Former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov said he would accept some of the all-news radio station’s stock as a “gift” from Gazprom, the state-controlled gas company, the Interfax news agency reported Wednesday.
A Moscow court gave Gazprom a controlling 52 percent of Echo of Moscow’s stock last Friday. The gas giant has been battling the station’s former owner, Vladimir Guzinsky’s Media-Most holding company, over $300 million Guzinsky borrowed in 1998.
According to spokeswoman Liliya Dubovaya, Nemtsov would not manage his portion of Echo of Moscow’s stock himself.
“All the legal work will be completed within about two weeks, including the creation of a ‘public council'” to manage the stocks on Nemtsov’s behalf, she told Reuters.
Nemtsov said members of the council would be “people with spotless reputations.”
But Echo of Moscow staffers say they’re not convinced the move will keep Gazprom from seizing control later.
“Nemtsov has been sucked into a very dirty trick,” Yury Fedutinov, the station’s general director, told Reuters. “I think Nemtsov just doesn’t understand corporate transactions.”
Fedutinov said the gas giant could gain another 14 percent of the station’s shares when a court decides what to do with frozen stock currently owned by Guzinsky.
The station’s staff have pledged to quit if Gazprom takes control — and they say that threat still stands.
A spokeswoman for Gazprom’s media division told reporters Nemtsov would be given just enough shares to ensure Gazprom no longer had a majority of the station’s stock.
A series of losses
Echo of Moscow is one of the only broadcast outlets formerly owned by Media-Most to retain its independence.
Gazprom seized Media-Most’s top holding — nationwide television station NTV — in April, alleging that Gusinsky misrepresented his company’s assets when he accepted millions of dollars in loan money.
A month later, a Russian court ordered the liquidation of Media-Most to pay off Gusinsky’s debts.
Gazprom officials say the takeovers are strictly business matters, but supporters of Gusinsky say the moves are retribution for his stations’ criticism of the President Vladimir Putin’s administration and part of a government takeover of the independent press.