Dutch media manager Derk Sauer founded The Moscow Times in 1992 (he later also began publishing Russian versions of Cosmopolitan and Men's Health, as well as Vedomosti). It became one of the first Russian editions in English in Moscow. The newspaper positions itself as politically independent. However, she did not become financially independent - non-core incomes save her from large losses.
According to the service Kartoteka.ru, in 2019 the net loss of Tiemti LLC (The Moscow Times) amounted to 329 thousand rubles with a revenue of 13.1 million rubles. The losses could have been greater: the company lost 10.8 million rubles from its core business. This is the difference between revenue and expenses for supporting its activities (wages, site maintenance, etc.), which amounted to 23.9 million rubles.
The TMT budget was saved by an infusion of 11.7 million rubles. In the statement of financial results, they are reflected in the line “other income”. Such income includes all funds received not from the main (in this case, publishing) activity.
Other income includes what is donated free of charge, for example, under a donation agreement. A scenario is not excluded in which these 11.7 million are funds from co-owners or non-profit organizations.
- © Kartoteka.ru
For comparison: in 2018, the company's net loss amounted to 12.2 million rubles, editorial costs - 74.2 million with revenue of 32.9 million rubles. Then the financial situation was also corrected with the help of "other income" of 30.9 million rubles.
"I didn't buy the Moscow Times"
As Kommersant wrote, since 2015, The Moscow Times has been publishing Moscow Times LLC, owned by the family of Demyan Kudryavtsev. Kudryavtsev, reportedly, "took ownership of the newspaper, together with Vedomosti and several magazines, after which the publication changed the daily format to weekly."
Since June 2017, The Moscow Times has been publishing Tiemti LLC. The change of the legal entity-publisher was associated with the entry into force in 2016 of amendments to the law "On Mass Media", limiting the share of foreign capital in Russian media to twenty percent.
Earlier, in February of the same year, an auxiliary structure was created, MV MOSCOWTIMES LLC, which owns the trademarks associated with The Moscow Times and the real estate catalog published by the publication. Derk Erik Sauer is the founder of the company.
In Tiemti LLC, in addition to Sauer (19%), journalist, manager and PR specialist Svetlana Korshunova received a share (first 30%, and then 49%). Korshunova, in addition, was a co-owner in Sauer Publishing LLC, which publishes, among other things, YOGA Journal - another asset of Derk Sauer (he left the founders in May last year).
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- © Ruslan Krivobok
The largest share in Tiemti (51%) was received by Vladimir Dzhao, director of Aeromar, one of the largest food companies in the CIS and Russia for the production of food for air passengers. Derk Sauer called Zhao an "old friend", stressing that the entrepreneur "does not control the publication."
According to the databases SPARK, Kartoteka and others, Derk Sauer left the membership in 2017, and since then, Dzhao and Korshunova have divided the newspaper almost equally.
- © Spark-Interfax.ru
Sauer does not publicly acknowledge that he owns or had an interest in MT directly. In June 2017, he wrote on his Twitter that he did not buy the newspaper.
“I didn't buy the Moscow Times. Ownership will be transferred to the Foundation. Eva Khartog (Skorobogatova - RT ) will be the chief editor, "he said.
- © @derksauer
"No profit for us"
The said foundation is the Dutch non-profit organization Stichting 2 Oktober. Sauer is a co-founder in it together with Kudryavtsev. The Foundation owns the rights to The Moscow Times. The site themoscowtimes.com, the brand and all rights to content are registered on it, Kommersant specified. Kudryavtsev himself wrote about this in June 2017 on Facebook. Information that Stichting 2 Oktober is supporting The Moscow Times is available on the foundation's website.
An extract from the Dutch business register of KVK, received by RT, confirms that Demyan Kudryavtsev is among the managers of S2O. But Sauer is no longer among the leadership.
- © kvk.nl
According to an archived extract for the fund received by RT, Sauer was chairman of the board of directors until February 2020.
- © kvk.nl
In an interview with RBC three years ago, Sauer explained why The Moscow Times is moving into an NGO format.
