Sony Pictures Television Sells Russian Assets to Comply With Local Law

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Under recently enacted legislation, foreign ownership of media companies cannot exceed 20 percent.

Sony Pictures Television is the latest major international company operating in Russia to comply with a recently enacted law limiting foreign ownership of media companies to 20 percent stakes.

SPT sold 80 percent stakes in its Russian channels Sony Sci-Fi, Sony Entertainment Television and Sony Turbo, distributed over cable, to Vladimir Khanumyan, a former top executive at Gazprom Media and National Media Group, the local business daily Kommersant reported Wednesday.

"Our new ownership structure is fully in line with regulatory requirements," a spokesperson for Sony Pictures Television told The Hollywood Reporter but declined to provide further comments at this point.

Under the media ownership law, which stirred controversy at the time of adoption in late 2014, foreign media companies were given until Jan. 1, 2016, to make applicable changes to their ownership structures.

The communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said it will begin looking into companies' compliance with the law after Feb. 15, allowing SPT to avoid trouble by signing a last-minute deal.

The law prompted Sweden's Modern Times Group to completely pull out of the Russian market, while Disney complied with the law by re-registering its Russian assets to its local distributor and Discovery entered a joint venture with National Media Group.

Khanumyan is known in Russia as a long-time business associate of Peter Gerwe, former CEO of CTC Media.