Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky has unveiled plans to unite his media interests into a single holding with Igor Shabdurasulov, a former Kremlin deputy of staff, at the helm.
Berevovsky cited Shabdurasulov's availability as a reason for the move and added that, while it would benefit the business side of his media, the holding would also be "a powerful lever of political influence."
Berezovsky recently resigned his seat in the Russian parliament, the State Duma, in protest at the policies of president Vladimir Putin. He cited Putin's plans to curtail the powers of regional governors as one of the major reasons for his resignation. It is also seen as a vote of solidarity with other moguls who have been under attack from the government since Putin came to power.
Most of Russia's major business figures have closed ranks after becoming the targets of government investigations for tax evasion and corruption over the past few weeks. Earlier Berezovsky's name was noticeably absent from a petition of support for media mogul Vladimir Gusinsky, signed by Russia's richest businessmen, after his arrest in May.
Berezovsky is believed to be Russia's weathiest man with wide holdings in oil, metals, aviation and media which he used to support the election of Putin earlier this year. His media interests include publications Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Kommersant, Ogonyok, and Noviye Izvestia and broadcasting interests Nashe Radio, ORT and TV6 which are all partly or fully controlled by him. Berezovsky only recently admitted that he owned stakes in the media including a 49% stake in Russia's largest channel ORT.
Meanwhile pressure is growing on the embattled Gusinsky who saw his Moscow suburban mansion and its contents impounded by the Russian Prosecutor General earlier this week. Gusinsky, who was imprisoned for three days in May and has been charged with embezzlement, can continue to use the house but not sell it. Russian authorities said that under local law the impounding of property is usual when embezzlement charges are involved.