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Russia: Money And Media--A Brief Case Study

  • Floriana Fossato

Moscow, 26 September 1997 (RFE/RL) - Several months ago, during the standoff over control of the daily "Izvestia," one of the paper's foreign correspondents flew to Moscow to sell his relatively small, but important packet of shares in the paper.

He was expecting a handsome deal. He was quite right. After negotiations, the journalist was about to sell his shares to the oil giant LUKoil, one of the contenders, and, up to that moment, holder of the biggest packet of shares. But the deal was delayed.

The journalist went for a short walk as sides were waiting for a computer problem to be fixed. A quarter of an hour was enough for him to change his mind.

Representatives of the other investor, Uneximbank, approached him during his walk on Pushkin square to offer him four-times the price -- thousands of dollars more -- than offered by LUKoil. The journalist accepted, thus assuring Uneximbank the small margin of shares it needed to gain controle over "Izvestia"s future developments.

At the time, Uneximbank's deputy chairman Mikhail Kozhokin, who is in charge of overseeing the information policy of Russia's third largest bank, said the bank viewed the acquisition of the controlling stake of "Izvestia" shares purely as a "business investment." Kozhokin said, "objectivity and independence are the basis of successful business" in the media market.