UK chairman of Polymetal among ‘mass exodus’ from Russian firms

The Berezitovy mine. (Image courtesy of Nordgold.)

Board members at Russian companies, including the British chairmen of gold and silver producer Polymetal and metals and hydropower group EN+, have quit in response to the conflict in Ukraine.

Polymetal said on Monday Chairman Ian Cockerill and five other non-executive independent directors — Ollie Oliveira, Tracey Kerr, Italia Boninelli, Victor Flores and Andrea Abt — had left the London-listed company’s board.

Polymetal gave no further details of the departures that coincide with concerns over the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent Western sanctions on Russia.

Russia has called the campaign it launched on Feb. 24 a “special military operation.”

Directors realise “the optics of being linked to these businesses are toxic,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

“As soon as the (British) Institute of Directors, hardly an organisation known for its radicalism, pushed for Britons involved to take the jump this mass exodus was almost an inevitability,” Mould said.

The lobby group last week called on British directors to end any involvement in governance roles in the Russian economy.

Polymetal’s London-listed shares fell 85% over the last two weeks, although they rebounded on Monday. The London Stock Exchange said it cancelled some trades in Polymetal on Monday after an unusual 726% jump in its shares in early trading.

EN+ Chairman Gregory Barker is also stepping down after more than four years in the role, the company announced on Monday.

Barker is a former British minister from the Conservative Party and several British politicians have said he should fully cut links with EN+ and its sanctioned Russian founder Oleg Deripaska, the Sunday Times reported. Another EN+ board member, independent director Joan MacNaughton, also resigned.

Barker will be replaced by Christopher Bancroft Burnham, a U.S. national. Barker could lead a new company that EN+ is considering carving out from its aluminium business Rusal.

Russia-focused gold miner Nordgold also said four of its directors – Michael Nossal, Brian Beamish, David Morgan and John Munro – stepped down from the board effective immediately.

Nossal, who had been non-executive chair, is an Australian national, Morgan is British while Beamish and Munro are South African. Nordgold, a private company, had planned to list in London but postponed its IPO in June last year.

London-listed Russian internet group VK said on Monday three of its non-executive directors — Jaco Van Der Merwe, Charles Searle and Mark Remon Sorour — as well as Chief Financial Officer Matthew Hammond had resigned.

Russian steelmaker Evraz said on Monday non-executive director Sandra Stash was leaving its board with immediate effect.

Shares in London-listed Evraz have fallen by nearly 80% over the last two weeks but recovered some losses on Monday and were up 51% by 1245 GMT. Polymetal’s shares were last up 18% at 199.80 pence.

Polymetal also said in its statement that its website may be temporarily unavailable following a recent cyber attack.

(By Sachin Ravikumar and Helen Reid; Editing by Jason Neely, Susan Fenton, Barbara Lewis and Mark Porter)


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