By Tom Bergin
LONDON, April 11 Maxim Barsky, the high-flying executive who quit BP's Russian joint venture in frustration at not being given its top job, is planning a comeback by buying into minnow Matra Petroleum and building it into a multi-billion dollar business.
The 38-year-old Russian is hoping to follow in the footsteps of former BP boss Tony Hayward, who established bid vehicle Vallares with financier Nathaniel Rothschild after he left BP in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Vallares bought Kurdistan-focused Genel Energy and is now worth $2.4 billion, while the shares Hayward received as part of the deal are worth millions of pounds.
Barsky is buying a 29.8 percent stake in Russia-focused Matra for 4.6 million pounds ($7.3 million), the company said on Wednesday.
Subject to the approval of Matra's shareholders, he will buy shares at 0.8 pence apiece, below Tuesday's closing price of 1.14 pence, and meaning he could make an immediate profit.
Barsky's main contribution to the group will be to help find acquisition targets and to bring in funding from Russian and other sources to fund deals, Matra Managing Director Peter Hind told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Barsky left his role as deputy chief executive and CEO designate at TNK-BP, Russia's third-largest oil producer, in October, after BP and its Russian oligarch partners declined to elevate him to the top job.
Barsky told Reuters on Wednesday he was seeking to replicate his success at Western Siberian Resources, another Russia-focused oil producer, which he led through rapid growth from 2004 until 2008, when it merged with Alliance Oil Company in a $2.5 billion deal.
He will initially look for acquisition targets in Russia, in areas such as Orenburg and the Timan-Pechora region, he said, adding the group would look overseas as well, including at targets in Latin America and East Africa.
"I do not think it is possible in Russia to build a significant independent player, mainly because of the taxation," he said in a telephone interview.
Matra has agreed to issue Barsky warrants to subscribe for new shares at an exercise price of 1.3 pence apiece if he introduces a suitable acquisition target to the firm in the next 12 months.
The warrants would entitle Barsky to 5 percent of any new shares Matra issues to make the acquisition.
Matra shares were down 12 percent at 0.98 pence in mid-morning trade. Matra said the issue price of Barsky's stock reflected the fact the deal was negotiated before a recent run-up in the shares.
The deal would make Barsky Matra's largest shareholder ahead of Israel's Delek International Energy, which currently holds 29.3 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Delek was not immediately available to comment.
Barsky will be invited to join the board of Matra as a non-executive director.