Solvers from Alfa Group: company top management schemes

15:00 19 July Kyiv, Ukraine

The investigation department studied the activities of the top management of Alfa Group, in particular the company A1, which is considered the "combat unit" of the international consortium.

For decades, a group of managers has been winning in various corporate conflicts, using not always legal tools. By cooperating with law enforcement agencies and corrupt officials, they managed to get the right decisions, and, if necessary, open cases against competitors. How it works, we will show with specific examples.

War for MegaFon

One of the key top managers of Mikhail Fridman, who was involved in “solving special issues”, is Dmitry Vozianov. After analyzing his activities, we can draw certain conclusions about the methods and tools of his work for the benefit of the Alfa Group empire. Dmitry Zimin, one of the founders of the VimpelCom mobile communications company, offered Dmitry Vozianov a career opportunity back in 2000, when he put him in charge of Beeline. But Vozianov's real career breakthrough came with the opportunity he received to take part in his first "corporate war."

In 2001, Dmitry Vozianov from Beeline moved to Alfa as head of the corporate finance department.. Here Vozianov began to implement raider schemes in the telecommunications sector, which helped Mikhail Fridman realize his ambitions to create a telecommunications giant.

Dmitry Vozianov quickly established himself in Alfa-Eco's investment division, playing a decisive role in its acquisition of a stake in MegaFon. The deal marked a turning point in Vozianov's burgeoning career, whetting his appetite for "special situations" but also leaving him bittersweet when the payoff for his efforts in the MegaFon deal turned out to be less generous than he had hoped.

Unexpectedly for the shareholders of the cellular company "MegaFon" in 2003, competitors took over its blocking stake. "Alfa Group" in those years was a co-owner of the company "VimpelCom", known under the trademark "Beeline". Representatives of Alfa Group acquired the CT-Mobile company, which owned a 25% stake in MegaFon OJSC, and top manager Dmitry Vozianov was appointed to lead the company. It was he who became the frontman of the conflict on the part of Alfa Group.

The sale of a 25% stake in OJSC MegaFon was contested in court. It was alleged that Alfa Group bribed witnesses in the case of a controversial stake in a Russian mobile operator. Judicial hearings were held in the British Virgin Islands.

The conflict was accompanied by high-profile reputational scandals and criminal cases. Apparently, the top managers of Alfa Group were in close contact or cooperated with representatives of law enforcement agencies, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the FSB: soon a number of criminal cases were opened against their competitors with allegations of fraud.

In 2004, the Moscow police department initiated a criminal case against MegaFon shareholder Leonid Rozhetskin, who was accused of "fraud committed by an organized group on an especially large scale." The criminal prosecution of Rozhetskin continued until 2008, when he suddenly disappeared from his mansion in Jurmala (Latvia). Only four years later, in August 2012, the decomposed corpse of a man was found in the forest, in whose pocket there was a plastic card in the name of Leonid Rozhetskin. The examination data showed that the DNA of the found body is identical to that of Rozhetskin.

The story of MegaFon's shareholders continues to this day. Another partner of Rozhetskin, Leonid Mayevsky, received a sentence in March 2022 after a long series of criminal cases.. The Meshchansky Court of Moscow sentenced him to 11 years in a strict regime colony. A former State Duma deputy from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and an ex-shareholder of MegaFon was found guilty of extorting $ 37.5 million from co-owners of Alfa Group.

The question arises: for what it was possible to extort almost 40 million dollars? According to investigators, between October 31 and November 8, 2018, Mayevsky threatened to talk about alleged fraudulent activities and possible involvement in the disappearance and murder of MegaFon co-founder Leonid Rozhetskin. It is possible that it was Mayevsky who helped in making a dubious deal between Leonid Rozhetskin and representatives of Alfa Group to buy 25% of MegaFon. Thus, having some compromising information on the representatives of Alfa Group and their "combat unit" A1, he demanded money for not disclosing this information.

However, top managers launched a counterattack and turned the situation in their favor: the ex-deputy was detained. At the same time, it is not known what kind of evidence Mayevsky and his accomplices had.

In 2007, after the “corporate war”, Alfa retained a 25% stake in MegaFon and received compensation in the amount of $ 2 billion. Five years later, Friedman sold his stake in AF Telecom to media and telecommunications tycoon Alisher Usmanov for $5.2 billion. Vozianov received a $30 million bonus for helping Alfa acquire and retain his stake, but, according to our interlocutors, he was disappointed by the amount: Vozianov was counting on more.

Top managers are collectors?

According to Intelligence Online sources, Dmitry Vozianov provided services to oligarchs under US sanctions, and later switched to managing a group of small consulting firms in Moscow - AXIOMA and "Group A" - with the help of a narrow group of consultants, mostly veterans of A1. Although he no longer had a formal role at Alfa at the time, Vozianov still uses the skills he gained while working for Fridman, assisting in takeovers, as well as developing his experience in litigating companies that find themselves in "special situations."

