Yukos board approves Gerashchenko's candidature as board member

The board of directors of the YUKOS oil company has approved a list of candidates for the YUKOS board, which includes Viktor Gerashchenko, who is currently a State Duma deputy, for the vote that will take place at an annual shareholders' meeting, a source close to the company's shareholders told RIA Novosti.

On Tuesday, Mr. Gerashchenko told reporters that he had agreed to stand for the YUKOS board.

When asked whether he would help YUKOS and Sibneft to settle their dispute out of court, Mr. Gerashchenko said he believed that even marriages on convenience should be cancelled amicably without "smashing plates." In an interview with the NTV channel on Wednesday evening, Mr. Gerashchenko suggested that ex-YUKOS CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky had given his consent to his nomination for the board membership.

"...I have had no opportunity of meeting him /Khodorkovsky/ of late for certain reasons. However, I have known him since 1990 and I have always had a very good attitude to him," said Mr. Gerashchenko. "I was approached by YUKOS management and board members, who said they represented, among others, shareholders. I think Mikhail Borisovich /Khodorkovsky/ had given his consent." Experts agree the membership of Mr. Gerashchenko, who is seen as a pro-Kremlin figure, in the YUKOS board will have a positive effect on the company's activity. Experts predict that Mr. Gerashchenko will take the position of chairman of the board, thereby, squeezing Semyon Kukes from one of his positions in the oil company. Mr. Kukes is now holding the positions of board chairman and president.

Viktor Gerashchenko made a brilliant career of a financier. He was the last board chairman of the State Bank of the former Soviet Union, while within 1992-1994 and 1998-2002 he headed the Central Bank. In 2003, Mr. Gerashchenko was elected a Duma deputy for the patriotic Homeland bloc.

Mr. Gerashchenko will have to quit his job in the Duma to take the position of YUKOS board chairman.

Experts view Mr. Gerashchenko's upcoming appointment as a sign that YUKOS' management and shareholder structure will undergo changes to the government's benefit. The replacement of the board chairman in Gazprom, Russia's natural gas giant, also ushered in the change of power in the company. In July 2000, the Kremlin's nominee Dmitry Medvedev replaced Rem Vyakhirev's Viktor Chernomyrdin as board chairman. In less than a year, Mr. Vyakhirev was forced to resign.

Mr. Gerashchenko will formally take the position after a meeting of shareholders, due on June 24.

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