Friday, January 04, 2013

What is behind the Metalist Kharkiv sale?

On December 24th last year it was announced one of Ukraine's biggest soccer clubs, Metalist Kharkiv, owned by one of the country's richest businessman, Oleksandr Yaroslavsky, had been unexpectedly sold to the little-known 27-year-old businessman and lawyer from Kharkiv, Serhiy Kurchenko.  Some journalists associate Kurchenko with a company called 'Gas Ukraine'....prosecutor-general of Ukraine, Viktor Pshonka's son Artem, and president Yanukovych's oldest son Oleksandr.

Yaroslavsky, or 'King of Kharkiv', as his is sometimes called, was idolised by the club's supporters,  because he had  built the club up to rival the best in Europe. Apart from investing large sums into the club and its stadium, he had also invested heavily in other projects in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second city.

The sale came as a surprise, even though Yaroslavsky had had many personal feuds with Kharkiv's odious mayor, Hennadiy Kernes who had striven to return the club to the municipal ownership. Even Shakhtar Donetsk owner Rinat Akhmetov expressed shock when he learned Yaroslavsky had sold up the club.

There has been tentative speculation why Yaroslavsky 'could not refuse the offer he was made' after his failure to provide any clarification to the media.

The Yanukovych family, may have been keen to follow the trend of other immensely wealthy oligarchs  and get their hands on the plaything of the super-rich - a big soccer club.

'Korresponden't blogger Aleksey Golobutsky criticises the sale claiming it to be a demonstration of the barbaric nature of Ukraine's investment climate. If a big player like Yaroslavsky with his connections cannot protect his investments, what chance has an outsider got?

Kernes is one of Party of Regions' biggest hitters in the region - his battles with Yaroslavsky have undoubtedly caused damage the party's image, but it would seem the Yanukovych clan calculate this is a price worth paying for the sake of expanding their business portfolio. It is unlikely than any other raider in Ukraine would be big enough to take away Yaroslavsky's pride and joy.

No comments: