The former head of a leading Russian television network who is facing legal claims from his former employers that could cost him $100 million in stock options admitted Monday to contacts with a rival television group but denied that such contacts violate a noncompetition deal he had signed.
Alexander Rodnyansky, who is facing claims in U.S. courts from CTC Media that he is in breach of stipulations preventing him working at a strategic level for any rival television companies for the next two years, said he had been cooperating with Russia’s NMG National Media Group — but claimed talks were purely about producing drama series for the group’s channels, an activity he is permitted to pursue.
Rodnyansky, who ran CTC Media between 2004 and 2008 before stepping away from day-to-day operations to become the group’s president until he stood down in June, told Russia’s business daily Kommersant that informal contacts with NMG had begun in July after he was approached to advise on drama productions for the group’s two channels, St. Petersburg’s the Fifth Channel and Moscow-based Ren-TV.
The television executive, who retained a place as a non-executive director on CTC’s board, had signed a noncompetition deal with his former company that allowed him to continue to pursue creative interests as a producer of television and movie content and has denied wrongdoing.
“I have offered to NMG some primetime projects that could become anchor productions for its channels. I have the right to do this,” Rodnyansky told Kommersant.He had explicitly informed NMG about his contractual obligations to CTC and told NMG that he could not work with the company as an executive or management consultant, Rodnyansky said.
In the Kommersant article, Rodnyansky was bullish about his prospects for success in the legal action, stating that he would probably retain the service of his London-based global law firm Clifford Chance for the case and arguing that under Russia’s constitution, the two-year no-competition deal was an illegal restraint of trade.
“It seems to me that the stipulation not to work in television in Russia for two years is rigid and unprecedented. It also contradicts the laws and constitution of the Russian Federation. As a pianist’s fingers should always be on a grand piano, so it is with TV. You cannot simply leave and take a walk for a couple of years.”