Vkontakte.ru ownership saga: Usmanov now plans to increase Mail.ru Group's stake
A mere two weeks after an executive of his management company stated the opposite in an exchange with Bloomberg, Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, the main shareholder of the Mail.ru Group, said he was willing to increase his group’s stake in Vkontakte.ru, Russia’s leading social network also known as VK.com.
“If there is a reasonable market opportunity, we plan to increase our share in Vkontakte. Concrete negotiations are being held on a continuing basis [with all of the site's shareholders] – sometimes with interruptions, sometimes with the involvement of third parties – and we’ll [soon] reach our goals,” Usmanov said last week in an interview with TV channel Rossiya 24.
“We are interested in acquiring any [additional] stake in Vkontakte. I believe in this company, which will be the phenomenon of the Russian Internet,” the billionaire added, as reported by the news agency RIA Novosti.
Mail.ru Group already owns a 39.9% stake in Vkontakte. In addition, the group completely owns two other major Russian-speaking social networks, Odnoklassniki and Moi Mir, each with more users than Facebook has in the country.
Last year, Mail.ru Group general manager Dmitry Grishin expressed interest in taking control of Vkontakte “or, even better, acquiring all of its shares.”
But Vkontakte.ru general manager and shareholder Pavel Durov ruled out such a possibility, characterizing it as “utopian.”
Vyacheslav Mirilashvili and Lev Leviev, who provided funds to Durov to start VKontakte, have no plans to sell their combined 48 percent stake, Leviev said this past October, according to Bloomberg.
VKontakte was valued at $1.5 billion based on Mail.ru’s purchase of 7.44 percent of the company for $112 million last year.