At the end of November 2011, the Rostov Electrometallurgical Plant (REMZ) gathered the guests for the launch of the second production line. Among them were the governor of the Rostov region Vasyl Golubev and Igor Zyuzin, owner of Mechel. Zyuzin is not just an honored guest, but a future shareholder of the plant, one of the local officials told reporters. The billionaire himself eschewed the press and appeared only at the climax, clicking on the trigger button along with Golubev and the founder of the REMZ Vadim Varshavsky. Businessmen widely smiled at each other. Now from the former cordiality there was not a trace left. "Mechel" wants to return the money spent on supporting the Warsaw plant, and he claims that Zyuzin deceived him, and falls asleep with his holding billion claims.
The collapse of hopes
In July 2007, two charter flights landed at the Rostov airport, full of scenic props to the top. Soon a dozen white tents rose in the central square of the city, and the administration of the Don Plaza Hotel rushed to look for furniture for a new guest (an obligatory condition is the absence of natural leather). It was a prelude to the arrival of Elton John, who spoke to the Rostovites for the opening of the REMZ. The show cost Varshavsky a few million dollars.
Varshavsky calls REMZ his child, this plant was the seventh in the holding company "Electrostal of Russia" (abbreviated to "Estar"). The hereditary coal miner became interested in metallurgy in 2003, when a gift for his 42nd birthday received a book about American pioneers of mini-metallurgy Nucor. The idea of steelmaking mini-plants attracted Warsaw, and he shared it with his long-time business acquaintances Alexander Shishkin and Sergei Veremeenko.
In 2005, Varshavsky and Veremeenko sold billionaire Mikhail Gutseriev 50% of the concern "Russian Coal". In a new project, they invested $ 70 million, as much Shishkin gave. The partners started the construction of the REMZ and started buying up other factories. The future was seen by the Warsaw rainbow: "Everything grew. You bought for a ruble, tomorrow it cost ten. Then twenty ".
By 2008, the partners had invested more than $ 2 billion in the holding, which included ten plants, about 70% of that amount was loans. The owners of Estar were expected to service the debt at the expense of growing revenues, which by the end of the year should have jumped almost threefold, to 65 billion rubles (about $ 2 billion), mainly due to the Donetsk Electrometallurgical Plant (DEMZ) purchased in the same year. This company cost Estar about $ 550 million, most of it was financed by an Alfa Bank loan. Now Varshavsky is reproaching himself for this purchase: "We bought at the peak. It was my mistake, which had a global impact on the fate of Estar and on mine, too. "
In October 2008, the business of Estara collapsed. The prices for the armature, which the holding company made, fell from $ 1200 to $ 200 per ton. "Estar" immediately lost $ 400 million of working capital. Banks first filled up with billions of claims "Estar", and then came to Warsaw, who personally vouched for loans. The bailiffs deprived the businessman of half his salary, forbade him to travel abroad and arrested his real estate, including the deputy reception room (in 2005-2011 Varshavsky represented the Rostov region in the State Duma), the restaurant "The Share of Angels" and the apartment.
"In the end, I will live on the street, if I deserve it," Varshavsky fumed. He was ready to sell the company for a pittance, along with debts, just to get rid of creditors, but twice failed. First, the deal with "Sberbank-Capital" broke, then the structures of Mikhail Gutseriev abandoned the "Estara".
Under conditions of the failed transaction with Gutseriev it is possible to judge how desperate the position of Estara was. Holding, which Deloitte estimated at $ 3 billion in mid-2008, departed GCM Global Energy Gutseriev for $ 5 million, and this money had to go to pay Warsaw's taxes on the sale. In exchange, GCM was to restructure the debts of "Estara". Binbank Mikail Shishkhanov, Gutseriev's nephew, acted as a consultant. "We were hoping for Shishkhanov," admits the former top manager of Alfa Bank. Petr Sumin, Governor of the Chelyabinsk Region, also counted on new owners. After stopping the Zlatoust Metallurgical Plant (ZMZ), which was part of Estar, threatened the mono-city with a social explosion.
In early 2009, a wave of strikes and hunger strikes broke out along the ZMZ. The indignation of the workers prompted management plans to cut more than 2,000 employees and stop one of Russia's largest special steel production. Governor Sumin was furious, recalls his acquaintance: "He trusted Varshavsky." "The crisis was not in Warsaw and not at the plant, but across Russia," - said the then general director of ZMZ Sergei Khomyanin. The volume of orders fell tenfold, and the plant automatically generated losses - up to 100 million rubles a month. Then there were consequences, recalls Khomyanin, at the plant, 300-400 people per month were cut.
