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Shareholders Divided Over Pavel Durov's Successor at VKontakte

Published: June 20, 2014 (Issue # 1816)



  • Pavel Durov's departure from the company he founded has caused a power struggle within the organization of Russia's largest social network.
    Photo: VK.com

Moscow-based investment fund United Capital Partners, or UCP, has voted against appointing Boris Dobrodeyev, son of the head of Russia's largest state-run media corporation, the new CEO of leading social network VKontakte, or VK, in which it holds a 48-percent stake.

UCP will agree to appoint Dobrodeyev, however, if Russian internet company Mail.Ru — owner of the other 52 percent of VK — agrees to drop its lawsuit in the London arbitration court contesting UCP's purchase of VK shares last April, and help the fund transfer control of the Telegram instant messaging service from VK's founder, Pavel Durov, to VK, Mail.Ru said in a statement cited by PRIME on Wednesday.

There is no love lost between Durov and UCP — on April 30, Durov filed a lawsuit against his former business partners and UCP in a U.S. court, accusing them of resorting to extortion in an attempt to gain control of Telegram, a version of popular messaging application WhatsApp with beefed up security to prevent messages from being intercepted.

There is not much warmth between UCP and Mail.Ru either. UCP rejected Dobrodeyev's candidacy at a meeting of VKontakte's board of directors on Tuesday on the basis that he does not have enough management experience and is not an "independent" candidate, Vedomosti reported Wednesday, citing the fund's documents.

UCP blames Mail.Ru Group for the delay in appointing a new chief executive, which has now dragged on for over two months. Viktoria Lazareva, a partner at UCP, said that there are many independent, experienced candidates, but that Mail.Ru Group always rejects them.

Billionaire Alisher Usmanov's Mail.Ru Group, Russia's second-largest Internet company, nominated Dobrodeyev earlier this month to replace the 29-year-old Durov, who fled to the U.S. in April after coming under pressure from the Russian security services, the FSB. Durov claims that the FSB requested information on VK users, and turned up the pressure on him when he refused to hand anything over.

Dobrodeyev's father, Oleg, heads the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, a state media giant that runs five national television channels, a plethora of Internet projects and more than 80 regional television and radio networks.

UCP has so far put forward at least two potential chief executives — a former shareholder in VK, Lev Leviyev, who sold his 8-percent stake last year following raids on the site's St. Petersburg headquarters, and Alexei Zakharov, head of the online recruiter Superjob.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Oct. 22


English teachers can expect to receive a few useful pointers today from Evgeny Kalashnikov, the British Council regional teacher, during the EFL Seminar this afternoon hosted by the British Book Center. The topic of today’s seminar is “Grammar Practice.”


Young Petersburgers will get the chance to jumpstart their careers at “Professional Growth,” a job fair and forum featuring more than 40 major Russian and international companies vying for potential candidates for future positions. The forum not only is a chance to network but also to learn more about the modern business world and to understand what it takes to get the job you want.



Thursday, Oct. 23


AmCham’s Public Relations Committee meeting is scheduled to meet this morning at 9 a.m. in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center.


Sportsmen get their chance to stock up on all kinds of gear at the Hunting and Fishing 2014 exhibition starting today at Lenexpo. Everything from rods and reels to boats, motorcycles and equipment for underwater hunting will be on sale so that any avid outdoorsman can always be prepared.



Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBA’s ongoing “Breakfast with the Director” series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at “Sounds of the Universe,” a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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