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Russian partners bid to remove TNK-BP chief

Russian partners bid to remove TNK-BP chief 

By Russell Hotten, Industry Editor

Last Updated: 1:09am BST 03/07/2008



The power struggle at TNK-BP has taken another twist after BP’s partners in the Russian oil venture called an extraordinary meeting of the board of directors in a bid to remove chief executive Robert Dudley. 

Viktor Vekselberg, a board member and one of three Russian billionaires who together control 50pc of TNK-BP, called the meeting for July 7, when one motion will discuss Mr Dudley’s removal and another will request BP nominate a new, “independent” chief executive. 

BP, whose chief executive Tony Hayward raised the TNK-BP crisis at a meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday, said that the company backed Mr Dudley. As both sides own equal shares, the board meeting is likely to end in stalemate, raising the prospect that the next stage of the TNK-BP saga will be in the courts. 

BP and its partners in TNK-BP, Russia’s third-largest oil producer, have been fighting for months over the future of the company.

BP claims that the Russians are trying to get control on the cheap. The Russians, operating under a consortium called Alfa-Access-Renova (AAR), claim BP runs TNK-BP for its own benefit.

Stan Polovets, chief executive of AAR, said: “Our request to Mr Vekselberg to call an extraordinary board meeting is based on serious concerns that Mr Dudley’s actions are eroding value and the development of the company, while exposing TNK-BP and its shareholders to legal risk.

“We continue to believe that the underperformance of TNK-BP will continue unless the changes we have proposed are implemented, including the appointment of an independent chief executive.”

A BP spokesman defended Mr Dudley’s record, saying: “Mr Dudley has our full support.

“He has managed the company very well in the last five years for the benefit of all shareholders. He has ensured the highest returns to all shareholders.”

Yesterday, Moscow’s immigration department granted 49 new work permits to senior BP staff seconded to TNK-BP, including for Mr Dudley. On Tuesday, BP was told that dozens of visas were being refused, forcing staff to leave Russia by the end of the month. BP welcomed the move, but said it would still need another 40 permits.

There were signs yesterday that the UK Government would get involved. At a meeting of Mr Brown’s advisory group, the Business Council of Britain, Mr Hayward briefed the prime minister, who promised to raise the matter at the G8 Summit in Japan this weekend with Russia’s president Dimitry Medvedev.

  •  Comment: G8 needs to tell Russia to apply the rule of law
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