Russian-American media investor missing


MOSCOW -- Police in the Baltic republic of Latvia remained baffled Thursday by the disappearance of a 41-year-old Russian-American millionaire with widespread international media connections. A manhunt for Leonid Rozhetskin, who disappeared from his seaside mansion in the resort town of Jurmala shortly after arriving there from London, has been underway for the past week.

The search for Rozhetskin, a media investor and joint owner of Los Angeles-based production company L+E Prods., began on March 17 after bloodstains and signs of a struggle were discovered in his home by the property's caretaker.

Latvian police confirmed that blood found at Rozhetskin's mansion was his own, the Moscow Times reported. But no firm leads have emerged, the paper reported Thursday.

Rozhetskin arrived in Latvia by private plane from London and was last seen in public around London's Dorchester hotel. Latvian police have contacted Britain's Scotland Yard for assistance, The Mail on Sunday reported. A Scotland Yard spokesman said that Latvian police were taking the initiative in the investigation.

According to Rozhetskin's Web sites, he was born on Aug. 4, 1966, in Leningrad - now St. Petersburg. Rozhetskin emigrated to the U.S. in 1980. He graduated from Harvard Law School and returned to Russia in 1991. Establishing investment bank Renaissance Capital, Rozhetskin joined the ranks of the "oligarchs," or Russian tycoons. He was a sometimes adviser on Russian investments to Hungarian-born billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros. He went on to become a leading executive of the mining giant Norilsk Nickel.

In Russia, Rozhetskin is known as the mastermind behind the largest telecoms deals in Russian history. These include the first placement of Russian stocks on the NYSE since 1917, the IPO of mobile operator VimpelCom in December 1996, and one of the largest and most scandalous privatization in Russia's history, the purchase of 25%% in the state-run Svyazinvest for $1.9 billion.

Rozhetskin made headlines in 2003 after LV Finance was accused of reneging on an agreement to sell a 25% stake in mobile phone operator MegaFon to Bermuda-based investment fund IPOC. Alfa Group, the holder of MegaFon rival VimpelCom, eventually managed to buy the stake for $256 million. All holders of MegaFon opposed the deal with IPOC being the most aggressive objector.

Moscow prosecutors opened a case against Rozhetskin in December, 2004, charging him with the theft of $40 million from IPOC that was paid to LV Finance in two installments under the option agreements. The businessman was added to the international wanted list in 2006.

According to Russian media reports, Rozhetskin said that his life had been menaced by elements within the telecoms industry. The Moscow-based IT news Web site CNews noted that Rozhetskin's disappearance came soon after he had signed a settlement with a group of St. Petersburg telecoms operators whom he once accused of threatening his life. CNews also reported that he faces bills for $25 million that become due in 2009.

In recent years, Rozhetskin has concentrated on media investment. In 2005, Rozhetskin teamed up with two Dutch businessmen, Boudewijn Poelmann and Derk Sauer, to launch City AM, a London-based free business newspaper.

In 2007, Rozhetskin joined with Eric Eisner, son of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, to form L+E Productions. The company's first film, "Hamlet 2," a high school comedy starring British funnyman Steve Coogan, premiered at Sundance to critical acclaim. L+E's" next project, "Three Wolves" is a film about the Russian mafia.

Bal des Fleurs organizer Andrei Fomin, cited as a spokesperson and associate of Rozhetskin's in the British press, denied rumors milling around the Moscow business community that Rozhetskin's disappearance was a publicity stunt to ramp up interest in his movies.