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By John Helmer, Moscow

Oligarchs aren’t elephants who go somewhere secret when their time is up. There’s no fabulous, ivory-rich boneyard for them.

So when Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK), the legendary Siberian steelmill owned by Victor Rashnikov, announced yesterday that there are two candidates for his position as chief executive, it doesn’t mean that Rashnikov is leaving the company. If he were really leaving, that would mean that MMK is up for sale. It isn’t.

It isn’t even going to be more transparent now that the oligarch is going to be spending more of his time in his new digs in London.

When MMK first sold its shares in the London market in June of 2007, Rashnikov was reported to own 98% of the company. The company doesn’t say, but today he controls about 86%. In March Forbes counted his paper value at $11.2 billion. On this week’s market capitalization, Rashnikov’s stake in MMK is worth $9.9 billion.

Yesterday’s official company news — in Russian on the company website, but not yet in English – isn’t an announcement of Rashnikov’s resignation. Instead, it is announced that at the annual general meeting of MMK shareholders, due on May 20, the company will accept the early termination of the contract between Rashnikov’s management company and MMK. In addition, two candidates for the post of director-general will be considered and voted on – Vitaly Bakhmetiev, MMK’s commercial directror; and Boris Dubovsky, the deputy chief executive at Uralvagonzavod, a railcar and tank builder. Elections imply choice, so there must be two candidates for a vote. Bakhmetiev, 50, looks to be the front-runner; he has been at MMK since 1984. Dubrovsky, the older veteran at 53, started at MMK in 1976. Both have worked as loyal Rashnikov subordinates for long enough to assure his trust.

But on January 19, in an announcement that appears only in Russian on the company website, Rashnikov appointed someone he trusts much more, his daughter Olga Rashnikova. Her title in the announcement is director of financial resources and control.

MMK’s company spokesman, Yelena Yevstigneyeva, confirmed the appointment and title of Olga Rashnikova. Regarding Victor Rashnikov, she said the company doesn’t comment on his resignation.

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