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Metals Oligarch Buys Up Daily Newspaper

Published: September 5, 2006 (Issue # 1201)


MOSCOW Kommersants editor said Sunday that the sale of his newspaper to metals magnate Alisher Usmanov had been completed but the new owner had yet to send any representatives to the newspapers offices.

The sale nevertheless threatens to alter irrevocably the countrys media landscape by putting the countrys last independent-minded nationally-owned daily into the hands of a billionaire who is thought to be close to First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and has a reputation of being a tough-talking negotiator.

It also highlights a broader Kremlin-backed strategy of national media buyouts by loyal businessmen and the state-owned Gazprom behemoth. After the takeovers, the coverage of the once independent-minded news organizations has become comparatively bland and toothless.

We thought that after they took over all national television channels, the authorities would leave newspapers which have a far more limited reach than television in peace. We were mistaken, said Oleg Panfilov, head of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations.

National newspapers that criticized the authorities including Izvestia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Gazeta and Moskovskiye Novosti have been snapped up by Gazprom or businessmen loyal to the Kremlin in recent years and adopted a more pro-Kremlin line in their editorial policy.

I am afraid the same fate awaits Kommersant, Panfilov said.

Some Kommersant journalists have expressed the same concern, but the newspapers editor, Vyacheslav Borodulin, suggested it was too early to tell.

Borodulin said Sunday that the acquisition of the Kommersant publishing house, which includes the daily business newspaper, had been completed, but several formalities might remain.

He also said that Usmanovs representatives had not visited the editorial offices so far, contradicting a Kommersant reporter who said Thursday that Usmanovs business team was visiting the offices.

Borodulin said no journalists had resigned or were expected to resign over the sale. As for the imminent departure of deputy editor Alexander Shadrin, Borodulin said that Shadrin first announced his intention to leave three months ago and that the decision was unrelated to Kommersants ownership.

While Borodulins remarks appeared to be an attempt to soothe fears about what might happen next at his newspaper, former Kommersant owner Boris Berezovsky seems to have changed his mind about the prudence of the sale to Usmanov.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs 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 clubs 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 SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees 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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