- Once one of the largest independent petroleum companies in the world, Yukos’s assets were seized by the state and auctioned off as part of the criminal case against billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Founded in 1993, Yukos was created through a merger of Yuganskneftgas and the Novokuybyshevsk, Kuybyshev, and Syzran petroleum processing plants in Samara Oblast.At its peak, Yukos accounted for 20 percent of Russian oil production and 2 percent of world output. Khodorkovsky and other investors gained control of the company during privatization. Khodorkovsky— who controlled the Menatep bank—bid $350 million during the controversial loans for shares program, thus acquiring 88 percent of Yukos stock; higher bids from competing banks were disallowed on technicalities. Within several months, Yukos’s value was estimated at over $3 billion. As oil prices rose, Yukos became a major contributor of tax revenues to the federal budget, as well as a massive source of philanthropy for Russian civil society. During the early 2000s, Yukos entered into a period of rapid expansion. The company began exploring the development of new pipelines from Siberia to China and Murmansk. It opened new offices in Moscow in what was touted as the first “smart” office building in Russia; and in 2003, a proposed merger with Sibneft (now part of Gazprom) was initiated. However, the political rivalry between Vladimir Putin and Khodorkovsky came to a head that same year. Khodorkovsky had been supporting various political parties, purportedly in an attempt to gain benefits for his company. Such engagement in politics was viewed as a violation of Putin’s 2000 agreement with the oligarchs. He was arrested on 25 October 2003; prevented from selling his shares to ExxonMobil as he wished, Khodorkovsky subsequently transferred a controlling stake of Yukos to fellow Yukos executive Leonid Nevzlin, hoping to preserve the company.In July 2004, the company was charged with evading $7 billion in taxes via illegal tax havens during the 1990s. Yukos claimed that its tax burden—according to the prosecution—represented more than 100 percent of its profit for some of the years in question. After a drawn-out court battle and intense lobbying on the part of Western governments to preserve Yukos, the company filed bankruptcy in a United States court on 15 December 2005. Its creditors followed suit seven months later.In December, Yukos’s Yuganskneftgas subsidiary was put on auction and purchased by Baykalfinansgrup for $9.4 billion, approximately half of the value of the assets; Gazprom had also been present at the auction. On 23 December 2004, Baykalfinansgrup was acquired by state-owned Rosneft, making it the largest oil company in the country. The chain of events was widely criticized by the international community as a surreptitious nationalization of Yukos.
Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. Robert A. Saunders and Vlad Strukov. 2010.
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