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Reshuffle in Izvestia

: www.izvestia.ru

: Pyotr Ukhov, Natalia Rostova  : www.izvestia.ru

The board of directors of leading Russian daily newspaper, Izvestia, on Wednesday, refused to accept the resignation of the newspapers editor-in-chief Mikhail Kozhokin, a spokesman for Izvestia, Yevgeny Artemyev said, refuting earlier reports that Kozhokin had resigned. However, according to Gazeta.Ru sources, Kozhokins resignation will, nonetheless, be accepted, when the board meeting resumes on Thursday. Kozhokin is to be succeeded by Raf Shakirov in the post.

Director general of the Prof-Media publishing house, one of the board members of Izvestia, Vadimir Goryaninov, confirmed to Gazeta.Ru, that Mikhail Kozhokin tendered his resignation at the board meeting on Wednesday. However, the board did not have time to consider the issue forthwith.

Mikhail Kozhokin, told Ekho Moskvy radio station that he is quitting Izvestia to launch a new, independent project. Kozhokin said that he remains a member of the Izvestia board of directors, as well as board member of the Prof Media holding, that owns the controlling stock of Izvestia daily.

As Gazeta.Ru wrote earlier, editor-in-chief of the leading Izvestia daily, Mikhail Kozhokin, has tendered his resignation. According to our sources, the resignation is the culmination of lengthy conspiracies in the leadership of Prof-Media, the Interros-controlled entity that holds the controlling stake in the oldest Russian newspaper. According to our information, Raf Shakirov, the incumbent editor-in-chief of the Gazeta newspaper, and former editor-in-chief of Kommersant, will become the new head of Izvestias editorial office.

Rumours of such a reshuffle have been circulating in the press for the past month, and over the past few days they reached a climax. However, even on Tuesday the interested parties - both Raf Shakirov, and Rafael Akopov, who oversee the Prof-Media Publishing House at Interros - flatly denied them during a conversation with Gazeta.Rus correspondent.

The latter even described them as "absolute nonsense", citing the fact that Prof-Media is conducting certain marketing surveys, reports of which have given rise to conjecture among journalists. Even today all the interested parties have so far kept silent.

Unofficially Gazeta.Ru has learned that Kozhokin will most likely concern himself with some non-media projects within Interros, from where he was appointed to the post of Izvestias chief editor in the first place.

Mikhail Kozhokin became Izvestia editor-in-chief shortly after the Interros bosss, Vladimir Potanin, company succeeded in establishing control of the newspaper in 1998. Kozhokin, who worked with Potanin at Oneksimbank from 1993, was there at the beginning of Potanin's media empire, oversaw the publication of the Russky Telegraph newspaper in 1997-1998, and played an active role in acquiring the Izvestia holding, and then in the battle for the newspaper with its other shareholder LUKoil.

Over the last few years, during which he headed the paper, he has at the same time been a member of the board of directors of Prof-Media, which was set up by Interros to manage its media assets. However, because of Kozhokin's special position, and his long-standing ties with Potanin, one of Prof-Media group's principal assets in economic and managerial terms was effectively directly tied to the editor-in-chief, and was largely independent of the management company. This gave rise to a protracted conflict within the management of the media group, which was brought close to resolution this summer with the arrival of Rafael Akopov, Boris Jordan's former deputy at the NTV television company, as chairman of the Prof-Media board of directors.

At the same time, Prof-Media has made a number of moves to expand and restructure its business. In particular, Prof-Media has bought a 35-per-cent holding in the Independent Media Publishing House, one of the most successful media companies on the Russian print media market. Also, Prof-Media managers announced their plans to get rid of those projects in which they do not hold a controlling stake, such as the Expert journal.

In addition, Prof-Media has launched a new printing house and a new radio centre. All this should demonstrate the group's strictly market-oriented strategy. As Prof-Media stressed, media projects are primarily of interest to them for their commercial prospects, not as "agents of influence". Also Prof-Media said it is set to pursue a policy of consolidating assets, and the centralized control of them. It is evident primarily in this context, that Mikhail Kozhokin's resignation should be regarded.

Under Kozhokin, Izvestia on the one hand tried to maintain a position typical of the previous, pre-Kozhokin Izvestia, that is, of an intelligent, moderately liberal newspaper, which matched its readership profile. And on the other, the paper tried to maneuver between the interests of various political clans and business groups, opening up its pages to the promotion and popularization of these interests. This strategy of "corroding" the brand was also evidently seen as futile by Prof-Media.

Raf Shakirov's invitation to become the new editor-in-chief proves, in all probability, that emphasis has been placed on changing the target readership and reorienting the newspaper to the modern Russian "middle-class" and the younger reader.

To all appearances, Shakirov's appointment was agreed with the Kremlin, where it met with no objections. In 2000 Shakirov was invited to take the post of the editor-in-chief of the main state news programme "Vesti", but he did not fit in with the reality of television management. However, he has maintained good connections within the structures of authority and political groups.

16 12:07


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