LONDON: Yukos, once the largest oil company in the swashbuckling Russian market, has been trying to engage the worldwide media in a quest to save itself from the Kremlin's prosecution of its founder.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky was sentenced to nine years in prison last week in a trial that was characterized by critics as politically motivated retribution for his public challenges to President Vladimir Putin.
The day that Khodorkovsky was arrested in October 2003, Yukos retained the help of Claire Davidson, a partner at the Policy Partnership, a strategic communications and public affairs shop based in London. She has been working as both an adviser to the CEO and board, and as a contact for international media outlets.
"The challenge for the global media, and indeed for any investor in Russia, is to comprehend that what is happening to Yukos could happen to any corporation," Davidson said.
In addition to Davidson, Yukos has been working with Burson-Marsteller's public affairs units in both Dallas and Washington, DC, for the past year and a half, said Burson's chairman of the Southwest region, Mike Lake. The agency has primarily been assisting in managing Western media coverage of the company itself.
"They felt that it was important, since they do have worldwide shareholders in the company and worldwide customers, to ensure that everyone knew what was going on with the company, that they intended to stay in business," Lake said.
Although Yukos has taken a vicious financial hit in the wake of Khodorkovsky's prosecution and conviction, it is still one of the larger oil companies in Russia, and it intends to continue its international PR push. "Management believes there's a need to continue the communications effort," said Lake. "We'll be there as long as they need us."
Khodorkovsky himself is represented by Charles Krause, APCO SVP of global services, who was in Moscow after the trial and was not immediately available for comment.
Yukos is not actively seeking to distance itself from the plight of its founder. After Khodorkovsky was convicted last week, the company released a statement calling the verdict "a gross travesty of justice," and saying the Russian judicial system "has not only been content to be maneuvered to destroy Mikhail Khodorkovsky, but also is apparently intent on bringing down Yukos."
Davidson said that the company's story already has been featured in more than 120 countries, and interest shows no sign of flagging.
"It remains a roller coaster," she said.