Alisher Usmanov, the second-biggest shareholder in Arsenal Football Club, will become a key investor in one of Russia’s largest independent media companies, taking advantage of a law that limits foreign ownership.
UTH Media, which is half-owned by Mr Usmanov’s holding company, has agreed to pay $200m for a 75 per cent in CTC Media, which owns four Russian television channels.
CTC’s biggest shareholder, Sweden’s Modern Times Group, had been looking to sell because of a new Russian law that prevents foreigners from owning more than 20 per cent of media companies.
The law, which comes into effect in January, has forced changes at many media organisations, including Germany’s Axel Springer and Vedmosti, the campaigning newspaper that is part-owned by Pearson, the parent company of the Financial Times.
Russia has also banned cable channels from airing adverts, leading the news network CNN to shut down its service in the country temporarily.
In the deal for CTC, UTH will buy those shares owned by minority shareholders through the company’s Nasdaq listing. The terms represent “a low double-digit premium” to the last closing price, the company said.
The remaining 25 per cent stake in CTC will continued to be owned by Telcrest Investments, an investment group part-owned by Yury Kovalchuk. Mr Kovalchuk, described by the US Treasury department as Vladimir Putin’s personal banker, is on the US sanctions list.
Mr Usmanov partly owns Mail.ru, the Russian internet portal that made hundreds of millions of dollars from investments in Facebook in 2009. He has also invested in Twitter, Zynga and Airbnb, and his net worth is $12.5bn, according to Bloomberg.
Werner Klatten, an independent CTC director, said that it was “unfortunate that Russian law will require that we effect a sale of the operating business”, but that UTH Russia was “well positioned” to build CTC’s commercial position. UTH Russia already owns three TV channels, including Disney Channel Russia.
Get alerts on Russian business & finance when a new story is published