Aitov also called on the state to more actively “take over the key positions in the mass segment of the Runet.”
This is exactly what happened. The company SUP Media, created by a banker close to the Russian Presidential Administration, Alexander Mamut, acquired
the LiveJournal blog platform, popular in Russia, before merging
into a single company with Rambler (which had delisted
from the London Stock Exchange in 2009).
In 2008, Yuri Milner’s Digital Sky Technologies fund consolidated
a 50.55% stake in Mail.ru while simultaneously selling
a third of its equity to businessman Alisher Usmanov (from the point of view
of the European Union, a “pro-Kremlin oligarch with particularly close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin”).
Yandex thus remained the only truly independent player in the industry.The Google/Begun fight and a golden share for Sberbank
Yandex’s main problem at that time was not government pressure, however. A much greater danger came from Google, which was gaining more and more ground in the Russian market, localizing key services in Russia and even opening two offices in the country (in St Petersburg and Moscow) with an emphasis on development and marketing.
Yandex was losing market share
in its key service, though at the end of the 2000s it managed to break this trend thanks to effective marketing positioning, as well as the development of super-local services such as schedules showing when hot water would be turned off in buildings and maps tracking traffic jams.
Google’s response was to go after the online advertising market: the Americans tried to buy the Begun contextual advertising service, which was owned by Rambler and the second biggest player in this market, behind Yandex Direct. The parties had already signed an agreement
, which included an interesting detail – the search service on the main page of Rambler was to switch to Google. This would not only catapult Google to the top of the Russian contextual advertising market, but also significantly increase its search audience.
This deal threatened Yandex’s long-term outlook, and the company began a fight to block it (for example, a press release appeared
about the demise of its unique search technology). In the end, the deal was rejected
by Russia’s antitrust regulator.
Not long after, the state began to seriously worry about preventing
“hostile takeovers” of Russian internet companies. Yandex was at that time preparing
the biggest IPO in the global tech sector, which would seriously complicate a potential attempt to wrest control of it à la Rambler and Mail.ru.
However, back in 2009, no one wanted to clip the wings of a company that was legitimately capable of competing with Google in the global market. A compromise was soon found: Yandex issued
a “golden share” that provided veto power over transactions and gave it to Sberbank, which at that time was also undergoing a rapid transformation
from a grimy state bank to a tech-focused financial corporation.