Gazprom buys out Gusinsky media stox

Main acquisition a 30.5% stake in nat'l broadcaster NTV

MOSCOW — Russia’s energy giant Gazprom has bought all of TV mogul Vladimir Gusinsky’s remaining shares in companies affiliated with his Media-Most empire.

The main acquisition is a 30.5% stake in national broadcaster NTV, once the flagship of Media-Most, as well as a 45.5% share of web TNT, plus varying stakes in publishing, radio, film production and exhibition companies.

Deal ends an ownership battle that has waged bitterly since Gazprom took control of most of Gusinsky’s empire in a boardroom coup in April 2001. Gusinsky has repeatedly claimed that the takeover was illegal and prompted by political pressure against NTV’s independent broadcasting policy.

Gusinsky debt covered

Deal with Gazprom includes not only Gusinsky’s shares, but also covers debts to Gusinsky, now in self-exile in Israel. Structured through a complicated web of offshore companies, NTV’s debt to its founder was approaching $40 million, and local sources put the total debt Gusinsky is owed at around $300 million.

Gazprom intends to sell its media assets as soon as possible and has engaged German investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein to value them. But it will probably wait until the value of the assets — boosted by Russia’s growing advertising market — covers its investment, estimated at up to $1 billion.

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