Russian Federation industrialist Oleg Deripaska is to step down from his position as president of both En+ Group and U.C. Rusal, Russian and international media reported.
While RUSAL clarified that no such decision has been made yet and that the Company’s board will discuss executive changes on 22 February, sources told the media earlier this week that Deripaska will announce his departure from these two pursuits, retaining only his official capacity at GAZ Group, which is Russia’s premier producer of commercial vehicles. According to insiders, the move was in the works prior to news of the renewed fight for Norilsk Nickel.
The battle to control Norilsk has been an off-again, on-again affair for the last decade that began upon the exit of Mikhail Prokhorov from the firm. Prokhorov, who was Vladimir Potanin’s partner in the venture the time of his departure, left a partial ownership void when he stepped down in 2008. Although Potanin had his sights set on acquiring the then-unclaimed share of the enterprise, Deripaska’s Rusal purchased the interest instead.
A four-year battle for control ensued between Potanin and Deripaska. A resolution continued to prove elusive until 2012 when Roman Abramovich acquired a 6-percent interest in the firm through his holding company Crispian Investments Limited. During the five years of peace that followed, the company’s revenues and scale of operations grew.
The lock-up lapsed in December 2017, and Potanin moved to buy Abramovich’s stake through a company the former controls, Bonico, which subsequently approached Abramovich’s Crispian. Rusal was notified of the proposed deal via a letter describing the tender of an offer of right of first refusal (ROFR) by Abramovich’s Crispian to Potanin’s other company Whiteleave Holdings Limited and Deripaska’s Rusal to buy the 6,313,994 ordinary shares Interros has sought to purchase. However Rusal, who owns 27.8 percent of Norilsk, sought an injunction from the High Court in London to block the deal, which the court has placed on its docket for early next month.
Rusal issued a press release on the subject of Potanin’s attempted purchase of Abramovich’s share of Norilsk, saying that the purchase is legally invalid.
The Company contends that the Letter is invalid and hence, it contends that any sale of shares in Norilsk Nickel by Crispian pursuant to the Letter is also invalid under the Framework Agreement. Accordingly, the acceptance of the ROFR is strictly without prejudice to all of the Company’s rights in respect of the Letter and/or the ROFR and acceptance is made in parallel to legal challenges to validity of the Letter.
The next move in this big corporate game is expected no earlier than on the week of March 5th, when the High Court in London will hold the hearings on Rusal’s claim.
According to unconfirmed media reports, En+ CEO Maxim Sokov will succeed Deripaska as president at his firm, while Rusal’s CEO Vladislav Soloviev will become CEO on EN+. Meanwhile, Rusal’s finance head Alexandra Bouriko will become the company’s CEO – the first time a woman will lead one of Russia’s largest commodities producers.