“Demyan and I decided to join forces. I don't see The Moscow Times as a commercial project, hence the plan for a non-commercial foundation. All proceeds will be used to make the publication stronger. No profit for us, ”Sauer said.
On what money The Moscow Times lives, it is difficult to understand from open data. As you can see from the above financial statement, advertising does not cover expenses. It is not excluded that part of the funds comes from Vladimir Dzhao. The role of the Dutch foundation remains unclear.
Neither Kudryavtsev nor Sauer explicitly stated that the fund finances the publication's activities. The foundation's website states: S2O “supports the activities” of MT. There is no specifics.
A three-year-old Facebook post by Kudryavtsev describes the Dutchman's role in the new format of The Moscow Times: “Sauer has made a financial commitment to continue operating for the foreseeable future and will play a major role in both strategic and operational decisions regarding the brand.”
What the financial obligation was and what the terms and conditions were for it were not explained.
In accordance with the norms of Russian legislation, which were updated at that time, if a publication receives funding from abroad, it must receive a label as a foreign agent. Perhaps that is why no clarification has been made regarding Sauer's financial obligations. Otherwise, The Moscow Times could get into the register of foreign agents.
According to Article 6 of the Law "On the Mass Media", media that receive money or other property from foreign states, individuals or organizations, as well as from Russian citizens who received these funds from abroad, can be recognized as foreign agents.
No data on foreign funding
The RT Ministry of Justice reported that they have no data on foreign funding for The Moscow Times, respectively, there is no reason to include it in the register of foreign agents.
“The obligation (to label a publication as a foreign agent. - RT ) arises for a foreign media outlet performing the functions of a foreign agent from the day it is included in the register,” the Ministry of Justice explained. "To date, the Ministry of Justice of Russia does not have information about the receipt by The Moscow Times of funding from the source indicated in the request under consideration (Stichting 2 Oktober. - RT )."
At the same time, Tiemti LLC, which publishes The Moscow Times, seems to have had some kind of financial and business relationship with the Dutch banking group ING. On the official website of ING there was a document dated 2018 called "Names of suppliers". The list includes 330 companies from various countries, including the UK, USA, Belgium and Russia. Tiemti is one of these organizations.
If it turns out that transfers from a Dutch bank were made to the company's accounts, the Russian regulators may have questions to The Moscow Times.
Political analyst Alexander Asafov does not believe that the foreign owners of The Moscow Times provide only general guidance and do not help the publication financially.
"It is difficult to suspect the owners of the media in charity - rarely when their actions do not contain commercial or political overtones," Asafov said. According to him, some media owners subsequently alienate their rights to third parties "on a reimbursable basis", thus hiding their participation.
In addition, the political scientist drew attention to the fact that foreign media in the Russian Federation and Russian ones abroad are in unequal conditions. For example, the RT TV channel in the United States was recognized as a foreign agent, while similar measures against the Western media were called "an attack on freedom of speech."
“Despite the fact that the West is so fond of hanging the name of a foreign agent on the Russian media, the Western media operating in Russia are trying to avoid this marker,” the expert explained. - Various complex schemes with founders, spreading of shares, buying out legal entities, financing in the form of donations arise in order to avoid the appearance of such a die.
According to the political scientist, for foreign media owners in Russia "the absence of this label is necessary to present their content as independent."
“Thus, they hide the bias of the materials,” the expert says. - So that this bias, tendentiousness does not strike the reader in the eye, they go away from this marker in every possible way.
In addition, the law obliges foreign agents to publish detailed reports, information on the staff of the management and spending of funds, on audits.
“As a rule, when foreign media in their materials comment on the activities of Russian publications and Russian authorities, they emphasize the necessary transparency of all actions. But they themselves do not seek to disclose information about themselves, ”Asafov added.
The gold standard of the media business
Some details of Demyan Kudryavtsev's biography also suggest that the Moscow Times may receive indirect financial flows from abroad.
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- © Evgeniya Novozhenina
Having become a co-owner of Vedomosti in 2015, Kudryavtsev debugged the scheme for receiving funds from abroad and back. This can be seen in the reporting of the Cypriot company Delovoi Standard Limited (DSL). According to the SPARK resource and extracts from the register of legal entities in Cyprus, before the sale of the newspaper in 2016, DSL was the owner of Vedomosti.
