Thursday, August 31, 2006

“Uzbek” buys “Kommersant” and related media holdings, in what some are saying is the biggest print media deal to date in Russia

Yesterday, it became known that an Uzbek oligarch in Moscow, Alisher Usmanov—apparently known in Moscow as merely “Uzbek,” purchased “Kommersant” and its related publishing house for approximately 300 million US dollars. “Uzbek” is heavily involved in the mining industry, and he is also General Director of GazPromInvestHolding, a sister company of GazProm.

Usmanov is a powerful player in Moscow, and some connect him to long time Kremlin insider under both Yeltsin and Putin, Sergey Yastrzhembskyi, who studied with Usmanov in Moscow in the 1970s. There are also allegations, however, that Usmanov, or “Uzbek,” is closely associated with many more unsavory characters from Russia and Central Asia. , for example, lists his associates as including such criminal figures as alleged Uzbek narco-mafia leaders Gafur Rakhimov (nicknamed “Gafur”) and Salim Abduvaliev (nicknamed “Salim”) as well as the infamous alleged Russian organized crime figure Alimjan Tokhtakhunov (or “Taiwanchik”), who was implicated in the 2002 Olympic figure skating scandal .

Generally, initial analysis of the purchase of “Kommersant” by Usmanov focuses on its importance in the Russian political arena. This makes sense, given that Usmanov is also identified closely with the re-organization of “GazProm-Media,” which includes the expansive media holding of NTV. If Usmanov has demonstrated that he can help control NTV, he can likely be trusted with “Kommersant” this close to the next presidential elections in Russia.

However, one must also wonder how the new ownership of “Kommersant” may affect the political situation in Uzbekistan. Rumors suggest that Usmanov is favored by Putin as a possible “Moscow man” to take over the helm from Karimov at some point. If this is true, control of a newspaper like “Kommersant” could be a very good weapon for the “Uzbek” as he faces political competition in his homeland of Uzbekistan.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only confirmation I've gotten is that GR is liquidating his position in a number of businesses in Tashkent, so he may be exiting the scene. Same is that SA is very quiet these days, and that Tax Inspection has really had its' teeth removed. Spec is that GR is in conflict with Googoosha, but there is also counter-spec that this is done on purpose to make it seem like a conflict, when there is no conflict between those clans...typical Uzbek soap opera.

Government has just appointed a 35-y.o. guy to run GosKomImushestva (Privatization committee), an unbelievable move in my book given the culture ...but perhaps a positive sign?

7:04 AM  
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