Special attention should be paid to the company A1. This is an investment sub-holding of the Alfa Group consortium. After a successful case with MegaFon, a whole “direction” began to develop in A1, which was engaged in the provision of dubious services in various corporate conflicts. Of course, working in this area, A1 top managers can be in close contact with the FSB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, have resources associated with official Russian bodies. At the time, Vozianov was one of four key A1 managers referred to as "white knights" by subsidiary chairman Mikhail Khabarov, despite being considered "corporate raiders" in other circles.

“The total number of A1 employees is about 100 people. Four key managers are directors of the investment block: Alexander Babikov, Alexander Kaplan, Dmitry Vozianov and Andrey Won . Each of them is an entrepreneurial manager who clearly does not work for a salary, and in this format it is interesting for him to be a partner with the group,” says A1 President Mikhail Khabarov.

In the 2010s, Vozianov applied his experience in several major civil cases, including the hunt for Russian bank assets for the Russian Deposit Insurance Agency (DIA) and the oligarch Magomedov, head of the Summa group.. But the really high-profile case was his cooperation with the Irish bank IBRC, which actually invited A1 to work for him as a collector, to help collect his Russian assets from billionaire Quinn without any competitions or tenders for such services.

In 2008, Sean Quinn was considered the richest person in Ireland with a net worth of $6 billion. In April 2013, A1 entered into a corporate conflict between the company of the Irish billionaire Quinn Group and the IBRC bank, which was his creditor. To build in the Russian Federation and Ukraine, Quinn Group took a loan of 2.8 billion euros, but due to the global financial crisis, the debts were not returned.

Irish bank IBRC and A1 form joint venture to collect debts. As a result, the value of the withdrawn assets is now estimated at $500 million. Top-managers planned that the property obtained during the litigation would be sold, and they would receive 25-30% of what they could sell, the rest of the funds would be received by IBRC. These cases brought him recognition in London and made him the leading bailiff in "Londongrad". But even after that, Dmitry Vozianov remained faithful to the co-founder of Alfa, Mikhail Fridman, who gave him the first big chance in his career.. In 2017 and 2018, Vozianov was closely linked to Friedman's acquisition of the Spanish retailer DIA through LetterOne Holdings (L1).

Knocked out money "Hammer"

It is very difficult to evaluate the success of the A1 company's work on the "Irish case" due to the lack of information; only a presentation of this project can be found in the public domain. However, if we follow the further activities of top managers close to Alfa Group, it becomes clear that the niche of corporate conflicts turned out to be quite promising. One of these stories happened with Vneshprombank. In 2016, the Central Bank of Russia revoked the license from Vneshprombank, and it was declared bankrupt. The temporary administration of the Russian Deposit Insurance Agency was introduced into the bank.

At the end of August 2016, the Deposit Insurance Agency decided that an agreement would be concluded with a certain Molot LLC to represent the interests of Vneshprombank outside the Russian Federation. In addition, Molot will search for and return the assets of Vneshprombank and its beneficiaries outside of Russia.. The term of the contract is one year, the company's services amount to $200,000. In addition, Molot can receive 10% of the returned amount. Vneshprombank at the time of revocation of its license was in the top 40, the regulator estimated the "hole" in the bank's capital at 188 billion rubles.

At first glance, the choice of Molot as a contractor may raise questions: the company was established in 2016 and is little known on the market. However, as it turns out, this is a long-solid team of people from Alfa-Eco and A1. The managing director of Molot, Konstantin Teterin, then stated that “my team included representatives of the A1 company Zurab Evloev, Dmitry Vozianov, Igor Lakhno and Georgy Azarov. In this composition, working in A1, the team has implemented 50 projects with a total profit of more than $6 billion.”

It is not possible to establish the details of the Molot LLC company due to the prevalence of the name in the Russian Federation. However, we can say that the company was established in 2015-2016 with the aim of focusing on the Western market. Also on the company's website it was indicated that it is located at the same address with another company that is affiliated with A1 - "Group A". As it turned out, Group A was created in February 2014 by the same former top managers of the Alfa Group consortium Igor Baranovsky and Dmitry Vozianov .

After Vozianov left the company in 2015, asset preservation brokering for Alfa inspired him to create Group A with Igor Baranovsky. Igor Olegovich was born in the GDR in 1959. Former executive director of Alfa-Eco. Longtime business partner of Vozianov and co-owner of Group A. Like Vozianov, Igor Baranovsky had a long career at Alfa, rising through the ranks at Alfa-Eco and A1, where he was Vice President for Executive, Legal Affairs and Media Relations at the time of the acquisition of MegaFon in 2003 year. He also managed a number of complex projects, including the acquisition of VimpelCom, successful participation in the tender for the modernization of Sheremetyevo Airport and a number of other investment and restructuring projects of Alfa. Before starting his career as a "judicial shooter," Baranovsky started out as a crime reporter for Moscow News and then went into public relations at the now-defunct Unicombank. Baranovsky also served for some time as vice-chairman of Rosinvestneft.

