Return of the heavyweight: how Mikhail Lesin controls the media market

For four years the current head of Gazprom-Media Holding Mikhail Lesin has been on the sidelines. whether Has he retained the status of an informal man on the wheel of the Russian media?
Origin source
On Friday, September 26, the State Duma in the second and third readings passed a law on the limitation of foreign capital in the Russian media. This is not the first initiative of deputies recently, seriously change the landscape of the domestic media market and redistribute financial flows in favor of certain players. In the summer, for example, lawmakers approved the amendments to the law "On Advertising", abolishing the ceiling of 35% of the total volume of television commercials for one seller and banning the sale of advertising on pay channels. One of the lobbyists and the beneficiaries of the amendments sources on the market called the chairman of the Board of "Gazprom-Media Holding" Mikhail Lesin. What interests pursues a powerful media manager - read in the investigation Forbes.

At the entrance to the office the chairman of board "Gazprom-Media Holding" look attracts two things - an elegant wooden paddle over the door and a black and white photograph on the windowsill. The first recalls Mikhail Lesin about fishing in California, where he lived after his scandalous resignation from the post of the Russian president's adviser in 2009. The second - of the late Yuri fill in another, inEste with whom he created holding Vi (now the largest seller of advertising in Russia).

Lesin headed "Gazprom-Media" in October 2013, almost four years after the disappearance from the media horizon. "His return - the last stone in the mosaic. After that, the picture becomes a complete ", - says Sergey Vasiliev, CEO of Vi and a close friend of Yassin. Many have noticed a major change in the nature of "returnee".

According to one of his friends, Mikhail Lesin softened, he became more humane than in the past few years. "The tank is still going, but it was the polite" - adds Forbes said.

Sam Lessin in an interview with Forbes says that he - a strict manager and, if necessary, is talking tough with other market participants. Why did he come back, that he managed to do it and how it will affect the media market?

At the root of

"Gazprom-Media" - the most versatile on the market correct, interesting in terms of product development and strategy. My task - to build a complete holding. I am interested in making money for its holding andI will continue to do that. " Explaining his return, Mikhail Lesin said short phrases that leave no doubt that the decision is final and not appealable.

A graduate of the IISH, a former engineer Minpromstroya USSR Lesin has manifested itself in the sphere of culture, albeit on a modest level, in 1986. Akopov Alexander, who knew Lesina at IISS, offered him the position of "Panopticon" Administrator's studio theater and entrusted finance management. "During the day, he has established a job with twenty absolutely irresponsible people, and take care of the affairs of the theater for any week" - Akopov recalls President movie company "Amedia". Administrative talent, technical mind, the ability to tie and strengthen personal ties have helped to make a quick career Lesin. In 1994 he left the advertising business (the company "Video International" now Vi) for the post of director of television in the "RIA Novosti". Five years later became Minister of the Russian press, he has retained the post under Putin, and in 2004 was appointed presidential adviser on media issues.

"Mikhail Yuryevh - the man who stood at the origins of the industry and has developed together with the industry. He has extensive experience, know how everything works, "- emphasizes the president's press secretary Dmitry Peskov. Indeed, it is difficult to find a significant figure in the media market, one way or otherwise associated with Lesin. As advisor to the president, he advised the banker Yury Kovalchuk, was collecting media assets in the "National Media Group" (NMG). At the same Lesin as a consultant involved in the transaction for the purchase of Kovalchuk's structures billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, a controlling stake in the "National Telecommunications". In 2010, the arbitrator made in the sale of shares of the same Vi Kovalchuk. Lesin not deny, "I advised the heads of LMWH. And what's strange? Many have tried to use my knowledge and my experience in the industry. " Among old friends Lesina - Alexei Gromov, Vladimir Putin's press secretary in 2000-2008 and deputy head of the presidential administration, Medvedev in 2008. Nevertheless, in spite of their own status and availability of connections, four years ago, Mikhail Lesin cames retreat.

