Hospitality magnate Alexander Klyachin is known primarily as the owner of the Metropol Hotel and the Azimuth hotel chain. But his business interests lie elsewhere: Klyachin has concentrated in his hands huge amounts of land in the Moscow region and is constantly being sued over the obscure origins of his land ownership.
Alexander Klyachin, known in the business circles as the owner of the Metropol Hotel and the Azimut hotel chain, is not only a hospitality industry tycoon. He also happens to be the largest landowner in the Moscow region, facing endless trials and litigations concerning the shady history of the ownership of the land in question.
In Soviet times, where the Moscow Ring Road ended, the area of the lands of collective and state farms started, which provided the capital city with food. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, land in the near Moscow region became too expensive to grow potatoes on it. But in some places the Russian heirs of those Soviet collective farms have remained to this day.
At two opposite points of the Moscow Ring Road, there are still two state farms with typical Soviet names. The “State Farm named after Lenin” (in Rus. – “Sovkhoz imeni Lenina”, editor’s note) in the south grew strawberries and vegetables. The state farm “Path to Communism” (in Rus. – “Put k kommunizmu”, editor’s note) in the north specialized in meat and milk. In the 90s, both enterprises were reorganized into joint stock companies, and all employees became shareholders. Today, 30 years later, both agricultural enterprises are in the process of protracted litigation. CJSC State Farm named after Lenin is suing the structures of the Rota development group owned by the family of State Duma deputy Dmitry Sablin. And the company “Khimki-Molzhaninovo” (formerly known as the Collective Agricultural Enterprise (CAE; Rus. variant KSHP – editor’s note) Khimki – the successor to the “Path to Communism”) has been fighting with the administration of Khimki and the Swedish IKEA already during many years, insisting that they stole from the collective farmers 20 hectares of the valuable agricultural land near Moscow along Leningradskoe highway.
It seems to be situations as like as two peas. But why, then, in support of the “State Farm named after Lenin” politicians and bloggers stand out for, as well as some public actions are being held, but the confrontation between the heirs of the Khimki State Farm with the Swedes and city officials touches only the direct participants in the process and no one else. Why there are such double standards?
The “State Farm named after Lenin” from Kashirka managed not only to preserve itself as an agricultural enterprise whose products are known to all Muscovites, but also showed that in the market conditions of capitalist Russia business with a large social component is possible.
The situation in Khimki is completely different. Anyone who has been to this northern satellite city of Moscow understands that there is no agriculture in this place at all – endless buildings of new residential areas, huge shopping centers along the Leningradskoye Highway.
There are no shareholders behind CAE “Khimki” – former employees, milkmaids and tractor drivers of the liquidated state farm “Path to Communism”. Unless a couple of people remained in the management, and even then they hardly have a stake in the company. Legal battles with retired officials of the Khimki administration and the Swedes from IKEA are being conducted by multimillionaire Alexander Ilyich Klyachin.
In early March 2008, Kommersant reported that the Investigative Committee had opened a criminal case against Irina Shestak, First Deputy Minister of Property Relations of the Moscow Region Government, as well as “unidentified founders and leaders of one of the large landowners of the Moscow Region, ZAO “Nerl” and ZAO “Buzharovo” (ZAO is CJSC – editor’s note). According to the investigation, the official entered into an agreement with businessmen, who with her help were able to buy 862 hectares of land of the former state farm on the banks of the Istra reservoir for 4.3 billion rubles less than its market value. The case was based on the materials of the check carried out by the Department for Combating Organized Crime and Terrorism of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, Kommersant reported.
The article also described a scheme by which its participants allegedly managed to sell land in the prestigious Istra district of the Moscow region at the price of a taiga swamp. Mentioned, in particular, of a forged lease.
At the same time, the founders of the company “Nerl” were described as “unidentified persons”, however, in fact, the name of the owner of this large landowner was not a secret to anyone. It was Alexander Klyachin, whose land bank by that time, according to experts, was about 15 thousand hectares.
Since 2003, Klyachin’s “Nerl” has actively and at times aggressively bought up lands from liquidated collective and state farms for the further sale already for building it up with elite cottages…
However, just four months after the start of the investigation, it turned out that the Investigative Committee had no claims either to the Shestak official or to the same unidentified owners of the “Buzharovo” and “Nerl” companies. According to Kommersant, the investigator Drymanov (in 2018 he will be arrested, and in 2020 he will receive 12 years in prison for accepting a bribe on an especially large scale as part of the investigation into the case of thief in law Shakro Molodoy) found out that there was no fake lease agreement at all It was. According to him, “Buzharovo” in 1996 did not lease, but bought the land plot into ownership, and the deal with “Nerl” was crystal-clear. They lagged behind Klyachin, and the delighted governor of the Moscow Region, Gromov, shortly after the termination of the case, awarded the acquitted official with a badge “For Merits to the Moscow Region”.