In April Estar was headed by businessman Abukar Bekov, close to Gutseriev's family. A month later Sumin received him at his residence. Bekov said that he must understand the situation, and promised to prepare an anti-crisis plan for ZMZ, recalls an eyewitness of those events. Two weeks later, after the reminder of Sumin, Bekov asked for a reprieve, and a few weeks later announced that the deal with Warsaw had been canceled.
In June, four State Duma deputies demanded that the Prosecutor General's Office check the situation at ZMZ. The owner of the plant became interested even President Dmitry Medvedev. First, Warsaw had to report to colleagues on the State Duma at a special commission, and then in the presidential administration. "As a State Duma deputy, I said that I am not the owner of ZMZ. But this was of no interest to anyone, "he recalled.
"The authorities clearly realized that it is necessary to appoint an investor who would pay ZMZ losses monthly," Khomyanin said. Warsaw insisted that he had nothing to do with ZMZ, since he had sold it. Gutseriev was in London and was out of reach. Then the choice fell on Mechel. In 2009, Sumin asked to provide ZMZ logging of the Chelyabinsk Metallurgical Combine (CMP), says a representative of Mechel. Worked a bunch of Putin - Sumin - Zyuzin, said the former First Deputy Governor Andrei Kosilov.
To connect Zyuzin to ZMZ's rescue was decided in the summer of 2009 after the meeting of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with metallurgists in Magnitogorsk. A similar meeting a year earlier Zyuzin missed due to illness, and Putin promised to call a metallurgist doctor. Apparently, at the meeting in Magnitogorsk Zyuzin was rehabilitated. As a result, Putin instructed state banks to guarantee and partially redeem Mechel's bonds for 45 billion rubles.
After a week and a half in Chelyabinsk, a trilateral agreement was signed on five-year cooperation between Chelyabinsk Metallurgical Plant, ZMZ and the regional government. Instead of Khomyanin, ZMZ was headed by Rashid Nugumanov, who was named in the press as an appointee from Mechel. The day after the signing of the agreement, Medvedev appropriated Nugumanov the title of "Honored Metallurgist of Russia". The regional press considered that the president blessed the new leader for the revival of the ZMZ.
Was there a deal
In July 2009, at the Sfera restaurant in the book house on Novy Arbat in Moscow, Warsaw and Zyuzin discussed the rescue of Estara. The metallurgists sketched the first plan on a napkin. Then the businessmen were familiar with hats, but they have similar fates. Both came to metallurgy from the coal industry and developed businesses in a similar scenario, aggressively buying up assets in debt. And both, with a difference of several years, came under press creditors.
After the meeting in the Sphere metallurgists visited Zlatoust, and in August five countries flown around, having inspected all the factories of Estara, Varshavsky said. At the end of the month, Mechel signed an agreement on strategic cooperation with the managing company Estar of NK Invest, after a few days managers of Mechel appeared in it. Warsaw also temporarily moved closer to Zyuzin at the head office of Mechel, where he was given a separate cabinet and issued a corporate sim card.
This neighborhood inevitably gave rise to rumors about Zyuzin's interest in Estar's assets. How things really were, it is still unclear. It is for sure known about the purchase of four Warsaw enterprises by Mechel: DEMZ, the British Invicta plant, the Cognor trader and Lomprom Rostov. At the same time, Varshavsky claims that all companies of "Estara" were reorganized into "Mechel" structures. As evidence, he cites a copy of the document, which allegedly contains the basic conditions for the sale of "Mechel" business "Estara". On one page, more than 25 legal entities are listed, which in 2009-2010 allegedly had to be transferred to the holding company Zyuzin in exchange for organizing the work and restructuring the debts of Estara. Under the document are the signatures of Warsaw and Zyuzin. A representative of Mechel says that this is a fake.
There are other facts that indirectly testify that Mechel could be connected with the owners of Estara. The Panamanian offshore company Carmenvalley, which owns the Volgograd small diameter pipe plant (VZTMD), owned a stake in Uglemetbank, related to Mechel, in 2008-2009. The beneficiary of a number of other offshore companies, owners of Estara companies, was Dmitry Chikishev, who follows from the copies of the Forbes trust declarations. His namesake in 2009-2011 headed the legal department of "NC Invest", and before and after worked in "Mechel". The owner of the Volgograd factory "Red October" Dmitry Gerasimenko, who bought the property of ZMZ in 2013, in a conversation with Forbes, said that he had agreed on a deal with Mechel's top managers, including personally with Zyuzin.
