The news is out today that Yuri Milner has stepped down from the role of Chairman of Mail.ru and from the Board of Directors. But this is more interesting than the bare facts would suggest. Mail.ru is through the phase change of its IPO and now CEO Dmitry Grishin will combine his role with the role of Chairman. There are no other changes to management or to the Board. Given recent politics, it does all seem rather Russian.
Milner brought Grishin as a co-founder of Mail.ru ten years ago, so the two men know each other very well. So it’s not as if Mail.ru is not in safe hands. Its sites reach approximately 84 per cent of Russian Internet users on a monthly basis and the Company is the world’s fifth largest Internet business, based on page views (ComScore, December 2011). Usefully, it holds strategic minority equity stakes in Russian social network VKontakte (a 39.99 per cent stake) and Qiwi, formerly OE Investments (21.35 per cent interest). The Company also holds small minority stakes in international Internet companies including Facebook, Zynga and Groupon as well as a number of small venture capital investments in various Internet companies in Russia and Ukraine.
More interesting is Milner’s next moves with his power-player fund, DST. There have been rumours that key a lieutenant of DST was late last year seen walking around with the Samwer brothers in their the Rocket Internet incubator building in Berlin, meeting various staff. Combine that with rumours that the Samwers are preparing to raise a huge billion dollar fund to effectively clone Silicon Valley startups all over the world faster that the companies there can scale, and you have a very interesting set of circumstances.
It looks like Yuri just got the free time he needed.