Kurchenko completes media takeover early
The youthful multimillionaire’s buyout of the Ukrainian Media Holding, which includes Forbes.ua, Korrespondent and other publications is widely seen as part of plans to bring the media under control before the 2015 presidential elections
Sergei Kurchenko has paid up the undisclosed, but doubtless substantial amount agreed for buying up 99.9% of the Ukrainian Media Holding [UMH] shares. This is much earlier than the date of January 2014 initially reported. This means that there are no longer any restrictions on changing the board of the UMH Group, and Kurchenko’s BETEK Media company takes over the management of UMH. UMH controls Forbes.ua, Korrespondent and a number of other publications.
The news that Kurchenko was buying up the UMH Group came in mid June and followed a number of other changes in media ownership widely seen as forward planning for the 2015 presidential elections.
The response from the Chief Editor of Forbes, Volodymyr Fedorin was immediate. He announced his resignation, stating that he considered the sale of Forbes Ukraine to be the end of the project as it has existed. He said he was convinced that the buyer had one or all of the following aims: to shut journalists up before the presidential elections; to whiten his own reputation and / or to use the publication for purposes that have nothing in common with media business. Forbes had in fact published material highly critical of Kurchenko.
This is Ukrainska Pravda journalist Serhiy Leshchenko’s assessment of 27-year-old Kurchenko’s mercurial rise to fame and mega-wealth:
“A year ago the name meant nothing to even the most observant journalist, let alone the Ukrainian public. But today his story could make the front page of ‘Forbes’ itself – the tale of a genius who has come from nowhere to become a multimillionaire, and still three years short of his thirtieth birthday. Miraculous. Except, of course, that this has all happened in Ukraine, a country famous for its corruption, authoritarianism and cronyism. And the irresistible rise of this mysterious character — from a modest background to the ranks of its most prominent oligarchs only raises a smile, because no one doubts that Kurchenko is a front man for the Yanukovych clan, tasked with legitimizing the enormous wealth they have accumulated in three and a half years of running the country.
No one doubts Kurchenko is a front man for the Yanukovych clan, tasked with legitimizing the enormous wealth they have accumulated in three and a half years of running the country.
… Preparing for 2015
Today the Kharkiv wunderkind controls four major sources of cash for Ukraine’s biggest pocket: the sale of cheap gas; the import of petrol and other petroleum products; the importing of gas into Ukraine from other European countries; and the ‘grey market’ conversion of non-cash money into cash. The amount of money passing through the hands of the ‘family banker’ runs to hundreds of millions of pounds a month, and all to ensure that come the presidential elections in 2015, Viktor Yanukovych will not have to depend on the oligarchs for support.
Preparations for 2015 also include the Family acquiring its own media outlets for the presidential campaign, to avoid any dependence on those owned by oligarchs, many of whom have reason to dislike Yanukovych and his young team. Kurchenko himself has taken business away from oil magnate Ihor Kolomoisky , owner of one of the country’s largest media corporations, including its main TV news channel 1+1. Another major media company is owned by Viktor Pinchuk, another enemy of Yanukovych, whom he holds responsible for the criminal prosecution of his father-in-law, ex-president Leonid Kuchma . Another large media group, ‘Inter’, recently fell into the hands of another clan that competes with the Family for influence on Yanukovych – the RosUkrEnergo group led by Dmitro Firtash and the President’s administration chief Serhiy Levochkin. Inter’s previous owner Valery Khoroshkovsky was appointed by Yanukovych to head Ukraine’s security services after his election in 2010, and later held the posts of Finance Minister and First Deputy PM, but then he fell out with the president and left the country, where he hasn’t been seen for more than six months. The Family’s attempts to make him sell his TV channel were unsuccessful, and his media empire joined the ranks of its opponents.
Preparations for 2015 also include the Family acquiring its own media outlets for the presidential campaign, to avoid any dependence on those owned by oligarchs, many of whom have reason to dislike Yanukovych and his young team.” (his article can be read here)