His own among strangers
The main surprise of the new US sanctions against Russia, announced on April 6, was the inclusion in them of the owner of the Renova group Viktor Vekselberg, perhaps the most loyal to the American establishment, the Russian "oligarch" with extensive ties and interests in the West. In 2005, the American court called Vekselberg "a permanent resident of the United States." Last year, it was Vekselberg who told Vladimir Putin at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum how the Russia-US business dialogue is taking place, and on behalf of the American and Russian businesses he expressed hope for the development of economic relations.
But when the name VEKSELBERG, Viktor Feliksovich appeared on the SDN's sanctions list, everything changed for him in an instant: the entrance to the US was closed (the businessman was a frequent visitor there), the assets in America are subject to freezing, Swiss companies stopped paying dividends, and even Russian counterparts began to abandon the transactions.
"For all the sanctions against Vekselberg came as a surprise. They do not make any sense. In general, Vekselberg has a good reputation in all respects, and he is not perceived as particularly close to Putin, "said Swedish economist Anders Aslund, an expert of the Washington Atlantic Council, in an interview with RBC. According to Oslund, he is personally acquainted with Vekselberg and "appreciates" him.
Vekselberg still has not publicly commented on the sanctions against him, and the press was mostly just news about the troubles of Renova in Switzerland, where Vekselberg is ranked among residents and local billionaires. About the assets of a businessman in the US can not hear anything. Meanwhile, in the US, Renova had before the sanctions the investment fund Columbus Nova, at least until 2015, managed assets of $ 15 billion (now the volume of assets on the fund's website is not disclosed, and the Renova website said about $ 2 billion, but he already two weeks does not work). Vekselberg is closely associated with the United States not only with business interests, but also with cultural, educational and scientific projects, as well as related ties and family assets.
The oligarch was not insured against sanctions by either close relatives in the United States, nor by ties with prominent representatives of political, business and humanitarian circles in the US and Europe. In America, Vekselberg has two cousins - Andrew and Jonathan Intrater. Andrew, a US citizen, heads Columbus Nova and at various times was the director of various Renova Group companies (for example, Akado and Integrated Energy Systems). Jonathan is Managing Director of the investment company Ladenburg Thalmann and is not officially associated with Renova. The fact of their relationship with Vekselberg was disclosed only once in the materials of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of 2007. The Brothers Intrater did not respond to RBC's requests sent to them via e-mail.
Although US sanctions against Russians do not apply to relatives and sanctions, US citizens can not be subjected to sanctions, Intraterrheal can have serious problems. "Vekselberg's cousins can not have any dealings with him, since sanctions prohibitions apply to all US citizens, regardless of the degree of kinship with the sub-entities. The responsibility is a fine of up to $ 250 thousand for every sanction violation in civil cases, up to $ 1 million and up to 20 years in prison in a criminal case, "explains Dentons partner Artem Zhavoronkov. Americans are not allowed to provide any services to a person from the sanctions list and receive any services from such a person, although "of course, Vekselberg can still, for example, call someone from Intrater and ask about the weather for the next weekend," specifies the head of the French branch of the British consulting company Aperio Intelligence George Voloshin.
Because of their relationship with Vekselberg, Intraster's counterparties will have to be more careful about dealing with them; it is possible that one of the counterparties will refrain altogether from dealing with the brothers just in case, says Zhavoronkov. It is likely that any significant transactions (significant transactions, the notion of the CAATSA-RBC Sanctions Act) with Intrasters will be regarded by their counterparties as indirectly contributing to Vekselberg's interests - such transactions may result in secondary sanctions for companies and citizens outside the US (foreign persons) , adds Voloshin.
In the Columbus Nova portfolio, there is an investment in the developer of the Frame Application Virtualization Platform, the Gawker site that specializes in rumors and news from New York, the online trading platform Fiverr.com, the music service Rhapsody, the music label 300 Entertainment, the video game developer Daybreak (formerly Sony Online Entertainment) , which is known for mass multiplayer games.
The site Columbus Nova says that Andrew Intrater since 2000 is the executive director of Columbus Nova, "the investment structure in the US for the Renova Group." However, on the website of the affiliated investment company Columbus Nova MB, the mention of Renova was recently removed from the Intratere help (it remained in the Google cache). RBC sent a request to Columbus Nova MB.
Andrew also has his own asset in Russia - 35% in OOO KH Media Partners (KNMP), follows from the Unified State Register of Legal Entities. KNMP, which is not part of the Renova group, is one of the three co-owners of MTV Networks World, the head of the Russian structure of the American media group Viacom. "MTV Network East" through its controlled structures owns licenses of Roskomnadzor for broadcasting in Russia 17 channels, including Paramount Comedy, Nickelodeon and MTV.