His resignation from the post of President in November 2009 officially advisor does not explain. "Interfax" agency, citing a source in the Kremlin reported "non-compliance with the rules of the civil service and ethical conduct of civil servants." When you ask the representatives of the media industry, which was the reason for the dismissal, they shrug their shoulders: the reason could be anything more important reason - the conflict with the new leadership in the person of Dmitry Medvedev. Forbes interlocutors tell us that as the adviser Lesin often acted contrary to instructions given to him, went abroad without the consent of management. "Medvedev is considered a manifestation of disloyalty, - said a source close to the Kremlin. - Several times it boils, but then got cold. " Sergei Vasilyev said that, if desired, Lesin could build a good relationship with the new president and his entourage.

"But his charisma and charm Mikhail can not be bothered to exercise this charism in relation to the people with whom he somehow uncomfortable to interact."

The last straw hundredla story of "Tricolor". "Gazprom-Media" led by Nikolai Senkevich negotiated the purchase of the satellite operator, when they intervened Lesin. He allegedly wanted to become a mediator in the sale of "Tricolor" Kovalchuk. Nikolai Senkevich allegedly complained to Medvedev. For the protection did not apply to Putin Lesin, who, apparently, decided not to intervene. "This decision is not consistent with Putin - said Dmitry Peskov. - Dmitry Anatolyevich as the president made the decision, which concerned his adviser. " The story of the resignation Lesin in an interview with Forbes did not want to remember. But when we are talking about the dismissal of the chief editor of "RIA Novosti" Svetlana Mironyuk, he said: "This is a public service, where one does not give any guarantees."

Family and Work

The Lesin engaged after retirement? "Family. I've got a five grandchildren, - he says laconically. - Own business I do not. "

In late 2009, Mikhail Lesin moved to California in Beverly Hills. children lived nearby - daughter Catherine, RT America producer now, and the son of Anton, a graduate of the Swiss University that came for an internship at the Los Angeles Film School. The former official was resting, was treated (just before retirement, he injured his spine, a skiing) and indulged in his favorite hobby - fishing ocean. However, the desire to settle down in a comfortable place obviously was not the main purpose of Lesina. "It feels uncomfortable in a static mode, - Sergei Vasiliev said. - He needs to think of something, to build, to generate something. "

For four years in rolling out two pictures on the set of which the son of Mikhail Lesin was executive producer. Forbes interviewer in Hollywood says that it is not an initiative of Anton Lesina - most likely, he took up the movie business on the advice of his father.

Tackle filmmaking Mikhail Lesin advised an old acquaintance, a former vice president of Warner Bros. Alexander Shapiro. To what extent and under what conditions to invest money is unknown. According to producer center, Sabotage action movie with a budget of $ 35 million, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, released in March 2014, is grossed $ 13 million at the box office, with $ 10ln - in the United States (the Russian film distributors have not acquired). The same amount earned was released at the same time the second film Lesina Jr. - comedy with Woody Allen and Vanessa Paradis titled Fading Gigolo (budget - $ 30 million).

The third film project, which Lesin Jr. participates as an executive producer, -. The picture of the Second World War Fury Brad Pitt in the lead role and a budget of $ 80 million goes to rent, including in Russia, scheduled for October, 2014. Shapiro co-produced all three films of Anton Lesina. Lesin Sr. of involvement kinodeyatelnosti son denies. "[By producing movies] I have no interest," - he said.

In Moscow, over the years Mikhail been short visits, but it is closely followed what was happening in the Russian media market. "He was involved in the affairs of the industry in the years of absence. I spoke with him, and professional issues we discussed, "- said Vasilyev.

"I know that, and Ernst and Dobrodeev and Zlatopolsky with him all these years kept in touch, be consulted."

In winter 2012 the board of directors "Gazprom-Meua "extended his contract with Nikolai Senkevich four years. However, after a year and a half he was fired without explanation. Sienkiewicz joined the "Gazprom-Media" in 2004 with NTV and the first years of coping with the management of the numerous assets of the holding, turned it into a "white" and the company restructured. However, a single structure to it, as they say, it was not possible to collect. "It worked for each asset separately," - assesses Alexander Akopov. And it probably was the reason for the replacement. "I understand that there was some level of dissatisfaction with the previous management of the company", - Sergei Vasiliev said.

