MOSCOW, December 23 (RIA Novosti) – Uralkali has replaced its chief executive days after funds linked to two Russian billionaires completed the purchase of almost half the shares of the potash giant.
Uralkali’s board of directors announced Monday that it had appointed Dmitry Osipov, a deputy chairman of fertilizer producer Uralchem, to replace Vladislav Baumgertner as CEO. Osipov takes up the position effective Tuesday.
Baumgertner is currently under house arrest after being charged with abuse of office following Uralkali’s decision to end a pricing cartel. Uralkali has denied impropriety and Baumgertner was re-elected to its board of directors last month.
The change of leadership comes after structures tied to former presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov bought 27 percent of Uralkali from fellow oligarch Suleiman Kerimov. Uralchem investors led by billionaire Dmitry Mazepin bought a further 20 percent of the company, including stakes owned by billionaires Filaret Galchev and Anatoly Skurov.
The switch in ownership was seen as potentially easing tensions that erupted in the industry between Russian and Belarusian companies this summer.
Baumgertner was arrested in Belarus in August, a month after Uralkali pulled out of the cartel of potash producers that included Belaruskali, one of Belarus’ largest companies. The end of the cartel caused world potash prices – and Belarusian government revenues – to plummet.
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko to discuss the potash issue in September. Baumgertner was released to the authorities in Moscow last month on condition that they pursued allegations that he caused financial damage to the two companies.
Uralkali acknowledged in a statement that the decision to replace Baumgertner was made “in connection with the recent changes in the composition of the major shareholders of the company.”
It added that the company “continues to believe in his innocence and hope that the existing problems will be resolved as soon as possible.”
Potash is an important ingredient in modern fertilizers and a critical resource for agriculture.