50 or not 50
"Renova" is a non-public group of companies, and the chains of their ownership historically go offshore like the Bahamas - an opaque structure. Vekselberg himself is the ultimate beneficiary of the trust in the Cayman Islands Columbus Trust, which directly or indirectly owns the Renova companies. The share of Renova in the American Columbus Nova was not disclosed anywhere, and therefore it is impossible to say whether its assets are frozen in the United States or not. If Renova belongs to 50% or more, Columbus Nova must be blocked.
But the sites of its companies - Columbus Nova MB and Columbus Nova Technology Partners - work and they have no reports of sanctions against Renova. If Renova owns less than 50% of the US company, the latter alone is not blocked and may continue to operate, as the US Finance Ministry replied on April 6 to frequently asked questions about sanctions, but "any payments, dividends or distribution of profits in favor of a blocked persons [Renova] will be banned, and if such payments are required, they must be transferred to a locked account in the United States. " That's what CTC Media Inc. did. (Delaware) when, from 2014, transferred dividends due to the Cyprus Telcrest (at that time controlled by Yuri Kovalchuk from the sanctions list), to accounts for blocked funds, wrote RBC.
Columbus Nova is a brand by which the family of American companies, which Andrew Intrater operates, is positioned under. And the company that actually owns these businesses is called Renova US Management LLC. and registered in Delaware (an intra-American "offshore" allowing anonymity of the owners), follows from the SEC materials from 2013 and the registry of Delaware corporations. When Andrew Intterter made political donations in 2017, he specified Renova US Management as his employer. This company could directly or indirectly belong to the Bahamian Renova US Holdings Ltd., which is located in the Offshore Leaks database and whose director on the Renova website previously indicated Andrew Intterer. In theory, the change in the ownership of Columbus Nova could occur at the level of, for example, the Bahamian company, which would lead Columbus Nova out of the sanctions - similar to the way Renova reduced its share in the Swiss Sulzer by 50% last week.
In order for a company that owns SDN not to be subject to automatic authorization, SDN should reduce its share below 50% by transferring shares to an independent person - a share can not be transferred to a business partner, or, for example, a friend, says Herbert Smith Freehills partner Alexey Panich . If the US Treasury finds out that the condition of a share below 50% is fulfilled formally, but in reality the company continues to control SDN, this company will most likely be individually included in the sanctions list, Panich says.
In the company of US presidents
Vekselberg has traditionally been associated with representatives of the Western elites - through the boards of directors of the Renova companies, the Renova charity funds, the Skolkovo Foundation and the trusteeships of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Jewish Center and the Tolerance Museum. So, in disenfranchised on April 9 because of sanctions, the board of directors of the Swiss holding company Renova Management AG, in addition to Vekselberg, included the former chairman of Ferrari and Fiat Luca di Montezemolo, ex-head of Deutsche Bank Josef Ackerman, chairman of the board of Bain (one of the "top three" consulting companies peace) Orit Gadish, as well as head of the US CIA in 1995-1996, John Deich.
"I've known Vekselberg for more than 15 years. He is a very good businessman and my friend, "Di di Montezemolo told the Swiss newspaper Blick in 2017.
In the US, Vekselberg was known at the highest political level. The billionaire met with three American presidents in the framework of discussions on the expansion of US-Russian economic relations, the director of strategic communications Renova, Andrew Shtork, told the Washington Post. In January 2017, at the invitation of his business partner Vekselberg visited the inauguration of Donald Trump, and in January 2015 he, as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, hosted Ivanka Trump, a gala dinner at the Metropole restaurant in Moscow Jared Kushner, wrote ABC News.
Vekselberg himself and ordinary Columbus Nova employees supported the US Democratic Party: from 2002 to 2017, they transferred $ 15,400 to the Democrats, according to the US Federal Electoral Commission (FEC) data collected by RBC. Of these, $ 2,000 in 2002 was personally paid by Victor Vekselberg to the electoral committee of Democratic Chuck Schumer's Friends of Schumer, according to the FEC. Under US legislation on the financing of election campaigns, such contributions can only be made by US citizens or holders of a residence permit.
In 2006, a representative of Renova told the newspaper Kommersant that Vekselberg has neither US citizenship nor residence permit in this country. According to Bruce Marx, managing director of the law firm Marks & Sokolov, who represented the interests of Canadian Norex Petroleum in her lawsuit against Vekselberg and Leonard Blavatnik in the US (the case materials are available here), Vekselberg had a residence permit in the United States, but "in the mid-2000s he refused the American green card. " "Unfortunately for Vekselberg, as a result of this decision, his status in the United States changed to an alien, and therefore it became possible to impose sanctions on him, which was done," Marx said.
