Financier George Soros is poised to join the international consortium of investors offering to buy a stake in Russian broadcaster NTV, part-owned by Vladimir Gusinsky's embattled Media Most Group.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Soros said he had held talks with Jean Lemierre, president of the European Bank For Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), about joining the group of investors which also includes CNN founder Ted Turner. The EBRD is believed to be committed to investing up to $50m.
The consortium has offered to bail out Media Most - which is locked in a long-running takeover battle with major creditor Gazprom - by investing about $320m for a 25% plus one share stake in NTV, in addition to up to 34% in other Media Most enterprises.
The news follows yesterday's announcement by key NTV staff that they will resign en masse if Gazprom takes control of the channel. NTV staff have recently suffered a string of searches and other forms of harassment by government officials.
Gazprom Media, which has succeeded in blocking Media Most from voting with its disputed 19% stake in NTV (ScreenDaily, January 29), has announced that it will shortly hold an extraordinary shareholders meeting to install its own directors at the station. The company has also said that it would still be interested in offers from foreign investors, including Ted Turner, but only after it had taken control of NTV.
According to Gazprom Media chief Alfred Kokh, Gusinsky and Media Most executives Igor Malashenko and Andrei Tsimailo are to be ousted. Gazprom will then nominate five board members: Gazprom CEO Rem Vyakhirev, his first deputy Vyacheslav Sheremet, Gazprom Media board chairman Alexander Kazakov, Kokh and his deputy Alexander Reznikov.
Media Most representatives posts are likely to be offered to NTV's Kiselyov, sister channel THT head Sergei Skvortsov and another NTV official, Mikhail Shmushkovich, but it is unclear if they would accept the jobs.