Oct. 6 (Bloomberg) -- RTL Group Chief Executive Officer Gerhard Zeiler told President Dmitry Medvedev he is happy with the investment Europe’s biggest television company made in Russia.
“When we arrived in 1995, we had mixed feelings,” Zeiler told Medvedev at a meeting in the Kremlin, also attended by Modern Times Group CEO Hans-Holger Albrecht. “Today, I can say we are very happy with our decision to invest and we are very, very happy with our partner.”
Zeiler, whose RTL holds a 7.5 percent stake in ZAO National Media Group, was part of a meeting organized by Medvedev’s administration, along with fellow shareholders, billionaires Alexei Mordashov and Yuriy Kovalchuk.
Russia’s media market faces changes as President Medvedev pushes to digitalize television in the country of more than 142 million people, Zeiler said. There were no discussions about increasing RTL’s stake in National Media, he said, adding that the Luxembourg-based division of Bertelsmann AG wants to remain involved with its Russian affiliate.
RTL in June agreed to swap its 30 percent shareholding in Russian channel Ren TV for of 7.5 percent in National Media Group. The media group also holds stakes in Channel One, the country’s main free-to-air television channel available to almost 99 percent of Russians, and Izvestia national newspaper.
“We aren’t the driver of the car here in Russia but we are very happy sitting in the back of the car, and watching Mr. Kovalchuk steer the car and sometimes giving our advice,” Zeiler said during the meeting with Medvedev.
National Media Group was set up in 2008 after merging media assets belonging to Kovaluchuk’s Bank Rossiya, steel billionaire Alexei Mordashov, oil producer OAO Surgutneftegaz and insurance company Sogaz.
Kovalchuk, an associate of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who is seeking to return to the presidency next year, thanked Medvedev for avoiding state interference when the group was formed.
“We were apprehensive there would be pressure from the state as to what should be done and how,” Kovalchuk said. “It simply would have been destructive for business. I can say that there was no interference from the state.”
Bank Rossiya holds 18.9 percent in the National Media Group, Surgutneftegaz and Mordashov’s Severgroup each have 26.2 percent, according to information provided by the company.
Forbes magazine puts Mordashov’s wealth at $18.5 billion and Kovalchuk’s wealth at $1.5 billion.
--Editors: Balazs Penz, Paul Abelsky
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