Putin Order Could Give Billionaire Ally Stake in Main Airport

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that could open the way for a company part-owned by Arkady Rotenberg, his longtime friend and target of U.S. and European sanctions, to take control over Russia’s main airport.

The decree authorizes the government to transfer the assets it controls in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport to a new holding company in which the state could have a minority stake, according to a statement on the government’s website. It’s the latest step in a two-year-old effort to consolidate ownership of the various business entities that make up the transport hub. Sheremetyevo is Russia’s busiest airport, serving 14.2 million passengers in the first half of 2015.

Rotenberg, Putin’s former judo partner and one of Russia’s wealthiest men, has won a range of government support since he and a group of Putin allies were put on sanctions lists last year following the Ukraine crisis.

In a 2014 interview with Interfax, he said he expected that the company he holds a 34.7 percent stake in, TPS Avia Group, would get a controlling stake in the consolidated Sheremetyevo entity as a result of the restructuring.

A spokeswoman today confirmed Rotenberg’s ownership of TPS Avia. She declined to comment on what stake the decree would give the company in the airport.

Under the order, the government’s holding in the consolidated company must remain at more than 30 percent. The decree calls for the administration to appraise the assets for consolidation and finalize the size of the state’s share in the new company within three months.

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