Ramzan Kadyrov’s nephew, Ibragim (Yakub) Zakriev, was appointed to manage the yogurt company. This is not the first episode that suggests that the property of foreign companies is being redistributed in favor of the “Chechen group.” Earlier, Chechen businessman Valid Korchagin
, associated with the family of a Kadyrov associate, Senator Suleiman Geremeev, received stakes in the Russian network of OBI DIY hypermarkets and the coffee houses of the departed American Starbucks (more on the key owner of these assets below).
The nationalization of both companies looks more like reiderstvo
, which in Russia has been long and firmly entrenched as a business practice. It is safe to say that cash flows from yogurt sales will now be channeled in favor of Kadyrov’s group. Baltika did not go directly to this group, perhaps because Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol, or because, according to General Director of Transparency International Russia Ilya Shumanov, the Chechen elites had to share with the elites of Tatarstan
. Meanwhile, Bolloev is friendly with Putin and the Kovalchuks
, though it is more like clientele relations. But I will not be surprised if over time cash flows from the sale of beer turn up in the same pool as those from yogurt sales.
In my opinion, the nationalization of these assets speaks to more fundamental changes than a strengthening of the position of Kadyrov and his associates. For this, let’s recall the history of how assets were redistributed in Russia over the past 25 years.Reiderstvo as a business practice
Taking over assets, with or without the support of the state, is not a new practice. Raiders began to use “holes” in legislation and the weaknesses of joint-stock companies in the mid-90s. After the Yukos case, they began to seek the support of law enforcement agencies and regional- and federal-level administrations.
The most common model became large business structures close to certain figures of the political Olympus taking over the “juiciest” assets. Not every takeover went smoothly. One of the most sensational raider attacks was the Togliattiazot case
, which began back in 2005. The plant was built in 1985 by Armand Hammer, who had been investing in the USSR since the 1920s, and his company Oссidental Petroleum.
In 1992, Togliattiazot (TOAZ) was privatized by its management, which for a long time managed to fight off the state’s intentions to privatize the company and throw the antitrust books at it, as well as takeover attempts by Viktor Vekselberg’s Renova, which bought a 10% stake in TOAZ and Dmitri Mazepin’s Uralchem.
In the end, after 13 years of struggle, Uralchem managed to take over the asset, while its owners and managers were sentenced to various prison terms (those who managed to flee abroad were sentenced in absentia).
Incidentally, it is TOAZ that owns the section of the ammonia pipeline that runs through Russian territory whose reopening the Kremlin is demanding as part of a resuming the “grain deal” (see Susanne Wengle
With the state taking over assets, now everything is faster and easier. In addition to the abovementioned generating assets of the foreign Fortum and Uniper, the assets of the regional generating company TGK-2
, owned by Leonid Lebedev, a former senator from Chuvashia and the owner of the Sintez group, have been turned over to the state in Yaroslavl.
The story is familiar: a criminal case has been initiated against Lebedev for embezzling $220 million from TGK-2 (that is, from himself). Lebedev, who is on the Russian Forbes billionaires list, is on the run, and the company is marking billions in losses. And in Volgograd, the Prosecutor General’s Office is seeking to seize the Volzhsky Orgsintez chemical plant for the state
on the grounds that the privatization 30 years ago was allegedly illegal and the plant is important for the country’s defense and security.
It is the “strategic interests of the state” that have recently been cited to explain a new redistribution of property, and seemingly this explanation will be used more and more often. If a company that works for the military-industrial complex is not doing well – change the owner. And now observers are wondering if after the nationalization of Volzhsky Orgsintez, the same fate awaits
other chemical plants. For example, currently the Prosecutor General’s Office is demanding the nationalization of
one of the largest methanol plants in Russia, Metafrax Chemicals, owned by Dmitri Rybolovlev.
Consumer inflation is on the rise? You have to change
the owners of consumer-sector companies (Danone and Carlsberg can become a model). Currently, the large agricultural holding Pokrovsky
is also under threat of nationalization.
With companies where there is foreign ownership, it will be easier – by Putin’s decree
, the state has “super-preferential rights” with regard to property of foreign businesses leaving Russia. Nevertheless, with Russian private owners, as the cases of TGK-2 and Volzhsky Orgsintez show, there are no major issues either – you can always open criminal cases for “wrong” privatizations and “embezzlement” from their own companies. The path here has been well-trodden since the time of Yukos.
And one should not think that only foreigners or Russian owners who are not super loyal to the Kremlin are under attack. Everyone is: Vladimir Putin could decide that, for example, Igor Sechin is not such a great manager and Rossneft deserves better. At this point, we come to the main question.Heirs
A holy place is never empty, goes a Russian saying, and there will always be a new owner for a good property. But it is not enough to take away property – you still need to somehow manage it or transfer it to someone.
Judging by to whom and how the assets of the first foreign companies to leave Russia after the start of the war went, the Kremlin did not have a game plan at first. As a result, iconic brands were either given to the nimblest or the most daring, or because someone was in the right place at the right time.