MOSCOW — Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman unexpectedly announced his resignation Monday as chief executive of TNK-BP, a sign of rising tensions among shareholders at the Russian venture of British company BP.
TNK-BP, which is owned in equal parts by BP and a group of Russian billionaire shareholders known as AAR, said in a statement that Fridman is due to step down as chief executive and chairman of the board in 30 days. It did not specify the reason, but BP’s representative in Russia, Vladimir Buyanov, cited personal reasons.
Fridman is considered one of the most influential people in the venture. He has been at TNK-BP’s helm since 2009 and was to head it through 2013.
TNK-BP has been plagued by shareholder conflicts since it was formed in 2003, and Fridman’s appointment as the chief executive three years ago looked like a sign of reconciliation between two rival groups of shareholders.
But those tensions seemed to resurface last year, when a potentially huge deal BP was hoping to sign with Russian state-owned firm Rosneft to extract oil in the Arctic broke down after AAR blocked it, claiming BP should pursue such deals through TNK-BP.
Monday, a source close to the Russian shareholders said that Fridman resigned because the equilibrium between BP and AAR’s investors has been lost and can no longer be maintained.