Putin ally Kudrin accepts tech giant Yandex's offer of advisory role

FILE PHOTO: Russia's Accounts Chamber Chairman Alexei Kudrin attends a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia June 17, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Alexei Kudrin, a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said on Monday he would join technology giant Yandex to advise on corporate development as the company begins a sweeping governance and ownership overhaul.

Yandex's Dutch-registered holding company last month said it planned to divest ownership and control of most of Yandex Group, including its main revenue-generating businesses, a move that could lead to enhanced Kremlin influence over some of Russia's backbone internet services.

Since Russia launched what it calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine in late February, Nasdaq-listed Yandex, often referred to as "Russia's Google", has grappled with domestic pressure on one side and its Western investors on the other, prompting speculation about its future.

Kudrin, who resigned as head of Russia's Audit Chamber last week, said he had accepted Yandex's offer to develop the new holding company's corporate structure, along with the existing management team.

"(This) will ensure the company's long-term and sustainable development in all markets, including international ones," Kudrin posted in his Telegram channel.

"One of the main tasks is to help preserve Yandex's unique management and technological culture, so that it remains independent and Russia's best IT company, where the most talented people strive to work," Kudrin said.

Yandex, whose Moscow-listed shares were around 1.1% higher by 0928 GMT, confirmed that Kudrin was joining the company.

Sources last month told Reuters that Kudrin had been discussing the move to Yandex with Putin. Sources said Kudrin was a good fit from the company's point of view as it strives to maintain business neutrality.

The Russian government in September tightened its grip on the internet, when Yandex sold its news feed and homepage to state-controlled rival VK.

A veteran of around 25 years in public service, Kudrin was finance minister for more than a decade between 2000 and 2011. While maintaining close ties with Putin, he kept a relatively low profile in his current role as head of the Audit Chamber, Russia's public spending watchdog.

Almost 88% of Yandex's ownership structure is free-float, with many Western funds among its shareholders.

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Susan Fenton)

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