Head of Russian social media site VKontakte steps down

MOSCOW, April 1 Tue Apr 1, 2014 12:59pm EDT

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MOSCOW, April 1 (Reuters) - The founder of Russia's biggest social networking site VKontakte said on Tuesday he was stepping down as chief executive, three months after selling his stake in the company.

Pavel Durov sold his 12 percent holding in the firm - Russia's answer to Facebook - in January to Ivan Tavrin, chief executive of Russian mobile phone operator Megafon .

Billionaire Alisher Usmanov then cemented his control over social media in Russia last month when internet group Mail.Ru - which he part-owns - bought the shares from Tavrin, increasing its stake in VKontakte to 52 percent.

Durov announced he was stepping down in a statement posted on his VKontakte account, and said that his freedom in running the company had been reduced by a shareholder change. It was not clear which shareholder change he was referring to and his spokesman would not comment beyond confirming his departure.

VKontakte's spokesman and Mail.Ru also confirmed that Durov had stepped down but gave no further comment.

Russian investment fund United Capital Partners, which has a 48 percent stake in VKontakte, said in a statement that shareholders would discuss the procedure for choosing a new CEO at a board of directors meeting this week.

Mail.Ru already owns Russia's No. 2 and 3 social networking sites - Odnoklassniki (OK) and Moi Mir (My World) - and the deal for Tavrin's stake in VKontakte gave it effective control over the top three social media in Russia. (Reporting by Megan Davies; Editing by Pravin Char)

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