Two Russian oligarchs with stakes in the company that owns Holland & Barrett have stepped down after being included on the EU’s sanctions list in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
LetterOne is a private equity firm, which bought the natural health retail chain in 2017. It has been announced that Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven have now stepped down and have no involvement over the business after being subject to EU sanctions.
A statement issued to Health Food Business and from Mervyn Davies, Chairman,(pictured), and Jonathan Muir, Chief Executive at LetterOne, read: “Following the imposition of EU Sanctions, Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven have stepped down from the LetterOne board. As a result, they will no longer have any involvement with or influence over the business or its investments. They will not receive dividends, communications or any funds or economic resources, directly or indirectly. Their assets in the business are effectively frozen, they have no rights as shareholders and – if sanctions are lifted – the board is under no obligation to return these rights.
“We want to be clear that LetterOne is not impacted by these sanctions. Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven own less than 50 per cent of LetterOne shares and have no control of the business. I believe these steps are the right ones in light of the shocking and deeply saddening invasion of Ukraine. It is a brutal, unjustifiable war that Russia must stop. The total priority for us and our team is LetterOne. Through our investments, we support 120,000 jobs. We are and will remain long term investors in brilliant businesses – including Holland and Barrett and UPP in the UK, Dia in Spain, Destination Pet in the US, WDEA in Germany and many more.”
The news comes following the imposition of sanctions against Russia and Russian businesses, following the invasion of Ukraine more than a week ago. It also comes a few days after Fridman posted a letter to all LetterOne staff on its website, expressing his deep sadness at the war in Ukraine and his desire for the bloodshed to stop. It said: “I know, like me, many of you are directly affected by this conflict and all are watching with deep concern. I was born in Western Ukraine and lived there until I was 17. My parents are Ukrainian citizens and live in Lviv, my favourite city. But I have also spent much of my life as a citizen of Russia, building and growing businesses. I am deeply attached to Ukrainian and Russian peoples and see the current conflict as a tragedy for them both.
“I do not make political statements, I am a businessman with responsibilities to my many thousands of employees in Russia and Ukraine. I am convinced however that war can never be the answer. This crisis will cost lives and damage two nations who have been brothers for hundreds of years. While a solution seems frighteningly far off, I can only join those whose fervent desire is for the bloodshed to end. I’m sure my partners share my view. We do also want to thank you all for your hard work. I know that all the noise makes our professional lives more difficult and I really appreciate your calm, supportive approach throughout this truly sad time.”