Yandex Grants Veto Power to Kremlin-Linked Body in Major Corporate Reshuffle

Russian tech conglomerate Yandex has agreed to a corporate restructuring that will grant a veto over key company decisions – such as those covering the security of personal data and intellectual property – to a body with close government ties, Reuters reports

According to analysts, the decision to offer a “golden share” to the newly-formed Fund for Public Interest (FIP) to “defend the country’s interests” is likely to increase Kremlin oversight of the biggest internet company in Russia. Yandex in a statement said the board was not a government body. 

The FIP will also be able to temporarily remove Yandex’s management, block a potential acquisition of the company, and nominate two permanent board members. The proposal would need to be confirmed at a shareholder meeting in December.

In an email to employees, Yandex’s chief executive, Arkady Volozh, offered assurances that the company would maintain control over its daily operations but said it needed to consider the public importance of its products, which range from maps and traffic data to food delivery and car-sharing, adding that “the public interest now runs through us.”

Eight seats on the 11-person board of the FIP will belong to representatives of Russian universities and NGOs, such as the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RFFP), with most of them having close ties to the government.

Citing many months of discussions, Volozh said the company sought an “optimal solution” for three concerns: “Leaving control of the company in our hands, maintaining the confidence of our international investors in the prospects for Yandex’s business and defending the country’s interests.”

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has previously tasked government agencies and the prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, with preventing the private data of Russian citizens from falling into foreign hands. Russia has also demanded that social media companies such as Facebook place servers in Russia to prevent personal data from being sent outside the country.

A “golden share” in Yandex was previously held by Sberbank, a Russian state bank, and was designed in 2009 just to prevent a foreign takeover of Yandex.

“The ‘golden share’ did not affect the development of new services then, and it won’t have an effect now,” Volozh wrote.