Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 124

Sergei Lisovsky, one of Russia’s top advertising and show business moguls, was elected Friday (June 25) to the board of directors of TV Center, the television channel controlled by the Moscow city government. Lisovsky’s appointment to the board closely followed the elevation of Sergei Yastrzhembsky, President Boris Yeltsin’s former press secretary, to the chairmanship of TV Center’s board of directors. Yastrzhembsky joined Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s team last year after leaving the Kremlin. With the appointment of both men, the channel’s founder Vladimir Lysenko has been essentially forced out: He has refused to remain on the board of directors (Kommersant, June 26). Members of Luzhkov’s team, including Yastrzhembsky, had openly criticized Lysenko’s management of TV Center, including its news programming. These programs are likely to be major “players” in this December’s parliamentary vote, in which Luzhkov’s Fatherland movement will be fielding candidates, and in next year’s presidential election (Moscow Times, June 26). While Luzhkov has not yet formally announced he is a presidential candidate, few doubt that he will run. Various observers believe TV Center will now be run by Yastrzhembsky and Lisovsky.

Lisovsky’s appointment to TV Center’s board–along with the appointment of his long-time associate Konstantin Likutov as the channel’s general director–was somewhat surprising, given Lisovsky’s controversial reputation. Last December, both Lisovsky’s business empire, which includes the Premier SV advertising agency, and his house were raided by the tax police. Lisovsky was questioned concerning alleged tax evasion, and several days later his lawyer was severely beaten by unknown assailants (see the Monitor, December 15, 17, 1998). According to press reports at the time, Premier SV, which had enjoyed a monopoly on placing advertisement on ORT, Russia’s main television channel, owed the channel US$50 million. Boris Berezovsky, said to control ORT, was in a battle at that time with then Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov for control of the channel. Lisovsky left Russia, though the tax case was later dropped after he paid off an undisclosed amount of tax arrears. He reportedly returned to Russia only recently.

In March of this year, prosecutors raided Lisovsky’s home and offices, in connection with allegations that he had, through his private security structures and other connections, illegally gathered information on a number of heads of media and “prominent public figures.” “Kommersant” reported at the time that prosecutors had found “irrefutable” proof of eavesdropping, transcripts of tapped phoned conversations, documents involving the bank accounts, property and other information on specific VIPs and their family members (see the Monitor, March 28).