Putin ally buys 25% of Russian Channel One: report

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A quarter of Russia's most popular TV channel has been bought by a company controlled by an ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin from billionaire Roman Abramovich, reports said Wednesday.

National Media Group (NMG), a company that already has major stakes in two television channels, said separately it had bought "RastrKom-2002, which owns 25 percent of the shares in Channel One."

The group, which was created in 2008, is controlled by Yury Kovalchuk, the main stakeholder of Rossiya bank who is reportedly a close friend of Vladimir Putin.

NMG already controls another federal channel REN-TV, a regional Channel 5 in Saint Petersburg and the prominent Izvestia newspaper.

Financial details of the deal were not released.

The Kommersant daily reported earlier that NMG paid about $150 million for the stake to its previous owner Millhouse LLC, which is controlled by billionnaire and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich.

Abramovich owned 49 percent of Channel One since 2001 after buying it from exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky for $175 million, Kommersant said. The other 51 percent has been under state ownership.

Berezovsky, who is wanted in Russia for alleged fraud and money laundering, filed a complaint against Abramovich in 2008, claiming that the latter forced him to sell his key assets at a fraction of their value.

Abramovich filed suit bid to dismiss the 3.5 billion dollar lawsuit but a UK judge rejected it.

© 2011 AFP

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