American is named Russian oil giant's chief

Kukes takes over top spot day after jailed CEO quits

November 05, 2003|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

MOSCOW - An American oil executive was named yesterday as the chief executive officer of Yukos Oil, Russia's biggest and most embattled company.

Simon G. Kukes, 56, who was born in Russia but immigrated to the United States 30 years ago, replaces Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, who announced his resignation as CEO on Monday from his Moscow jail cell.

Kukes received a doctorate from the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, then left the country and did postdoctoral work at Rice University in Houston. He joins two other U.S. executives atop the Yukos leadership - Steven Theede of Hutchison, Kan., the executive director of the Yukos-Moscow division; and Bruce Misamore of Houston, the chief financial officer.

Khodorkovsky, 40, Russia's wealthiest man, was arrested in Siberia two weeks ago. He is facing seven criminal charges, including fraud and tax evasion.

Several oil and financial analysts in Moscow praised Kukes' credentials yesterday. They credited him with engineering this year's merger of Tyumen Oil, known as TNK, with British Petroleum. Some said the sale of a large bloc of Yukos shares might go more easily with the experienced Kukes at the helm.

As an American, Kukes will be "outside the possible pressures from the prosecutor general's office and the government," said Maria Radina, an analyst at AVK Securities in Moscow.

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