Yeltsin Son-in-Law Set to Keep Peace in Billionaire Court Battle

Updated on
  • Deripaska, Potanin at odds over biggest Russian mining company
  • Former chief of staff will step into role if Abramovich exits

Valentin Yumashev may need to dust off the diplomatic skills he honed as chief of staff under late Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

The former state official -- also Yeltsin’s son-in-law -- is next in line for the job of keeping the peace between billionaires Oleg Deripaska and Vladimir Potanin as a years-long dispute over their holdings of the world’s No. 2 nickel company threatens to flare up again.

Valentin Yumashev

Photographer: Vladimir Smirnov\TASS via Getty Images

Fellow billionaire Roman Abramovich currently fulfills that role. But his desire to sell a stake in MMC Norilsk Nickel PJSC, known as Nornickel, has shaken the calm that held since the owners reached an accord in 2012.

Yumashev is named in court documents, for the first time officially, as the replacement for Abramovich should the billionaire’s Crispian Investments Ltd. go ahead with a plan to sell 4 percent of its 6.37 percent stake in Nornickel. The plans come after a lock-up period ended in December.

Deripaska has sought an injunction to halt the sale, saying the terms of the 2012 deal prevent the stake being offered in the manner proposed to either his own company, United Co. Rusal, or to Potanin, according to documents filed in the London court last week. It would damage the "protection" Rusal gets from the accord and allow Potanin to take effective control, Rusal said.

Long History

Yumashev, reportedly among negotiators of the 2012 agreement, would become guarantor of the relationship until 2023 if Abramovich offloads his stake, according to documents Rusal filed in the court.

Deripaska has a long history with Yumashev, marrying his daughter Polina in 2001. The couple have since separated, three people familiar with situation said, declining to be identified as the information isn’t public. Deripaska’s press service declined to comment.

Last year, Polina was granted almost 7 percent in Rusal shareholder En+ Group Plc ahead of its $1.5 billion initial public offering. Yumashev’s relationship with the Yeltsin family also brings with it ties to the Kremlin.

Rusal alleges in its court submission that Potanin’s Whiteleave Holdings Ltd. and Crispian have sought to transfer the shares being sold by Abramovich at an artificially inflated price. It also described as "fanciful" a demand by Whiteleave and Crispian that Rusal set aside $500 million in case the company’s injunction is successful.

Crispian and Whiteleave counter that they have acted in line with the 2012 accord as Rusal was also offered the stake, according to its so-called skeleton filings to the court.

The court is scheduled to hear the case in March.

— With assistance by Tony Aarons

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