Before, such “harmony” between the court and the prosecution had been seen mostly in political rather than economic cases. The obedience of the courts is very likely the result of the expanding Rostov case
, where more than a dozen regional court officials, including the entire leadership, have been detained on charges of corrupt decision-making in favor of local businesses and authorities (see Nikolai Petrov’s previous article about this in Russia.Post
The cases described above – when property is seized through the courts – can be called “hard de-privatization.” However, there is also “soft de-privatization,” when the owner is squeezed out. In my view, this is what happened to Lukoil. It started last year, when Vagit Alekperov, having headed the company for almost 30 years, resigned as president (and was replaced by Vadim Vorobyov).
Following Alekperov’s resignation, Lukoil Vice President Leonid Fedun, the second biggest shareholder after Alekperov (their combined stake is worth about $20 billion), unexpectedly retired. The subsequent changes at the top of the company, including directors on the board, are difficult to assess, since this information is now generally not disclosed amid the fear of Western sanctions against businessmen and top managers.
Upon stepping down, Alekperov received the Order “Merit to the Fatherland I Class,” while on his birthday on September 1, 2022 (in the mafia environment, such a coincidence is considered an important signal), Ravil Maganov, Alekperov’s associate and the Lukoil board chairman, who had remained a key representative of the old team following the departure of Alekperov and Fedun, died under mysterious circumstances, having fallen out of a sixth-floor window of the Kremlin hospital.
Essentially, Alekperov and his team were removed from management of the company without, technically speaking, a change of shareholders, since with such a gigantic private company like Lukoil, that would have been too big and tedious an operation. Instead, Lukoil had its management replaced and was turned into a quasi-state company. And since there is no information about who is now on the board of directors, it is nearly impossible to prove exactly how everything happened. As for Maganov, who was also the brother of the head of Tatneft, his demonstrative murder could have been a chilling signal about the need for complete obedience.
Foreign companies are another case. This year, the Kremlin seized the assets of four of the biggest in Russia. First, the electric power assets of Germany’s Uniper and Finland’s Fortum, which before the war had been estimated at EUR 5.5 billion, were put under external management through the Federal Property Management Agency. In fact, they will now be managed by people from Rosneft.
Later, by Putin’s decree, the Danone Russia dairy company and the Baltika brewery, owned by Denmark’s Carlsberg, were nationalized (see Russia.Post
for more about these cases). The dairy business is now headed up by a former Chechen agriculture minister and Ramzan Kadyrov’s nephew, Yakub Zakriev, while the new head of Baltika is 70-year-old Taimuraz Bolloev, Putin’s longtime acquaintance, who had managed the company from 1991 to 2004.Conclusion