On the dismissal of Sienkiewicz and the forthcoming appointment of Yassin a month before the official announcement, referring to its sources, said "RIA Novosti". In December 2013, Svetlana Mironyuk herself was fired, and the agency reformed in MIA "Russia today". The industry argued that an event of a hand Lesin, relations with which Myronyuk (once his protege) went wrong from the time when he was a presidential adviser. Regulation "RIA Novosti" was then Neuesoychivym: agency allowed itself to conduct sometimes too free information policy. In the presidential administration have been unhappy with the way the agency covered the protests of 2011-2012, and the trial of Alexei Navalny.

"Lesin and Gromov expected to put at the head of the agency Margarita Simonyan, but at the last moment Volodin [first deputy head of presidential administration], together with Sergei Ivanov [chief of staff] insisted Kiselev" - says Forbes source. In the end, we agreed on a compromise scheme: Dmitry Kiselev became CEO of the new agency, and Simonyan - the editor in chief. Alexei Gromov did not respond to a request for dismissal of Forbes Myronyuk. Lesin has denied any involvement.

From reserve

"When the market learned of the appointment, all stunned by the beauty of the combination", - says one of the closest friends Lesina. Former adviser to replace Nikolai Senkevich, who played a role in his resignation. Virtually no one in the industry is no doubt that Mikhail Lesin, bored on a large-scale activities to activelyivalsya his return. Market participants believe that this was involved, Alexei Gromov, appointed in May 2012, after the re-election of Putin, the first deputy head of presidential administration. "Lesin particularly lobbying is not necessary, it is also one of the key figures in the market - refutes the version Dmitry Peskov. - In this case, I think it has affected the industry need to ensure that such people were involved, and his personal need for disclosure of their own potential. "

Sam Lessin says the head "Gazprom-Media" offered him a board of directors of the holding. However, representatives of the media industry believe that the decision taken by Vladimir Putin personally. The reason is not only a good attitude to the President Lesin, and the special position of "Gazprom-Media".

State control over the country's largest media holding sprayed on several structures. Controlling stake "Gazprom-Media" directly and through offshore companies owned by Gazprombank. Co-owners of the bank - "Gazprom", VEB and pension "Gazfond". The council "Gazfonda" group includes representativesPy "SOGAZ", among which the major shareholders - the structures of Yuri Kovalchuk and Gennady Timchenko.

Who will make important personnel decisions? According to Forbes source close to the leadership "Gazfonda", - Vladimir Putin.

Russian president took a trustee who can be entrusted with "Gazprom-Media", and the choice fell on Mikhail Lesin. Using specific terminology, we can say that he was called from the reserve. Experience in management of media holding Yassin was. In 1997-1999 he was occupying the post of first deputy chairman of VGTRK, actively participated in its reform. In addition, Lesin always enjoyed great prestige in the industry. One member of the government commission on the development of broadcasting said that if the commission to Sienkiewicz always treated calmly, then his piety before Lesin many can not hide. "Of course, not everyone in the industry were pleased when he arrives - no one needs a strong player - adds Alexander Akopov. - But in the end, we agreed on the opinion that it is better Lesin than anyone else. you can negotiate with him. "

When asked how often he meets with the president predpravleniya "Gazprom-Media" says: "The president periodically meets with the media. Usually it is the collective meetings. " "That is personal meetings now you do not?" - Said Forbes reports. "There" - he did not deny Lesin.


After receiving a new assignment, a former adviser began to act very decisively. Within two months after the arrival of Yassin in the "Gazprom-Media" Holding announced the purchase of assets "Profmedia" group.

"The" Gazprom-Media "it was entirely his deal and he spent it very quickly. It was important to immediately declare itself on the market ", - said a source familiar with the negotiations. In 2013, "Profmedia" guide (a company owned by the holding "Interros" Vladimir Potanin) was negotiating the sale of certain assets with different players, but Lesin all agreements interrupted, offering to buy time "Autoradio" and "Humor FM" TV "2x2" and "Friday" film company "Central Partnership". For all the "Gazprom-Media" patchesl $ 602 million, and in the bargain are not logged "Profmedia" debts (about $ 300 million). "Interros" in the same time only in the television business has spent over $ 900 million.

