Russian businessman Magomed Musaev may be behind the takeover of Forbes, reported The Washington Post. American journalists obtained recordings in which, in unofficial conversations, an entrepreneur linked to the Kremlin claims to be the new owner of the media group. The agreement to take over most of the shares of Forbes was signed in May by young billionaire Austin Russell. He now assures that no Russian was involved in the transaction.
“American billionaire Austin Russell, founder and CEO of Luminar, has entered into a final agreement to acquire a majority stake in Forbes Global Media Holdings,” we read in May in the Polish online edition of Forbes. The portal reported that “the transaction is expected to be completed this year,” and the company was valued at almost $800 million as part of the transaction.
As The Washington Post reported on Saturday, Russian businessman Magomed Musaev may be behind the takeover of Forbes. The article states that journalists obtained audio and video recordings in which the Russian boasts that he is the buyer of an American company.
Takeover of Forbes. Was Russell supposed to be the “face” of the deal?
In June, the Russian celebrated his 60th birthday in New York. To the party on this occasion, he invited, among others – according to sources from The Washington Post – the buyer of the majority stake in Forbes, 28-year-old Austin Russell.
The recordings cited by the journalists were supposed to have been recorded a few days before the event. Musaev is supposed to address them to his colleagues: “I just bought the global ‘Forbes’.” “You understand that when you have the key to the world’s most credible brand in your hands, this key will give me access to everyone,” said Musayev, who has owned the Russian edition of the biweekly since 2018.
Musaev is to repeat in subsequent recordings that he bought Forbes. He also allegedly referred to Russell as the “face” of the transaction and insisted that his personal involvement would remain a secret. “I do it more subtly (…) I don’t work with a hammer or a chisel, but with a laser,” the American daily quotes the Russian.
Questions about the independence of Forbes
Journalists point out that Musaev’s words raise further questions about possible foreign influence on the transaction, which is being closely monitored by the government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
In response to questions from The Washington Post, Austin Russell’s spokesman denied that Russian citizens were involved in the deal. “Musayev is in no way involved in the Forbes transaction. Any suggestions to the contrary are false,” the journalists are quoted as saying. “There is not a single dollar of capital from any Chinese or Russian citizen or entity, including Musaev,” added the billionaire’s representative.
Journalists note that the tapes do not indicate whether Musaev’s role was limited to using his influence to get Russell to take over at Forbes, or whether he is an investor who will exert influence resulting from his role in the future. It is not known whether – if he involved his own funds in the transaction – he paid the money personally or through other people. Finally, it is not known whether he simply made up or exaggerated the statements recorded on the recordings.
Musaev told The Washington Post that suggestions that he controlled the transaction were “absolute nonsense” and a “monstrous myth.” He added that the documents do not confirm his participation in the purchase. He denied that he had told his colleagues that he had bought Forbes, but he did not refer to the recordings that journalists asked him about. In a statement later sent to the editorial office, he added: “I am not investing in this transaction and do not plan to invest in any way in the future, directly or indirectly.”
However, “The Washington Post” draws attention to the connections of the Russian businessman with a young American billionaire. According to court documents obtained by journalists, in 2016, the Global Venture Alliance, an entity controlled by a Russian, invested $20 million in the young Russell’s fledgling company – Luminar. He was to do this on behalf of Suleiman Kerimov, a Russian oligarch closely associated with Vladimir Putin. These Luminar shares are currently frozen by US authorities due to sanctions imposed on Kerimov.
Russell Treverson, former chairman of the National Intelligence Council, has already drawn attention to Russell’s connections with foreign entities. As POLITICO reported, the former official sent a letter to the Treasury Department in July USA memo in which he emphasized that “there is a strong national security case” to prevent Russell from taking over Forbes. Treverson emphasizes that most of the money spent by the businessman to purchase shares comes from foreign partners.
“The Washington Post”, forbes.pl, Politico
Main photo source: Forbes.ua