media-Sotsium, and Linshits, the head of Neftyannoi Bank, took control of the 45 percent stake after Chubais announced Thursday that he was bowing out of the shareholder pool. The remaining 10 percent belongs to a group of the station's journalists.

TVS, the only nationwide channel that has remained highly critical of federal authorities, has been plagued by poor management and cash shortages, which have led to wage arrears and a switch-off from millions of viewers. Part of the trouble has stemmed from infighting between the Chubais-led group and Deripaska's camp.

State Duma Deputy Konstantin Remchukov, head of the advisory council at Deripaska's Base Element holding, told NTV on Saturday that no major personnel reshuffles were in the works.

"We believe the channel's competitive edge can only be realized if this key asset, the stars and top-notch staff, is used properly," Remchukov said. "There is unquestionably an effort to retain those people who will lead us to success, profits and a rise in capitalization."

TVS staff have expressed concerns that the new owners could slant the station's format toward lightweight entertainment and water down its news coverage, especially ahead of upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.

But editor Yevgeny Kiselyov -- who heads a nomadic team of journalists ejected from NTV and TV6 after those opposition-minded stations were shut down -- welcomed the latest share sale, saying that even a new format would be better than the constant insecurity TVS staff have been facing. "Perhaps we will get a new owner who will say that we must make a different channel, that certain programs will disappear, but even that will suit people working on the channel," he told Interfax. "That will at least bring some certainty ... and that's better than waiting for months without knowing what you're waiting for."

Kiselyov added that he would stay at the station for now.

The sale of the stake has been estimated at $10 million, and Remchukov confirmed that had been the "initial figure," but he stressed Saturday that the deal had not been officially sealed yet.