The embattled Yukos Oil Co. reshuffled its management on Thursday in an apparent effort to negotiate a deal with the Russian government that would keep it out of bankruptcy.
The company's board of directors dismissed chief executive Simon G. Kukes, a Russian-born U.S. citizen brought in to lead the company after then-CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested last fall on fraud and tax evasion charges in a politically charged fight with the Kremlin. The board named as the new chief executive a longtime American oil executive, Steven M. Theede, who joined Yukos last year.
The moves came immediately after the company's owners, at a shareholder meeting, named Russia's former chief central banker, Viktor Gerashchenko, as the new chairman of the board.
Investment analysts said that the owners recruited Gerashchenko, a leader of a new nationalist party in parliament and part of the old Moscow establishment, in the hope that his presence would help persuade the Kremlin to ease up on its wide-ranging legal campaign against the company.
The government has billed Yukos for $3.4 billion in back taxes, penalties and interest, which the company has warned could force it into bankruptcy. Last week, Yukos asked the government to let it pay the money by reducing the influence of Khodorkovsky's shareholder team, selling off assets or possibly turning over partial ownership to the state.
-- Peter Baker