. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yukos Creator Found Dead in London Flat

A founding father of the one-time Yukos oil empire, Yury Golubev, has been found dead in his London apartment, former and current Yukos shareholders said Wednesday.

Police are investigating the death on Sunday of Golubev, a shareholder in Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Group Menatep, friends said, but added that they had no immediate cause to think it was suspicious.

"I don't know what happened. He was found dead in his apartment," said Konstantin Kagalovsky, a former Menatep shareholder and a close friend. "It could have been a heart attack. I don't think it was anything suspicious."

Police at Scotland Yard declined to comment. The cause of his death was unclear.

Golubev, 65, was one of Khodorkovsky's most long-standing partners and briefly ran Menatep, now known as GML, in the summer of 2003. The handover came after Menatep chairman Platon Lebedev was arrested in July on charges of fraud and tax evasion, the start of a state-run attack that was to smash the nation's once-biggest oil producer and send its shareholders into jail or exile.

Golubev, who was never targeted in the Yukos attack, helped create Yukos as a vertically integrated oil company even before it was privatized by Khodorkovsky's Menatep. He continued to play a leading role in the company after the takeover, first as head of strategic planning at Yukos Moskva and then as a board member from 2000.

Former Yukos vice president Alexander Temerko said Golubev had been the "soul of Yukos" and had continued to fight for its survival until the last.

As a high-ranking Soviet-era trade official based in Canada in the 1970s and throughout the '80s, he had gained inside knowledge of Western business practices and took the lead in advising Yukos' early 1990s-era head, Sergei Muravlenko, and later Khodorkovsky, said Alexei Kondaurov, a former KGB general who advised Khodorkovsky on strategy.

"He created the company together with Muravlenko," Kondaurov said. After the takeover, "Khodorkovsky listened to him," he said.

Golubev led negotiations for the proposed 2003 sale of the newly merged YukosSibneft to one of two U.S. oil majors, ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco, Yukos shareholder and former vice president Alexander Temerko said.

In a sign of his importance, he continued negotiations even after Khodorkovsky's October 2003 arrest effectively torpedoed the sale, Temerko said.

Golubev was behind the decision to appoint former Central Bank chief Viktor Gerashchenko to head the Yukos board as a compromise figure in 2004 in a bid to save the company, he said.

When Khodorkovsky went public with a list of Menatep's shareholders in 2002, Golubev was shown as the joint owner of a 4.5 percent share together with Muravlenko, who headed Yukos' main production unit, Yuganskneftegaz, in the early '90s; Viktor Ivanenko, the former head of oil unit Samaraneftegaz; Viktor Kazakov, the president of Yukos EP; and Alexei Golubovich, Yukos' former corporate finance director.

One source familiar with the matter said Wednesday that Golubev and three other shareholders had been given the rights to 30 percent of Menatep's controlling stake in Yukos immediately after it was privatized. Khodorkovsky gradually bought much of that stake up, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Temerko, however, dismissed that as "legend."

"He was the soul of the company. It was not just business for him. It was his life," he said. "He remained a shareholder until the end."

Information about surviving family members and funeral arrangements was not immediately available.