Lesin began to attach and companies in one way or another connected with "Gazprom-Media". Holding became the owner of the Red Media production companies (contractor "NTV-Plus") and "GudStoriMedia" (produces series for TNT), as well as the company's "Alcazar", which sells advertising on regional channels holding. The source familiar with the transaction, claiming that Red Media Guide and "Alcazar" was faced with the necessity of sale and on "Gazprom-Media". According to Mikhail Lesin, in both cases, the owners of the companies have received their real value. But it does not hide the fact that in the case of the "Alcazar" sweetheart deal can hardly be called: "It is clear that the former owner of the" Alcazar "(Peter the Fisherman - Forbes.) Said that he was forced to sell. He did not want to go out of business "(Peter himself Fisherman on Forbes questions not answered). Other acquisitions "Gazprom-Media" has no plans in the near future. Requirements, as they saym Chairman of the Board, are completely closed.

When konsolidiruesh and expanding empire, in key positions should be its people. "Gazprom-Media" left the head of TNT and a former deputy Igor Goyhberg Senkevich, head of the "NTV-Plus" Alex Kukolevsky, head of sales-house "Gazprom-Media" Sergey Piskarev, general director of "Echo of Moscow" Jury Fedutinov. In some cases, separation took place rapidly. So, Alexei Kukolevsky, as they say sources in "Gazprom-Media", were fired at the airport, "called and said that now the courier arrives with documents" (Kukolevsky his dismissal no comment).

According to Mikhail Lesin, "everyone has the opportunity to demonstrate skills - someone fit, someone does not fit, it is a natural process management." To replace those who do not fit, he invited well-known to him. Thus, the "Central Partnership" headed by his former subordinate at the Press Ministry Pavel Stepanov, TV "Profmedia" won Vladimir Khanumyan working in LMWH and TNT led by Igor Mishin, ex-zeDirector of "Amedia". "It is the same as before - an instant reaction, very harshly," - says one of the managers shefe holding. The new team personally committed Lesin - as they say, many top managers of "Gazprom-Media" in the cabinets hang his portraits. However, the closest to him a man called Vladimir Shemyakin - a native of Vi, resigned Duma deputy for the post of Deputy Chairman of the Board of "Gazprom-Media".

The most problematic asset for Lesina in the holding - "Echo of Moscow", "The Liberal Party, in my opinion, very often exceeds the bounds permitted".

Former CEO of "Echo" Yuri Fedutinov says it fired without explanation: "Neither of which the loss of the question. From my perspective, it was an attempt to establish a dialogue with Venediktov from a position of strength. " His claim to the editorial policy of the radio periodically Lesin personally expressed the chief editor of "Echo" Alexei Venediktov, and sometimes he listens. Before dismissing it does not reach, explains a source close to rukovodstvu "Gazprom-Media", that there was no noise, and besides, "Echo of Moscow" still has a considerable audience.

This editorial policy NTV Lesina not embarrassed in the fight for the performance he is ready to ignore the frank trash in the channel's grid. "I do not care, good or bad this series. I need a rating, so I can sell it "- he insists. As one of his cronies, "Lesin no ideologue, he is about money, about the business. It is applied, will, as a benefit. "

But television - is in any case politics and ideology. In August 2014, Republican Senator Roger Wicker asked the US Department of Justice to verify whether Mikhail Lesin has violated the law on corruption, whether involved in money laundering, buying real estate in Los Angeles. Forbes found the representative of the Russian opposition, which Whicker received information about the American real estate Lesina. "I have given them, because hypocritically engaged in anti-Western propaganda and own houses in California," - explains the opposition, adding that he had received a letter from the inforatsiey with an anonymous e-mail box. Mikhail Lesin calls scandal estate zakazuhoy clean. "I'm sure after a while I find one who initiated this. What will become of him? Notice I did not started it, but do not worry, everything will be under the law, - he says. - Besides, what happened, I'm restless for one simple reason: I'm worried for the family. And the fact that many do not like me, I have long been accustomed to. "

Plates under threat

On the question of the head of "Gazprom-Media" sense of internal reforms and external initiatives respond to generalities: in the interest of the company, in the interest of the overall market.

