Yukos Oil Company (ОАО НК ЮКОС) was a petroleum company in Russia which, until recently, was controlled by Russian billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky and a number of prominent Russian businessmen. Khodorkovsky was convicted and sent to prison. Yukos headquarters was located in Moscow. On August 1, 2006, a Russian court declared Yukos bankrupt.
Its Russian abbreviation ЮКОС comes from the names of the main entities that initially comprised the company: Юганскнефтегаз (Yuganskneftegaz: Nefteyugansk + petroleum + gas) and КуйбышевнефтеОргСинтез (Kuybyshevnefteorgsintez: Kuybyshev + petroleum + organical synthesis).
Yukos was one of the world's largest non-state oil companies, producing 20% of Russian oil—about 2% of world production. Its assets were acquired in controversial circumstances from the Russian Government during the privatization process of the early 1990s. The initial period of "oligarchic privatization" was characterized by bloodshed, and Yukos was certainly no exception. Alexei Pichugin, the former Security Chief of Yukos, has been convicted on multiple counts of murder and attempted murder, and is now under investigation along with Yukos partner Nevzlin for the shooting death of Vladimir Petukhov, the mayor of the Yugansk oil province and a vehement opponent of Yukos, on Khodorkovsky's birthday in 1998. Lawyers for Pichugin and Nevzlin, who lives in self-imposed exile in Israel, say that both the charges and the new investigation are politically motivated.
In April 2003, Yukos agreed to a merger with Sibneft, but the merger was soon undone in the aftermath of the arrest of Yukos CEO Khodorkovsky in October, 2003.
In a move to prevent bankruptcy, management made a friendly offer to the government to pay 8 billion dollars in a period of three years.
A management presentation from December 2004 shows that the tax claims put the "total tax burden" for 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003 at 67%, 105%, 111%, and 83% of the company's declared revenue during those years. As a comparison, the annual tax bill of Gazprom is about $4 billion on 2003 revenues of $28.867 billion.
Yukos parent company, the Menatep group, lobbied extensively and successfully to influence Western public opinion, retaining Margery Kraus of APCO who successfully pushed through resolutions inter alia before the US House of Representatives and the Council of Europe.
According to a resolution of the Council of Europe,
A Yukos shareholders' meeting scheduled for December 20, 2004 was to discuss a "crisis plan." A Russian company must hold such a meeting before it can apply for bankruptcy in Russia. The Russian Government sold Yukos's main production unit, Yuganskneftegas, at auction on December 19, 2004 to recover some of $28 billion in alleged tax debts, following the loss of an appeal by the firm.
Menatep, the company representing Mikhail Khodorkovsky, promised to challenge the sale's legality in a number of countries, and to sue the buyer and any company helping to fund the deal. The expected buyer was the 38% Russian state owned company OAO Gazprom. Some European and American oil firms decided not to bid.
On December 19, 2004, the Baikalfinansgrup won the auction for Yukos's subsidiary Yuganskneftegas with a 260.75 billion rubles ($9.4 billion) bid. Yuganskneftegas was a few months earlier valued at between $15 billion and $17 billion by DrKW which the Russian government hired to value the subsidiary.
Suggested financiers to the Baikal Finance Group are Gazprom, Sberbank, the Russian central bank, China National Petroleum Corporation, and ONGC (India). The reason for this arrangement may be that Gazprom feared international legal action against it after a Houston, Texas court ruling that barred Gazprom from bidding for the unit. This ruling was subsequently vacated.
According to people familiar with the auction only two bidders registered for, and were present during, the auction process: Baikalfinansgrup and Gazprom's former oil unit Gazpromneft. Accounts from the auction say that the first bid of $8.6 billion came from Baikal. When the auctioneer asked Gazpromneft to offer its price, a representative of the company asked to make a telephone call and left the room. A few minutes earlier, the auctioneer had told participants that using a mobile phone or leaving the room was against the rules. When a Gazpromneft representative returned to the room, Baikal made a bid of $9.3 billion. Gazpromneft never placed a bid or spoke out.
In the course of these events the value of Yukos shares plunged.
By mid-December, 2004, all members of the board of Yukos, and most of the company's senior managers, had left Russia, some of them because of "fear of arrest" after being "summoned for questioning by prosecutors". According to a December, 2004, Houston, Texas court filing the CFO resides in Houston. According to a company spokeswoman the CEO resides in London, UK as of December, 2004.
According to the Moscow Times of Friday, February 4, 2005, Issue 3099, Page 5, Mikhail Brudno and Vladimir Dubov fled to Israel in 2003, and were seen on February 2, 2005 in Washington, D.C. at an official function of George W. Bush. Both men are cited in an international arrest warrant regarding their involvement in the Yukos tax case. Leonid Nevzlin, a former Yukos CEO also now living in Israel, is sought on several counts of murder and attempted murder and is also stated by Russian authorities to be a suspect in the poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko.
On Wednesday 6 April 2006, the company's Executive Vice Predisent, Vasily Aleksanyan, was arrested just six days into his new role. Yukos commented on its web site that, "We can only assume that this action against him is a direct result of his accepting a position to work to protect Yukos Oil Company and its legitimate stakeholders."
The next month, it was reported that some individuals established themselves as the "New Management" of Yukos. However, this was apparently an illegal act, as Yukos "emphatically rejects" the legitimacy of the "new management" which has Vinokurov as President. According to Yukos, these individuals are "loyal to Rosneft" and have as goal the downfall of Yukos.
In July 2006, one week before creditors would vote if they should file for bankruptcy, Steven Theede resigned his function because he believed the outcome of this vote was already fixed and therefore this meeting would qualify as a "sham".