After the seizure of Baltika, the leading brewery in Russia and a subsidiary of Carlsberg, Taimuraz Bolloev, a close ally and longtime friend of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has been appointed as its new director. This appointment comes amidst a series of government-led asset seizures involving foreign companies operating in Russia.
Last Tuesday, the government appointed Yakub Zakriev, the agriculture minister of Chechnya and a trusted ally of Ramzan Kadyrov, who also shares a close relationship with Putin, as the head of the Danone business. This move came after Danone, along with Baltika, was placed under state control last Sunday. (inside.beer, 16.7.2023)
Mr. Bolloev's appointment is widely perceived as a signal of the Kremlin's influence in the company's affairs. He has a prior association with Baltika, having run the company in the 1990s. Moreover, his reported closeness to billionaire Yuri Kovalchuk, who is known as "Putin's personal banker", further underscores the political dimensions of this leadership change.
Baltika's parent company, Carlsberg, has been among the many Western businesses seeking to divest their Russian operations following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Russian government has made such exits increasingly challenging, demanding approval from a government subcommittee, selling at a 50% discount to market value, and imposing an exit fee of at least 10% of the transaction value. This fee is seen by many foreign critics as a direct donation to the state coffers, which could potentially fund Russia's military efforts.
As a result, approximately 1,000 international companies that announced their intention to leave Russia more than one year ago have yet to complete the sale of their assets.
The government's actions have raised concerns among foreign investors, and analysts suggest that the expropriations are part of a broader redistribution of assets to loyalists close to the Putin regime. “It’s a new redistribution of wealth” to Putin’s circle, said a Russian oligarch as quoted by the Financial Times today.