Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 166

Boris Berezovsky yesterday named the “journalists and other representatives of the creative intelligentsia” to whom he plans to transfer the 49 percent stake in Russian Public Television (ORT) which he has long been said to control to be held in trust. Among Berezovsky’s candidates to hold ORT shares in trust are Sergei Dorenko, ORT deputy director and anchor; Igor Shabdurasulov, a former ORT general director; Vladimir Posner, the well-known talk-show host who has a program on ORT; Natalya Gevorkian, a veteran journalist who works for Kommersant, a Berezovsky property; Vitaly Tretyakov, chief editor of Nezavisimaya gazeta, another Berezovsky property; Otto Latsis, a veteran journalist with Noviye Izvestia, still another Berezovsky-owned newspaper; Anna Kachkayeva, a media critic with the U.S. government-funded Radio Liberty; Yegor Yakovlev, the chief of editor of the weekly newspaper Obshchaya gazeta; Genry Reznik, the well-known attorney; Vasily Aksyonov, the eminent writer and George Mason University professor.

While all of the aforementioned have apparently agreed to serve as ORT trustees, Berezovsky also said that he had asked top figures from Media-Most, the empire of his long-time rival, Vladimir Gusinsky, to hold ORT shares in trust. These include Radio Ekho Moskvy’s Aleksei Venediktov, NTV’s Yevgeny Kiselev, Segodnya newspaper’s Mikhail Berger and Itogi magazine’s Sergei Parkhomenko. None of these candidates have yet given an answer to the offer. There were contradictory reports yesterday as to whether to several other top media and cultural figures whom Berezovsky had asked to serve as trustees–including Igor Flyarkovsky, a journalist with the Moscow City government’s TV Tsentr, the satirical novelist Viktor Pelevin and the playwright Yuri Lyubimov–had agreed to do so (Russian agencies, September 7; Segodnya, September 8). Berezovsky appears as a character in Pelevin’s most recent novel, “Generation P,” which was recently published in the West under the title “Babylon.”

Berezovsky said that the trustees would sit on the board of a new management company he plans to create and for which he will seek a special license from the country’s Federal Securities Commission. He said that those serving as trustees will hold their portions of the 49-percent stake for four years without pay, and that at the end of the period, if the trusteeship has been successful, they will be given a stake 20 percent stake in ORT to divide among themselves and keep as owners. Meanwhile, the shares being held in trust will be divided up equally among the trustees, who, ORT’s Dorenko said in an interview yesterday, could wind up numbering anywhere from fifteen to thirty. Ekho Moskvy’s Venediktov speculated that each trustee would end up holding 1.5-2 percent of ORT in trust. As one newspaper put it today, the “legal form and list of future directors already makes it possible to say that real control over the shares will, as before, belong to Berezovsky” (Russian agencies, September 7; Vedomosti, September 8).

Berezovsky’s announcement followed the removal of two key Berezovsky allies, Tatyana Koshkareva and Rustam Narzikulov, from the management of ORT, which is a 51-percent state-owned entity. The Kremlin apparently convinced Konstantin Ernst, ORT’s general director, to replace Koshkareva, who headed ORT’s information programming department, with Sergei Goryachev, formerly deputy head of VGTRK, the state television and radio company. Sergei Dorenko, meanwhile, told the website yesterday that Putin had asked him to stay on at ORT, and that he agreed to do so.

For his part, Putin commented yesterday on Berezovsky’s decision to transfer the ORT stake. During a press conference yesterday at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, the Russian president said that “probably… one can only praise” the decision, but added that the most important thing is that Berezovsky transfer the shares to “independent” persons. If the trustees wind up being people controlled by Berezovsky, Putin said, then the transfer of the shares will amount to “shifting money from one pocket to another” (Russian agencies, September 8).

In his letter to Putin earlier this week, Berezovsky claimed that a high-ranking Kremlin administration official, whom he did not identify, warned him last week to hand the ORT shares over to the state or “follow in the steps of Gusinsky” (see the Monitor, September 6). Yesterday, Berezovsky identified that official as Aleksandr Voloshin, head of the Kremlin administration (Russian agencies, September 7). If true, it is a significant development and would represent proof of a break between the two, who have frequently been identified in the Russian media as close and long-time allies. In the early 1990s, Voloshin reportedly helped Berezovsky found the All-Russia Automobile Alliance (AVVA), which sold US$50 million in shares and promised big returns from sales of a planned new “people’s car.” The project to build the “people’s car” never materialized and few AVVA shareholders saw any returns on their investments (Moscow Times, May 20).