By John Helmer, Moscow
Ahead of the March 16 election of a new board chairman for United Company Rusal, President-elect Vladimir Putin did something that isn’t widely known; has never happened before; and has not been disclosed by Rusal.
According to the Rusal press release of March 18, “Barry Cheung’s election as a Chairman was supported by a majority vote of the Board, including the independent directors. This proves that his candidacy meets the interests of all shareholders, including minorities. His appointment was also met by a marked rise in the Company’s share price, which had been declining over the past few days under pressure from the emotional and groundless statements made by SUAL Partners [Victor Vekselberg and Len Blavatnik].”
There are 18 members of the Rusal board. Nine of them, including the lawyer Dmitry Afanasiev and Philip Lader, are on Deripaska’s payroll; ten if Deripaska himself is counted, and 11 if Cheung voted for himself. That makes a majority vote of 61%.
Two board directors, Maxim Goldman who is now substituting for Victor Vekselberg and has been his legal strategist for years, plus Len Blavatnik, Vekselberg’s partner in their 15.8% stake in Rusal, voted against Cheung. Their reason, according to their public statement, is that the board “should be chaired by a Russian citizen, whose independence from any of the major shareholders of UC Rusal is beyond any doubt “.
Dmitry Razumov, the head of Mikhail Prokhorov’s Onexim holding, with 17.02%, isn’t saying how he voted. But that doesn’t matter – nor do the votes of Glencore’s chief executive, Ivan Glasenberg; the representative of Hong Kong and Beijing, Elsie Leung; or the Englishman Nigel Kenny.
In addition to the $70 million which Deripaska took out of the company till, this is how much each of these individuals was paid for sitting on the Rusal board last year:
What counts most in last Friday’s board election is the single vote cast by Anatoly Tikhonov, the representative on the Rusal board of Vnesheconombank (VEB); that’s the state bank which saved Rusal from bankruptcy in November 2008 with a loan of $4.5 billion, and has subsequently supervised the interests of the state banks and state stakeholders in Rusal. How that happened can be read here.
But Tikhonov didn’t cast VEB’s vote.
Responding to a question of how the state bank instructed Tikhonov to vote, the head of the VEB press center, Ekaterina Grishkovets, indicated he had formally abstained from voting. She also confirmed that Cheung is not considered by VEB to be appropriate as chairman of the Rusal board. That is the view of the chairman of the VEB board, President-elect Putin.