In 2016 in an interview with Vedomosti Vekselberg said that he had only one citizenship - the Russian, and also has a work permit in Switzerland.
Vekselberg's cousin, Andrew Intterer, introduced Donald Trump and the National Committee of the Republican Party $ 64,600 (FEC) plus $ 250,000 to Trump's inauguration committee in 2017, ABC News wrote, which prompted journalists to suspect involvement in "streams of Russian-American money in political funds Trump."
Although Vekselberg refused in his time from the US residence, he still often there in recent years. According to the site private-jet-fan.com, Vekselberg owns an Airbus aircraft with the P4-MIS number, and this aircraft has been in the United States 14 times over the past two years, including twice in 2018, from the data provided by RBC service Flightradar . This is not surprising, because his family owns business and real estate there, and the children - Irina and Alexander - are graduates of Yale University and can be American citizens.
Assets around the world
Renova has a wide range of assets outside the United States, including the EU (Great Britain, Italy, Latvia, Czech Republic, Cyprus), Switzerland and South Africa (see infographics). All companies in which Renova still owns more than 50% are to be disconnected from the US financial system, and their assets in the US are blocked.
Renova has a medical and technological joint venture Stentex with the Irish company Medtronic. "Medtronic is aware of the sanctions that the US government imposed on various Russian companies," said Medtronic spokesman Joe Henley. "Currently we are assessing the consequences of these sanctions for our business."
The Swiss subsidiary Renova, the energy company Avelar Energy, did not respond to RBC's request. The British telematics insurance provider Octo Telematics (a 100% subsidiary of Renova) declined to comment.
Sanctions are a threat not only to Vekselberg's companies, but also to its projects that promote Russian culture and art in the United States. For example, the Renova Fort Ross Foundation is an American foundation that is engaged in the restoration and preservation of Fort Ross, a fortified settlement on the Rashen River River (California), one of the "Russian" sites in North America. The foundation was approved on the basis of the meeting in 2010 of Vekselberg, President Dmitry Medvedev and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Vekselberg allocated $ 1 million for these purposes, according to the American NGO "Institute for Government Responsibility". Renova Fort Ross Foundation, registered in Delaware, did not respond to RBC's request.
The Renova project to preserve Fort Ross supports the family fund of the Blavatnik Family Foundation, the Ministry of Culture of Russia, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Cisco Systems Corporation, Pepsi Cola, Visa, the billionaire Stephen Shvartsman (head of the investment company Blackstone ), a member of the board of directors of the Congress of Russian Americans Michael Danich, and others.
Billionaire Blavatnik, as a US citizen, is now also obliged to cease business relations with Vekselberg. Blavatnik is Vekselberg's partner in SUAL Partners, which owns a 26.5% stake in UC Rusal, although the full structure of SUAL shareholders has never been disclosed. Of the disclosures of Rusal on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, it is only known that Renova controls SUAL Partners through 35.8%. Press service of the holding of Access Industries, controlled by Blavatnik, did not respond to RBC.
Vekselberg was a member of the board of trustees of the American Mariinsky Foundation (Mariinsky Foundation of America Inc.), which organizes tours of opera and ballet artists and musicians, including the Mariinsky Theater. Information that Vekselberg is the trustee of the fund, was disclosed in the material of the Mariinsky Foundation of America from 2015. The Mariinsky Foundation of America did not respond to RBC's request. In addition, in June 2015 Vekselberg was elected for a five-year term to the Board of Trustees of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but now on the MIT page with the current trustees information about him is missing. In MIT, too, they did not respond to RBC's request.
The non-commercial nature of the projects here does not matter - any transfers from SDN to cultural projects or vice versa are subject to freezing, Panich points out.
The fact that Vekselberg has an apartment in New York, in Manhattan, in 2014 was reported in the materials of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, wrote RBC (it was about the lawsuit of a businessman, ex-Senator Leonid Lebedev to Blavatnik and Vekselberg). In fact, this apartment in the residential complex Park Millennium built in 1994 is owned by Marina Dobrynina, wife of Vekselberg, who heads the Russian charitable foundation "Good Century". About the fact that Dobrynina - Vekselberg's wife, wrote, for example, Forbes and "Interlocutor." Dobrynina purchased a New York apartment in 2002 from Blavatnik's Access Industries, follows from the city's real estate registry in New York (RBC has an extract). In 2016, the owner paid a tax on this property in the amount of $ 34.6 thousand, and in 2017 - $ 36.1 thousand, follows from the extract of the New York Department of Finance (RBC). Online real estate aggregator Zillow estimates this apartment at $ 9.57 million.