In its official accounts, Mechel acknowledged that in 2009-2014 the Estara factories were its related parties. At the same time, the company stressed that it was not the main beneficiary. The lawyer Rustam Kurmaev, who represents Mechel's interests, claims that Estar has always controlled Warsaw. According to the lawyer, this follows from the agreements of 2009-2012, where the businessman in the interests of "Estara" is one of the signatories. Kurmaev also refers to the fact that in 2011-2012 Varshavsky was charged for the factories of Estara to the banks: "Can you believe that you can vouch for billions of rubles without having to do with the asset?"
Mechel, according to its representative, acted as a trading partner of Estara's plants, and it was necessary to call them related parties according to formal criteria: since 2009, Mechel has more than half provided them with raw materials and then sold the products. The main interest was in the expansion and diversification of Mechel's sales. The annual turnover between Mechel and Estar was $ 300-400 million. Trade relations with Mechel allowed Estara's plants to avoid bankruptcy, conclude amicable agreements with creditors and restructure loans. His relationship with the banks was also settled by Warsaw. He was allowed to go abroad again and removed the arrest from the property.
The idyll continued until the middle of 2013, when financial difficulties arose already in Zyuzin. The factories of Estara again found themselves on the verge of bankruptcy, and the question of their owner rose more than ever.
Debts and losses
At the end of August 2017, journalists gathered at a press conference on the Donbiotech plant. Vadim Varshavsky told about his project for producing amino acids for about twenty minutes, until one of the journalists asked him about a criminal case about fraud with a loan from ZMZ. From that moment the topic of the conversation changed dramatically. The presentation on the interaction between Estara and Mechel appeared on the screen, and Warsaw criticized his former ally Igor Zyuzin: "When it is said that Mechel helped Estar enterprises, it's lies!".
Zyuzin is also not enthusiastic about the former partner. He has not answered Warsaw's calls for a long time, the last time they had a glimpse at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in 2016. The cooperation of Mechel with the factories of Estara stopped much earlier, in mid-2013. The term of the agreement has expired, and Zyuzin was not up to that: on the verge of bankruptcy due to margin calls on loans of banks was Mechel itself. At the same time, the "daughter" of Mechel, Skyblock Limited, began to charge $ 739 million from Estara companies under a loan agreement from 2012.
With the Skyblock loan, trade debt was repaid, which the Estara factories accumulated in front of Mechel during the period of cooperation, explains a source close to Mechel. According to him, in 2013 the debt ceased to be serviced and Skyblock appealed to the court.
In the same autumn, LLC "Salis", associated with "Mechel", filed claims for bankruptcy of "Estara" factories. Banks-creditors immediately remembered about the guarantor and again came to Warsaw. The volume of obligations was about 15 billion rubles, the businessman says. To agree with the banks and restructure the loans, he allegedly again had to take control of the company "Estara": "There was no way out. The meaning was to survive. " Varshavsky returned the REMZ, VZTMD and the Volga-FEST plant, having bought them from "off-shores and creditors". This took $ 250 million, of which $ 200 million was provided by Promsvyazbank. Unrestricted are still at least 2 billion rubles in liabilities to the bank VTB and 2.8 billion rubles "Discovery". The guarantee for both loans Warsaw with variable success disputes in the courts.
In all his troubles, the founder of Estara blames Zyuzin: "It's not my debts, it's Mechel's debts!" According to the agreements that businessmen supposedly reached, Mechel was responsible for settling the debts of Estara. Instead, Zyuzin charged the plants with additional obligations and imposed unprofitable deals with their structures, Varshavsky indignant.
"Mechel" was not responsible for the loans of "Estara", and the transactions with the factories were exclusively based on market conditions, the Mechel representative insists. The rest of the participants are confused. Varshavsky and Mechel were in "some kind of relationship," admits the top manager of one of the major banks: "But we do not understand their essence."
In the meantime, Warsaw went into a counterattack. He not only disputes the guarantees of the factories of Estar on the Skyblock loan, but also intends to recover 60 billion rubles from losses from Mechel. This is how he assesses the damage that Zyuzin's structures inflicted on Estaru. A representative of Mechel believes that there are no legal grounds for collecting "at least a ruble". Warsaw is ready to sue all over Russia in the hope of solving problems with its own debts, Zyuzin's friend believes.
The businessman has enough problems and besides the war with "Mechel". His partner in Donbiotehu, the German company Evonik threatens to leave the project, the media wrote (Warsaw denies this), and the Rostov hotel Hyatt, which builds Warsaw, may be excluded from the World Cup program - 2018.
The businessman himself admits that he is tired of the conflict with Mechel: "I have internally burnt out the whole situation." But, it seems, he still has a fuse. In an interview with Forbes, Varshavsky says he hired lawyers to prepare a lawsuit in London court against Mechel and personally to Zyuzin. The amount of claims, according to Warsaw, will be $ 1 billion.