"You want me to sit in the office and no one spoke, or what ?! From it just depends my business metrics. And Ernst, think no effort? Dobrodeev? And I have, I have no right? "- Suddenly it is put.

Business in the media - it is advertising. Anything that affects the flow of advertising in favor of the essential channels, good for the "Gazprom-Media".

With the filing of Mikhail Lesin major Russian television stations have established a non-profit partnership - Comitéindustrial television awards, received from the fund "Russian Television Academy" the right to award the prize Taffy, a longtime bone of contention in the TV market. Lesin also resumed talks on the establishment of a structure that on behalf of all the channels to the customer of media measurement.

Historically, in the Russian media advertising sold by TNS ratings, but channels do not just make a complaint to their quality. "First Channel" in 2005 announced the refusal from cooperation with TNS, but was forced to continue to sell advertising on their data - the other "currency" Advertisers do not recognize. «TNS always someone unhappy, but it is pointless to criticize them - they are in a very difficult situation, because different players want them different - Sergei Vasiliev said. - Therefore, there must be a legitimate body, which will give the terms of reference of the industry. "

According to Vasilyev, the emergence of such a body has been made possible with the advent of Lesina - he enjoys the confidence of industry leaders and can all sit down at the negotiating table. In June Industrieflax Committee telemetry established "Gazprom-Media", "First Channel", RTR, LMWH and "CTC Media" has announced a tender for the selection of a new teleizmeritelya, its results will be known in the autumn.

The arrival of "Gazprom-Media" Vladimir Shemyakin, who for four years was in charge of sales in Vi regional advertising, initiated the rapprochement between the two main competitors. Sales house "Gazprom-Media" has passed to the software in Vi, and industry players say that, in fact, the market of advertising sales are now running one company. In Vi do not agree with this formulation. "Competition is saved, money is money, - says Sergey Vasiliev. - But if the previous manual "Gazprom-Media" in our relations were neutral, now - the friendly cooperation built on trust. This allows us to focus efforts on the development of the market as a whole, rather than on the mutual tug. "

Last summer, the State Duma adopted two amendments to the law "On Advertising".

Mediaselleram proved beneficial amendment abolishes the ceiling of 35% of the total volume of television advertising forone seller. Another amendment, to ban the sale of advertising on pay channels, into the hands of the etheric channels, the audience of which gradually decreases and flows to the cable and satellite TV.

Research agency Initiative estimates that the share of thematic channels audience rose from 5% in 2009 to 11% last year, and this "niche" TV reached more than half of Russian households. "Lesin was a supporter of these changes, and have listened to and heard at all levels", - says Sergey Vasiliev.

Advertising fees cable and satellite channels increased by 20% in 2013, while essential - 9% (ACAR data). However, a significant threat of speech does not go yet: terrestrial TV earned 152.2 billion rubles, etc. - 4 billion rubles. Market leaders are concerned not only the rapid growth of advertising revenues "niche" TV, and dumping (a very low cost of subscription fees) from the cable and satellite operators. "We have a number of channels has increased too, but the real model of pay-TV is not formed. It is necessary to optimize the process, to make it clear wherehow to earn "- explains the head of" Gazprom-Media ".

Since the explanation is not very clear, we began to emerge regarding the version of the ultimate goal of some Lesina initiatives. Resumed talks on the fate of "Tricolor", which market participants are referred to as the main culprit of dumping. The future of "Tricolor" is particularly interesting in the program "digitalisation" of Russia (modernization of the broadcasting network), in which the state, according to the industry, has invested too much time and money. "In every village Arkhangelsk gloomy greyish houses dotted with dishes" Tricolor ". They are the same - in a mansion on the ruble. This is the digital television. Satellite and cable operators without the involvement of budget money solve the problem of the transition to TV to "figure", - says Sergey Vasiliev. But Mikhail Lesin insists with this company, "we have had no contact and will not be."

What other changes in the industry planned Lesin, for sure, no one can. Friends recognized that, despite the abundance of dating and relationships it is a very private person.Considering what Lesin activity developed in the holding company and the market, it is obvious that he does not intend to stop there.