Arbat Capital managing director Aleksey Golubovich will refuse to buy the Vedomosti newspaper if the current owners do not fulfill certain conditions. Golubovich informed the owners of the publication about this, the source told Forbes, surrounded by a businessman.
Golubovich wrote a letter (Forbes has a copy) to the owners of the publication, in which he indicated that he was not obliged to buy anything, because they have not fulfilled obligations on debt restructuring, but they are ready to return to negotiations if the debts are restructured and the election of the chief editor is held, Forbes continues. In the letter, Golubovich also asks to agree on a financing plan for the lack of working capital, which could be formed in Business News Media according to the results of the first quarter and expected according to the results of the second quarter. He writes that he is concerned about the financial performance of the company, which could have “significantly changed” since 2019 “both for objective reasons related to quarantine and as a result of changes in business management that occurred in 2020”.
In addition, Golubovich asks Kudryavtsev to present a plan for resolving the conflict in the publication "taking into account the interests of the labor collective."
This letter is also reported by The Bell.
The owners of shares and debt of Business News Media JSC (published by Vedomosti and Harvard Business Review magazine) are media investors Demyan Kudryavtsev, Vladimir Voronov and Martin Pompadour. On March 17, they reported that they had reached a preliminary agreement on the sale of the publication with Golubovich and the general director of the Versiya holding, publisher Konstantin Zyatkov.
Konstantin Zyatkov did not comment on whether he received such a letter from Golubovich, but said that he still demonstrates interest in the deal. “I hope that the questions that Golubovich has will be able to be resolved and the deal will be concluded.” Golubovich declined to comment. Forbes sent inquiries to Kudryavtsev and Voronov.
"Return 150 million"
The volume of obligations of Business News Media at the end of 2018, according to Rosstat in SPARK-Interfax, amounted to 1.018 billion rubles, of which long-term liabilities amounted to 154 million rubles, and short-term - more than 864 million rubles. The Forbes interlocutor, close to the company, previously estimated the total volume of its debt load at $ 5-8 million.
According to him, the debt obligations of the asset are controlled not only by Kudryavtsev and Voronov, but also by other creditors known to management and customers. Another interlocutor, close to negotiations on the sale of the publication, told Forbes that he became aware of the March 28-29 demand for the newspaper to “return 150 million rubles”. He believes that the demand was presented by the offshore company of businessman Dmitry Bosov.
“The degradation of quality media”
Golubovich’s ultimatum happened against the backdrop of an intra-editorial conflict. It began after March 17, the current owners announced their intention to sell the publication to Zyatkov and Golubovich, and Kudryavtsev said that he had already transferred the management of the publication to customers. A week later, acting Andrei Shmarov, co-founder of Expert Magazine, was appointed chief editor. He replaced Ilya Bulavinov, who became deputy chief editor of Vedomosti
Shmarov’s candidacy categorically did not suit the editors. Already in the first week of Shmarov’s work, a conflict occurred in a new place: he changed the heading in an article on Rosneft already published on the Vedomosti website from “The State may formally lose a controlling stake in Rosneft” to “The State as a result of a complex transaction will retain control in Rosneft without warning anyone. The editors also silently returned the former. Shmarov himself explained in a conversation with Forbes that he simply "trained to come up with different headlines."
After this incident, five deputy chief editors wrote a letter to Kudryavtsev, Zyatkov and Golubovich, where they called Shmarov “alien” to the corporate culture of Vedomosti, said that his parish “destabilized the team, shocked the newsmakers and advertisers” and proposed to appoint Anfis Voronin as chief editor. Now she leads the commercial project Vedomosti &.
Later, a vote was held inside the editorial office, at which the majority also voted for Voronina's candidacy. However, neither the current owners nor the buyers of Vedomosti reported plans to replace Shmarov.
On April 13, Shmarov himself deleted the column of economist Konstantin Sonin about the head of Rosneft Igor Sechin from the Vedomosti website. And this week, Shmarov banned publishing information on Levada Center polls and "writing poorly" about zeroing out Vladimir Putin’s presidential terms. Journalists of Vedomosti themselves spoke about the last two bans on Facebook. On April 23, the editorial board of Vedomosti published a column on the “degradation of quality media,” which criticized Shmarov’s approach to work. Shmarov called it "evidence of freedom of expression in this publication," according to RIA Novosti.