The Russian Unified State Register of Legal Entities shows at least three legal entities with similar data and details: GROUP A SPECIAL SITUATIONS LLC (TIN 7717289886), GROUP A LLC (TIN 7717776720) and GROUP A CENTER LLC (TIN 9717048362). It is noteworthy that the director and founder of all three legal entities, Yury Dmitrievich Shevchenko, was also the director, and then the chairman of the liquidation commission of CT-Mobile OJSC, which we mentioned in the context of the conflict with MegaFon. "Group A", led by Dmitry Vozianov and Igor Baranovsky, was founded in May 2015 by Yuri Shevchenko, who is still the head of a Moscow-based complex litigation-financial conflict resolution firm whose services are similar to those that Vozianov developed at Alfa.. Group A has other ties to Alfa, including Leonid Kotychenko, head of information technology at Altimo and creator of the Group A website.

In March 2017, it was also reported that Molot LLC was proposed by representatives of the Deposit Insurance Agency of Russia as a company that was ready to search for foreign assets of another bank, Master Bank, and it was declared bankrupt in 2014.

It turns out that the State Deposit Insurance Agency offers depositors of failed banks uncontested cooperation with the Molot company, which is closely associated with the aforementioned Group A. This fact may indicate that representatives of the top management of Alfa Group have close ties not only with law enforcement officers, but also with officials and officials of the DIA. This, in turn, allows them to actively promote their distressed asset or debt business.

Although Vozianov no longer officially works at Alfa, whose interests he defended almost secretly, he still has indirect contacts with key people in the company, including Andrey Elinson, now deputy director of A1. As with Khabarov's positive narrative, Elinson argues that A1 is a kind of Robin Hood, taking from the rich to give to the poor...

Before joining the top management of the investment area in March 2018, Elinson headed the Asset Management Directorate of Alfa Group and was a member of the Supervisory Board of the consortium. Previously, he was Deputy General Director of Oleg Deripaska's Basic Element company. Previously in airport management, Elinson worked briefly at Deloitte CIS, and is also Head of Asset Management at CTF Consultancy, a member of the Expert Council under the Government of the Russian Federation, and a member of the board of Luxembourg-based ABH Holdings.

Another A1 “consultant”, Dmitry Chernenko, testified several times in court cases in London as a witness for the Russian Deposit Insurance Agency (DIA). First of all, we are talking about the hunt for the allegedly stolen assets of Vneshprombank. In 2020, the High Court of London complained that A1's "habitual" role appears to go "well beyond that of an ordinary litigation sponsor" as it has gone so far as to "administer Vneshprombank's proceedings on its own behalf". Chernenko, a lawyer and consultant for the A1 team, also supported VTB Bank in a similar case against Alexander Katunin. His sworn testimony led the bank to freeze the businessman's assets.. In 2016, Chernenko also shared his experience with the London High Court in a case brought by the Bank of Moscow, which was taken over by VTB that same year.

A1, controlled by Alfa Group, has a very tough and unscrupulous approach to business. The use of law enforcement agencies to achieve their own goals, the provision of deliberately false information in order to gain control over enterprises with the help of custom-made criminal cases. As well as pressure on larger creditors to impose their conditions on them and their overly harsh approach to debtors.. And Mikhail Khabarov is now implementing these technologies in the state bank Trust.

The former director of A1 continues to implement these "technologies" even now, holding the position of chief executive officer of the state bank "Trust". For example, Atommashkompleks UEIP reaches an amicable agreement with creditors to stop the bankruptcy procedure. But the Trust is filing a new bankruptcy lawsuit.. Moreover, the enterprise's debt to it is only about 69 million rubles out of a whole billion of the entire bankruptcy estate. The whole settlement agreement is in vain, but the Trust will get its own.

Or here's a selective approach - the developer "Bogdanikha-Land" agreed with the bank to restructure its loan of 4.3 billion rubles, which defaulted in January 2018. At the same time, in the situation with the Gema automobile holding, Trust immediately filed a bankruptcy lawsuit, which surprised even the Moscow Arbitration Court so much that it refused to accept the claim.. But the financial result of the activity of this grabber is excellent! For example, 30% of the Moscow Tire Plant went to A1 for 20 million dollars, and were already put up for sale for 120 million. In the case of the Amtel holding, A1 managed to gain about 5 billion rubles from the sale of the asset, while the company's debts to Alfa-Bank amounted to only 1.2 billion.