MOSCOW, March 26 (RIA Novosti) – Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich could settle a dispute with RBC Media group over its false report on Monday of the Chelsea football club owner’s arrest in the United States out of court, his spokesman said Tuesday.
Spokesman John Mann said he discussed the possible solution with RBC TV Director General Alexander Lyubimov during a phone conversation. “We are trying to settle the issue peacefully,” he said, adding that a final decision has not yet been taken.
Shares of Russian metals giant Norilsk Nickel and steel maker Evraz, which Abramovich co-owns, plunged to a four-month low on Monday afternoon in Moscow and London in response to rumors that Abramovich had been detained in the United States by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
RBC said Abramovich was detained at the request of Britain’s MI6 and questioned as part of the investigation into Boris Berezovsky’s death, and was later released. The report was confirmed by a former head of the Atoll private security firm, Sergei Sokolov, who cited his own source at MI6.
An FBI spokeswoman in Washington confirmed by telephone that Abramovich had neither been arrested nor detained, though she would not say whether he had been questioned.
Abramovich’s spokesman swiftly denied rumors of the arrest. “It’s not true,” Mann told RIA Novosti. “Of course, we will not leave this unanswered,” he added.
The damage, however, appeared to have been done. The rumors cost Abramovich as much as $132 million after the value of shares in his companies plunged, Kommersant reported.
Legal consultants told the RAPSI news agency that Abramovich’s chances of being awarded significant compensatory damages by a Russian court are slim, as it is difficult to prove missed profits in Russia.
While thrifty stock traders may have taken immediate advantage of the drop in price of Norilsk and Evraz shares, rumors of Abramovich’s arrest could have more long-term repercussions.
Traders believe the clamor could upset a reconciliatory deal between core Norilsk Nickel shareholders, RusAl and Interros, in which Abramovich has been acting as a principal guarantor.
The deal, which is expected to be completed by late April, might have fallen apart had Abramovich been arrested in the United States.
Abramovich has agreed to buy a minority stake in Norilsk Nickel through his Millhouse Capital investment vehicle, in a cash-for-stock deal to help RusAl owner Oleg Deripaska and Vladimir Potanin, who controls the Interros holding company, end their long-standing shareholder feud and restore the balance of influence in the company.