C&B Notes

Russia’s Business Environment: Tread Carefully

This ongoing court battle in Russia is an enthralling, complex story.

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich rose to prominence revealing almost nothing about how he acquired his power and wealth. In a courtroom here, his cone of silence is being dismantled.

Mr. Abramovich is embroiled in a nasty high-stakes legal scrap with another Russian tycoon, the exiled Boris Berezovsky, over oil, metal — and widely conflicting versions of the two men’s onetime business relationship.

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The post-Soviet Russia in which they first did business was a “society without law,” Mr. Abramovich’s attorney, Jonathan Sumption, told the court last month.  “In our own national experience, we have to go back to the 15th century to find anything remotely comparable.”

Mr. Berezovsky claims that, after he became estranged from then-President Vladimir Putin in the fall of 2000, Mr. Abramovich took advantage of his weakness by intimidating him into selling his stake in the Russian oil company OAO Sibneft at a fraction of its value.

He also claims Mr. Abramovich breached an agreement by secretly selling shares held in trust for Mr. Berezovsky in the aluminium company Rusal.

Mr. Abramovich says Mr. Berezovsky never owned any part of either company.

>> Click here for the full story on The Wall Street Journal