Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Alisher Usmanov begins a new PR push

Times - Enthusiastic magnate buys into Wenger’s collection of fine art: There has been a lot of rummaging around his past and various dark murmurings about his businesses, some of it from the Arsenal board, and his response this week was to fly a group of journalists from England to his metals company in Moscow by private jet to explain that, while he may be an imposing bear of a man, he is not threatening or ill-intentioned. He did so sitting in his vast office at his metals company... Usmanov’s past includes six years in prison in his native Uzbekistan in the 1980s, but he said that he had been locked up on politically motivated and unfounded charges cooked up by his enemies in the KGB. That was life, he said, for many under the old Communist regime. “I spent 20 years fighting for my name,” Usmanov said. “Money is nothing compared to my name.” He also dismissed allegations by Thomas Wise, an English MEP, that his money was tainted. “People talk about me as Uzbekistan businessman involved with shady dealings, with narcotics,” Usmanov said. “It is beneath my dignity to respond to all the allegations. People like my parents could not bring up a gangster and racketeer.”

That, and his Mum thinks he's cute.

[rolls eyes]

1. This article shows how serious a blow this speech was to Usmanov. Relish at your leisure.

2. What are the chances, do you think, of getting a list of the journalists who went jetting? Anybody?

3. Craig will be back soon and I *know* he's got a thing or two to say that will put Usmanov's claims about his past into perspective. Stay tuned.

UPDATE - Don't put those tissues away, folks... there's more tears wank on the way:

Telegraph - Alisher Usmanov: I'm no Roman Abramovich: Speaking from his office, on the top floor of Metalloinvest, his mining company, which has a staggering turnover of $4bn a year, he said: "You cannot respond in kind to everything everyone directs at you. My conviction was false and it was proved to be a provocation by the Uzbeki KGB. I don't live in Uzbekistan. I am not even a citizen of Uzbekistan. I only visit the graves of my parents once a year. People talking about me as an Uzbeki businessman with shady dealings in narcotics? It's beyond my dignity to respond to all these allegations. One of the papers quoted Craig Murray, the ex UK ambassador, I don't even want to qualify what Mr Murray says about me. I respect the chairman. He said something about me that made me very uncomfortable. But afterwards he spoke to us and we understand why he said it."

Guardian - Names escape him as Usmanov launches Arsenal charm offensive: With the investment came exposure. Craig Murray, the former ambassador to Usmanov's native Uzbekistan has raised questions about his probity. Even Arsenal's chairman made outspoken comments. "He is certainly not an open book," said Peter Hill-Wood last week. Business is murky in Uzbekistan. I would not want him to be the owner of the club." The allegations were principally motivated by the fact that Usmanov served six years of an eight-year sentence imposed in Tashkent. "My conviction was false and illegal," he said. "It is a fact that I was in prison but it was proved to be a provocation by possibly the Uzbek KGB because the friends of my parents were high-ranking KGB and my father was a high-ranking judicial official in Uzbekistan. Life is a sequence of events we cannot always control. Sometimes we are helpless against the circumstances life presents. Most obviously it manifested in the system we all lived under when the country was ruled by the Communist party." Usmanov has instructed lawyers to deal with allegations he considers "libellous". But yesterday's interview in his cavernous office was the product of a charm offensive. "I am not a vengeful man but I am not a whipping boy either," said Usmanov, who recently spent over £25m at Sotheby's in returning the Mstislav Rostropovich art collection to Russia. "Every time someone spits at you, you can't respond in kind. People are talking about me as having shady dealings with narcotics. Do I have to respond to everything? It's beyond my dignity to respond to this kind of allegation. I am dealing with the British ambassador to Moscow to run some huge cultural events. We are bringing great artists to exhibit in Russian museums. Why not ask him about the secret intelligence he has received on me?"

Financial Times - Usmanov goes gunning for Arsenal fight: Decrying the “prejudice material” written about him, Mr Usmanov says he is tiring of firing off various law suits. Asked whether the continuation of such allegations would make him think about walking away from Arsenal, he says: “I’ll think about it.” But enemies were left in no doubt he would not shirk a fight. “If it is initiated to drive me out, I stay.”

Ah... so, as well as playing the 'polticial motivation' card (again), Usmanov is assuring us that if we don't press the matter, he's more likely to leave of his own accord.

I'm also enjoying the notion that we should - at this suggestion - take the word of a current ambassador to Moscow over the word of a former ambassador to Uzbekistan... not least because Usmanov has little to do with Uzbekistan and (*sniff*) (*sob*) only goes there to visit the graves of his parents once a year.

UPDATE (04 Oct) - Arsenal News Review: On Tuesday, Alisher Usmanov flew the British press to Moscow in a private jet and put them up at the five-star Kempinski Hotel. An amazing stunt which many have dubbed a "charm offensive." The party of about 10 reporters included The Guardian (Matt Scott), The Daily Mail ( Charlie Sale),The Times (Matt Dickinson), The Sun (Shaun Custis), The Mirror (Martin Lipton), The Daily Telegraph (David Bond), the BBC (Richard Galpin) and The Independent (Jason Burt). The press conference at his Moscow HQ was widely reported on Wednesday morning but only Charlie Sale admitted they were all flown there in Usmanov's Gulfstream 550. This long-range business jet carries 10-12 passengers.

Actually, the jetted-out bit was mentioned by more than one reporter, but Sale does spell out the specifics admirably here and here.

IMPORTANT UPDATE - You will definitely want to read and share this. Having checked each article in detail, I can assure you that you will be less than impressed with this MSM performance.


johnf said...

Why is it that journalists so love and are so deeply, respectfully awed by massive offices and massive desks and massive men sat behind them that they dribble out whatever the booming man tells them.

And why do these vast men always end up running football clubs. Will Usmanov run across the pitch, breasts flapping, like Maxwell did?

d said...

partial list of the jetted journalists here:,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=770&cntnt01origid=30&cntnt01returnid=42

Tim said...

Cheers, d. Will update post.