The company was the parent company of the Russian JSC Business News Media, which publishes Vedomosti. Among the co-founders was the Cyprus-based IMH Media Limited, a subsidiary of the Dutch IMH BV Derk Sauer. Sauer's publishing house, named Sanoma, was among those whose share Kudryavtsev acquired in Vedomosti. The shares of British Pearson and American Dow Jones were also bought out.
- © drcor.mcit.gov.cy
Vedomosti stayed under the leadership of the Cypriot company Delovoi Standard for another year, until in April 2016 they were bought by the Russian JSC Arkan Investment, which was owned by Kudryavtsev's wife, Yana Mozel-Kudryavtseva.
“The resale was required to comply with the law on restricting foreigners in the media, which came into force,” Vedomosti itself quoted Demyan Kudryavtsev.
In August 2017, a year after the resale of Vedomosti, the Cypriot DSL was liquidated. At that time, Mozel-Kudryavtseva was also the sole owner of the Cypriot company.
As follows from the latest audit report dated December 2015, Delovoi Standard performed various financial transactions, transferring or receiving money directly from individuals who are not formally associated with the publication.
- © drcor.mcit.gov.cy
So, according to subparagraph ii of paragraph 16 of the report, Demyan Kudryavtsev lent his wife's company 58.5 million rubles, for which he received income in the form of interest on a loan of 2.5 million rubles.
- © drcor.mcit.gov.cy
Thus, even then Demyan Kudryavtsev financed the publication from his own pocket, arranging it through loans and earning interest. What could have prevented him and his partner Dirk Sauer from pursuing a similar scheme to fund VTimes?
Moreover, The Moscow Times was also associated with the financial flows of Delovoi Standard. According to the same 2015 report, Business News Media JSC, 100% owned by DLS, itself controlled two related companies: Baltic Business Media LLC and Daily Business Media LLC. In turn, each of these firms was 1% owned by Moscowtime LLC, which was renamed Yasno Publishing LLC a year ago.
In addition, Demyan Kudryavtsev himself is not a citizen of Russia. Until 2015, he had Israeli citizenship. And although he himself stated that he abandoned it, he could not document this. As a result, in 2017, the Moscow City Court canceled the decision to grant the media manager Russian citizenship due to the fact that “the legal fact of knowingly reporting false information was established”. Since then, Kudryavtsev has been considered a foreigner in the Russian Federation.
The sacred secret of donors
Now Derk Sauer and Demyan Kudryavtsev seem to have teamed up again to help a new edition of VTimes, created by former Vedomosti journalists. Due to a conflict with the new leadership in June - July this year, part of the editorial board left the newspaper and announced the creation of its own independent media.
“The refusal of the new leaders of Vedomosti from the principles of high-quality journalism forced us to leave the publication in which we worked for many years,” the website of the new media says.
Among the founders of VTimes are the former deputy editor-in-chief of Vedomosti Alexander Gubsky, Boris Safronov, Philip Sterkin, Kirill Kharatyan.
The vtimes.io domain is registered under the same Stichting 2 Oktober foundation, which is supported by The Moscow Times. The creators of VTimes emphasize that Derk Sauer will only be "an advisor to the new project," but "not an investor or a manager."
“The main source of our funding will be donations from the friends club and advertising,” says Alexander Gubsky, one of the founders of VTimes, in an interview with Journalist.
The publication's website explains that VTimes "does not have institutional or other profit-oriented investors, and the main sources of funding, in addition to advertising, are money from private donors and non-profit organizations."
At the same time, the team undertakes to annually publish a report on what, how and why the income is spent.
“Of course, respecting the confidentiality of our partners and donors,” the message says.
A media source familiar with the plans of VTimes founders suggests that key funding will come from foreign sponsors in a scheme similar to the one used by The Moscow Times.
"According to my information, the editorial office is negotiating to obtain funding primarily from foreign sources," the interlocutor of RT said.