Lebedev’s departure signals ‘all change’ at Aeroflot

RUSSIA’S government, keen to retake control of the country’s aviation sector, has encouraged the oligarch, Alexander Lebedev (right), to sell his 25.8 per cent stake in the carrier. If the government goes ahead, as rumoured, and buys up the released stick it will grow its share from 51 to 77 per cent.The government is apparently keen to reforge a new national carrier after many of the so-called ‘babyflots’ that were spun off from Aeroflot, such as Aeroflot Cargo, failed due to the global slump.One potential result of the sale is Aeroflot buying up Rosavia. Rosavia was due to be the new state-owned airline, formed from several airlines bankrupted by the global financial crisis but the depth and duration of the slump mean that on 5 March last year, the federal government put Rosavia’s launch on hold. Such a move is not guaranteed though and would face a great deal of resistance from those stakeholders opposed to the plan.Lebedev denies that he was strongarmed into selling his share.“I consider this a favour,” he said, claiming that it is a “gentleman’s agreement” with the government. In return he has promised to spend the money on agriculture, affordable housing and other Russian development projects. “They just told me not to spend the proceeds on yachts and villas.”

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