Russia’s ‘Fish King’ Vitaly Orlov Could Lose Third of Business in Court Battle

A long-running legal battle with cofounder, former business partner, and university friend Alexander Tugushev could cost billionaire Vitaly Orlov a large chunk of his fishing empire, Forbes writes.

This month, a court in Murmansk dismissed the tycoon’s claim that his motherland, not London, had jurisdiction over the dispute. This means that Orlov, who was called Russia’s oligarch “fish king” by the Times newspaper, could see him lose up to a third of his $1 billion assets. Orlov was dealt a double blow when the company’s third cofounder came out in support of the claim against him.

This latest battle over Russian business in a London court concerns a dispute between founders Orlov and Tugushev over a stake in Norebo, an international fishing business worth $1.5 billion, according to the claim presented by Tugushev in the U.K.’s High Court of Justice.

The company catches and sells 400,000 tons of cod, haddock and pollock a year and is best known as a leading supplier to frozen foods company Birds Eye and to McDonald’s, producer of the enduring Filet-o-Fish sandwich.

The case circles Tugushev’s claim that his approximate 25% interest–valued by Tugushev at a “minimum value” of $350 million –in the company is not being recognized and alleges that he is “the victim” of a “complex and sophisticated conspiracy” over attempts to remove him from the company.

The case will be heard in London after claims by Tugushev that the “fish king” resides in the U.K.; Orlov denies being “domiciled” in England and said previously that the trial is “an attempt by a Russian to bring unfounded claims against another Russian in relation to Russian assets” and should be heard in Russia, preferably in his hometown.

In a statement sent to Forbes this week, Tugushev’s representatives said they are now confident that settlement discussions are “more likely” following the recent developments.

However, a spokesperson for Vitaly Orlov told Forbes that Tugushev’s claims remain “absolute rubbish”, later adding that, “Mr. Tugushev’s claim is without foundation, and Mr. Orlov’s defense is both extensive and persuasive. Tugushev’s claim will be defended vigorously and robustly.”

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