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TNK-BP Outlives Hard Times: BP And Partners’ Disputes

TNK-BP Chief Executive Officer Robert Dudley said he's "absolutely committed" to the Russian oil producer even as disagreements between the venture's owners, BP and four billionaires, threaten to disrupt output

TNK-BP Chief Executive Officer Robert Dudley said he's "absolutely committed" to the Russian oil producer even as disagreements between the venture's owners, BP and four billionaires, threaten to disrupt output.

Dudley declined to comment on a report in today's Kommersant newspaper that one of TNK-BP's owners, Viktor Vekselberg, wants to replace him as CEO. BP, which owns half of the venture, supports Dudley and has "absolute confidence in him," BP spokesman Vladimir Buyanov said by telephone today.

Vekselberg's Renova Group, Mikhail Fridman's and German Khan's Alfa Group and Len Blavatnik's Access Industries Holdings LLC own the other half of TNK-BP, in a partnership known by the acronym AAR.
The billionaires said today their strategy for TNK-BP differs from BP's on foreign expansion and staffing. Dudley publicly acknowledged the rift yesterday for the first time in an interview in Vedomosti newspaper.

TNK-BP should also train Russian staff to senior positions, replacing foreigners, AAR said. A shareholder this month filed an unauthorized application for work permits that slashed the number of foreigners TNK-BP can hire, a move "reminiscent of the business practices of the 1990s," Dudley told Vedomosti, in comments confirmed by TNK-BP spokeswoman Marina Dracheva.

A Russian court has also barred 148 BP specialists from working at the venture as ZAO Tetlis, a minority shareholder in the traded unit, OAO TNK-BP Holding, sues to annul the contract and make BP return money TNK-BP paid for their services, which amounts to at least $400 million.