Saturday, June 23, 2007

Firtash's woman-trouble

Today's 'FT' runs an interesting story [see below] about monopolist gas trader RosUkrEnergo, and the problems being encountered by its Ukrainian owner, Dmytro Firtash, in the divorce courts.

The case, which involves his his former wife Maria Mykhailivna Firtash, could affect ownership rights over his multibillion-dollar commercial empire.

When the pair were divorced two years ago, it is unlikely that the courts would have been aware of Firtash's 45% share of the shadowy Swiss-registered RUE, so she may have a case. Even president Yushchenko famously claimed ignorance of RUE's Ukrainian owners.

I have posted previously about Maria Firtash's step-son Serhiy Kalynovsky and his involvement in the fatal May 30th car smash mentioned in the 'FT' story, and the subsequent attempt to spirit him out of the country by 'plane dressed a a girl. He had previously pledged in court not to leave Kyiv.

A couple of days ago Serhiy Kalynovsky was found guilty of causing the 'accident', and fined 34 hryven [about $7] for speeding.

In May 2005 Serhiy Kalynovsky and his brother Oleksandr badly beat up a DAI [road cop] inspector who was giving them a parking ticket. Even though the cop sustained quite serious head injuries, the case against the two brothers was dropped.

Nice to have rich and powerful parents who can fix things..

p.s. The full 'F.T.' story below - just in case it goes to 'subscribers only'

Divorce casts cloud over tycoon’s billions
Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash is embroiled in a bitter divorce that could affect ownership rights over his multibillion-dollar commercial empire, including a company controlling natural gas supplies to Ukraine and the European Union.
Mr Firtash this week hoped to boost the transparency of his portfolio of holdings, announcing that key assets, including Swiss-registered gas trader RosUkrEnergo, which he owns in partnership with Russia’s Gazprom, had been consolidated under a new holding, Group DF (GDF).
But a divorce dispute with his ex-wife, Maria Firtash, has cast a shadow over the consolidation plans. It also raised doubts about Mr Firtash’s ability to hold on to majority interests in the lucrative gas trade, in television channels in Ukraine, and in property and chemical companies scattered across former Soviet states.
In a statement on Friday, Mr Firtash announced the formation of the Vienna-based GDF under which he has consolidated most of his assets.
Robert Shetler-Jones, GDF’s British chief executive, said: “The formation of GDF reflects the group’s desire to have a clearer, more unified structure for its business interests, one that is transparent, and which will provide a platform for access to competitive financing terms to support the group’s ambitious business expansion.” Having been earlier owned by a complicated web of offshore companies, GDF’s companies posted $4.6bn in consolidated revenues as of December 31 2006.
The prime asset of the 42-year-old businessman is a 45 per cent interest in RosUkrEnergo. The trading and distribution company controls the supply of Russian and central Asian gas to Ukraine, and further to European markets. Hungarian gas trader EMFESZ and a Vienna-based chemical holding, Ostchem, were also brought into GDF.
“This is the first step” towards possible IPOs, Mr Shetler-Jones said, adding that individual companies could be ready for a listing on a major European market within two years.
But a family feud could challenge Mr Firtash’s bold plans.
In a Financial Times interview, Maria Firtash said she would seek a 50 per cent interest in the businesses, or equal compensation, through litigation. She claims to have played a major role in setting up the businesses.
Ms Firtash, who is 51, was in her mid-30s when she met Mr Firtash in the early 1990s and nearly a decade older than Mr Firtash. She said they initially worked together in what was largely her business. Later she promoted Mr Firtash to commercial director of her business and married him in 1996, she said.
“Later I gave him legal rights over many of these businesses. I had licences and traded in gas. We traded in foot products, traded in many things. This was our joint work,” she said.
The mother of two has challenged a divorce settlement that she signed almost two years ago. The package is said to be valued at tens of millions of dollars.
She claims not to have received full compensation and argues that the settlement was not legally sound to begin with.
The former couple have clashed in Ukrainian courts. On May 11, Kiev’s Pechersky district court ruled the divorce settlement agreement non-binding. Mr Firtash is expected to appeal. Ms Firtash pledged to fight to the highest jurisdiction to gain control over half of the assets.
“I will file lawsuits in all countries,” she said.
Ms Firtash has experienced rough times as of late. Last month one of her sons and a stepson to Mr Firtash, 21-year old Serhiy Kalynovsky, was injured in a car accident. His fiancĂ© and an interior ministry officer were killed. Serhiy, who lost control of a BMW that crashed into the officer’s car, has been charged with manslaughter. [? - LEvko]
The mother and her other son, 23-year-old Oleksandr Kalynovsky, have accused Ukrainian officials of dragging their feet in the investigation of the accident.
Mr Shetler-Jones refrained from discussing the marital dispute in detail but said: “This could be a press campaign to focus attention on their situation or to refocus troubles facing their son.”

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