The questions that arose from the materials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs audit – and they even included the number of the lease agreement, the authenticity of which was questioned by the employees of the Department for Combating Organized Crime and Terrorism of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation – remained unanswered.
After the “Buzharovo” affair, Klyachin gained a reputation of an invulnerable and influential landlord.
The “Sekret Firmy” magazine described in detail the most common schemes used in land-grabbing at that period. “Obviously, enterprises whose shares are dispersed among many shareholders who own expensive property and are burdened with debts, do not pay dividends to their shareholders, have highly profitable businesses and are located in corrupt regions”, – wrote “Sekret Firmy”. Most of these points included companies that inherited the lands of the former Soviet state farms.
“Usually invaders start an attack by buying up “dust” – small stakes from minority shareholders”, – described the procedure the “Sekret Firmy” magazine. “Together with the “dust”, the raider receives not only comprehensive information about the enterprise, but also the ability to put a spoke in the wheels of the CEO and the main owners. Thus, in accordance with the “Regulations on maintaining the register of registered securities holders”, the owner of 1% of shares has the right to receive an extract from the fresh register of all shareholders of the enterprise and the size of their blocks of shares. The owner of 10% of the shares has the right to convene an extraordinary meeting of shareholders with the agenda he needs – this is the key moment of any takeover. A 30% stake is sufficient for a quorum at a repeat meeting of shareholders. In a word, he disrupted the first meeting of shareholders – and any decision at the next meeting is a priori in your pocket. If a company has more than 51% of its shares scattered among many shareholders, it is as good as lost. Such an enterprise can be taken without a hand’s turn”.
After the “Buzharovo” case, Alexander Klyachin decided to work on the image – “Nerl” was sold to a certain investor from the UAE. KR Properties began to develop the hotel business – in particular, the “Azimut” brand of hotels.
Although in the development business, Alexander Ilyich sometimes used the methods worked out on state farms near Moscow. In 2011, ProfGruppBusiness, associated with it, reconstructed a five-storey administrative building at 9A Komsomolsky Prospect, in the very center of Moscow. The developer added two additional floors and bay windows, increasing the area of the building by 1.5 thousand square meters and sold them as apartments. An excellent business, considering that the cost per square meter in this area of the capital in those years started from 10 thousand dollars.
However, in 2016, the State Inspectorate for Real Estate established that all these floors and bay windows are arbitrary construction, which is subject to demolition.
In 2011, the media reported that CAE “Khimki” – the owner of the lands of the liquidated state farm “Path to Communism” put up for sale land plots along the Moscow-St. Petersburg toll road, which was laid despite the resistance of environmentalists, defenders of the Khimki forest. A year later, the same CAE “Khimki” filed an application with the arbitration court, challenging the legality of the transaction to alienate a plot of land from him with an area of 20 hectares, on which IKEA built two business centers.
The fact that the fact of alienation at the initiative of the government of the Moscow Region happened in the fall of 1993, 18 years before the filing of the lawsuit, also made the lawsuit piquant. However, the plaintiff argued that all this time he simply did not notice how two huge buildings were built on his land, in fact there was no land acquisition, as well as the IKEA lease agreement with the state, and thieves Khimki officials had stolen the land from him. number.
In the courts, representatives of the Khimki agricultural enterprise claimed that they were the legal successors of the Soviet state farm. But there were no peasants from the state farm “Path to Communism” in the structure of the owners of the Khimki agricultural enterprise – this became possible thanks to the use of another popular dubious scheme, when during the reorganization of the target of attack a twin company appears – with practically the same name and exactly the assets of the company undergoing reorganization are transferred to it by assigning its OKPO (General Classifier of Enterprises and Organizations) and OGRN (Primary State Registration Number) codes to the “twin company”.
Traces of the company’s departure from its shareholders from the state farm can be traced in the arbitration cases of 2004-2007, when the former owners of the shares, merged into the “Alterna” LLC company, tried to restore their rights to the land of CAE “Khimki” through the courts, but to no avail. The intercession of State Duma deputy Alexander Khinshtein did not help either. Kommersant reported that in 2006 he applied to the prosecutor’s office with a request to check the ownership of the CAE. According to his version, the enterprise could obtain ownership of the land “by means of armed seizure”. The shareholders of the state farm, who remained with nothing, wrote about the same to the prosecutor’s office, but they did not achieve the result.
True, the degree of Aleksandr Klyachin’s participation in the actions to “take away” the land from the former shareholders is not entirely clear – most likely in those years when the company was replaced, he was not yet involved in this matter. But later, a huge piece of golden Khimki land ended up in his hands, and he must bring money. Sheremetyevo wants to expand – negotiate with CAE “Khimki”. If someone wants to make money on a toll road to St. Petersburg, make an agreement with the Khimki agricultural enterprise… A deal with IKEA 18 years ago? You can try to turn back time. Moreover, lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya, known for her connections in law enforcement agencies and a scandalous meeting with Trump’s son, can bring support. And the shareholders should butt out.