Marina Dobrynin also recorded other real estate in the US - Vekselberg's house in the city of Weston, Connecticut, RBC found out. The fact that Vekselberg owns a mansion in Weston, reported Gawker and New York Magazine. Dobrynina, as follows from the extract from the property register of Weston (owned by RBC), bought this house in 2001 for $ 5 million, and in 2002 the owner of the house was VEKSELBERG MARINA (then the name was changed to DOBRYNINA). The current market value of this property is estimated at $ 4.15 million (including the land plot), it follows from the statement. In 2017, Dobrynina paid a tax on this property in the amount of $ 84 thousand.
Contact with Marina Dobrynina through her fund "Good Century" RBC failed - they were sent to Renova, whose representative does not comment on family issues.
If the marriage is registered in Russia, then the regime of joint property belongs to the spouses (unless otherwise specified in the property sharing agreement) and by default each of the spouses owns 50% of the total joint property, notes Dzantons. If a spouse, for example, wants to sell property in New York, the money received for sale will be the joint property of the couple and they will be subject to sanctions restrictions, the lawyer says.
Son Vekselberg Alexander, according to Russian Forbes, is a US citizen by birth. In 2014, a man named Alexander Vekselberg through Avoric Denver Real Estate bought for $ 5 million a building for the Ferrari auto dealership in Denver, the Colorado Real Estate Journal of that year said. Denver journalist Bad Wells wrote in 2015 that he had got acquainted with the new owner of the car dealer Ferrari, Bentley, Lotus of Denver "Alex" Vekselberg, whose father is the richest man in Russia. Vekselberg Jr. also bought a Ferrari auto dealership in Philadelphia, Wells claimed (RBC sent questions to the journalist, he did not answer). Avoric Real Estate LLC owns real estate in Denver and Philadelphia, "used to sell luxury cars," and in 2015 received assistance in capitalization from Columbus Nova MB, the latter said. On the websites of car dealerships (Denver and Philadelphia), their owner is named only by name (Aleks) and is presented as a "young businessman-visionary".
Finally, Irina Vekselberg, who graduated from Yale in 2005 and worked in the structures of Renova, may also be a US citizen. As follows from the ConnVoters database ("Connecticut Voters"), her namesake Irina Vekselberg, who lived at Marina Dobrynina in Weston, was registered in 2008 to vote in elections (according to the Connecticut law, only US citizens - residents of this state) . The ConnVoters base is not official, but its creator received election lists from the state administration under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In Connecticut, voter lists are considered public information.
Economic risks for Vekselberg's relatives create art. 228 of the CAATSA law, which threatens with secondary sanctions to foreign (non-American) individuals for facilitating "meaningful transactions" for the spouses, siblings and children of the person under sanctions. Therefore, if the spouse wants to sell the property to an alien, the buyer may refuse, fearing secondary sanctions, Voloshin from Aperio points out.
The interpretation of the notion of "meaningful transaction" leaves questions (the US Ministry of Finance did not provide clear criteria). "Suppose Vekselberg's wife decides to sell the property for $ 2 million. Is this a significant transaction or not? Concerning what is significant? "- says Voloshin.
Even if Vekselberg's son is a US citizen (hence, no sanctions apply to him), his American business can still feel the consequences of including his father in the sanctions list, says Atlantic Council expert Brian O'Toole. Art. 228 of the CAATSA law implies that non-US companies and citizens should be cautious when dealing with children of Russians listed on the SDN list. For example, the company Vekselberg, Jr. in Philadelphia calls himself an authorized dealer and importer of Ferrari cars. In theory, an Italian manufacturer can stop such a relationship. RBC sent inquiries to Ferrari SpA and car dealers, allegedly owned by Vekselberg's son.
Sanctions are a "huge blow" on Vekselberg, given its significant international presence, noted Aslund of the Atlantic Council. Vekselberg this week complained to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of the consequences of sanctions - in particular, he told about the freezing of accounts, the risk of stopping Renova enterprises in Europe, the sharp rise in the cost of borrowing and margin calls (the need to extend collateral) for loans, . Even Renova's Russian businesses are experiencing difficulties: for example, the Akado group purchases equipment from American manufacturers Cisco and Juniper (now it will have to be replaced), uses Cisco software to provide a digital TV service, says a source close to Akado. Long-term effects for the "Renova" is difficult to calculate, because the structure of the property and assets of the group is not completely known. But this circumstance can only do much harm, because "the use of complex chains with entangled beneficial ownership and offshore jurisdictions is always red flags for banks," says Voloshin. For many counterparties, "a logical reaction will be to step aside and not play with fire."