A changing of the guard is afoot at Mail.ru, the Russian Internet giant that owns the country’s most popular email service; Russia’s Facebook equivalent Vkontakte; messaging service ICQ and a number of other properties. Co-founder Dmitry Grishin has announced that he is stepping down as CEO, to be replaced by Boris Dobrodeev, the current CEO of Vkontakte.
Grishin said in a statement that he will stay on as chairman of Mail.ru to focus more on Mail.ru’s M&A strategy and international expansion.
Over the last several years, Grishin (pictured below) has been growing his investment activities outside of Mail.ru, specifically through Grishin Robotics, which focuses on startups in areas like AI and autonomous hardware, and so part of the change may have to do with the time that he can dedicate to daily operations of the core business.
The news was quietly made public in Mail.ru’s Q3 earnings statement, and Mail.ru has also provided us with a basic statement from Grishin himself.
“In order to focus more on strategy, international expansion and M&A there will be changes in management responsibility,” the statement reads. “Boris Dobrodeev, who was CEO of VK and also head of strategy and development, will now take responsibility for day to day operations as CEO (Russia). I shall remain with the company as Chairman and fully involved.”
Dobrodeev had an interesting path to the top of VK.com, as the social network is known. He rose to prominence at the social network around the time that VK.com started tousling with shareholders and the authorities over content on the site. He then eventually took over running the whole company after it got majority acquired by Mail.ru and co-founder Pavel Durov departed as CEO to go off to found encrypted messaging app Telegram.
Dobrodeev also has been working double time as a strategy director and board member at Mail.ru in recent times.
Mail.ru says that it currently has some 77.5 million monthly active users of its services, and as with large Russian internet property Yandex, it has been trying for a few years to develop new products and services outside of its home market to bring in more business to the company and expand its horizons beyond its Russian-speaking borders.
That has included launching a US brand and business, My.com; as well as making acquisitions like Maps.me and Pixonic to push into gaming (which transcends the language barrier that exists with Mail.ru’s Russian services).
Some of that is bearing fruit, albeit slowly. In the last quarter, the company reported revenues of 9,620 million rubles ($154 million), up 9.4% on a year ago.