When is an oil company not an oil company? One measure might be when the top management has upped and left their desks, which is what happened at Russia’s Yukos today.
The entire top level of executives, including the cheif financial officer and boss Steven Theede, both US citizens, have left the country in what one Yukos source has described as an atmosphere of “fear and terror” The company is facing ruin as the Russian government breaks it up and sells it off to raise claimed unlevied back taxes, but, say critics, it has more to do with its imprisoned former boss Mikhail Khordokovsky’s planned political challenge to President Putin, a challenge snuffed out by his arrest and trial for fraud and tax evasion. Minority shareholders may lose all of their 25 percent stake, but the Head of Heritage Capital fund William Browder for example, says “what is happening , while ugly, is similar to the way Khodorkovsky treated small shareholders when he built his empire in the 1990’s. The only difference is that this time it is a different group of people abusing the law”.