Mr Gorbachev alleges that Mr Guriev reneged on an agreement to hold a 24.75% stake in PhosAgro after they had built the business in the 1990s and early 2000s. The stake is worth around £1bn ($1.25bn) at the current market value.
Mr Guriev, who is believed to be worth $4.3bn and owns London’s biggest private home, Witanhurst, held Mr Gorbachev’s shares in trust, but is alleged to have unlawfully taken possession of them.
While living in England from 2004, Mr Guriev provided the bonuses and financial backing that was due to him as a beneficial owner of PhosAgro.
However, Mr Guriev cut-off contact with Mr Gorbachev and did not arrange for him to receive his due shares following PhosAgro’s stock market flotation in 2011.
Mr Guriev remains PhosAgro’s biggest shareholder through family members and other entities. He was served with legal papers while shopping in Mayfair in October 2018. Men who appeared to be his bodyguards tried to physically shield him from the paperwork, as depicted in the video elsewhere on this website.
The lawsuit could have far-reaching implications for PhosAgro, raising serious questions about corporate governance at the company. PhosAgro’s other shareholders include numerous international institutions.
Mr Gorbachev is represented in the case by Fieldfisher LLP, London.
PhosAgro is Europe’s largest producer of phosphate-based fertilisers, the world’s largest producer of high-grade phosphate rock and the world’s second largest producer of MAP and DAP (the two main phosphate fertilisers).
The group’s products are essential for plant growth and animal nutrition and it exports widely to farming industries in the Americas, Europe and Asia. The company has 10,000 employees and, in 2018, reported a group revenue of $3.7bn and operating profit of $861m.
PhosAgro shares are traded on the Moscow Stock Exchange and it has a secondary listing in London. The company’s market capitalisation is around $5bn.
When Mr Gorbachev took over PhosAgro’s predecessor company, Apatit, in the 1990s, it was on the verge of bankruptcy. By 1998, it was debt-free, allowing Mr Gorbachev to create the new entity, PhosAgro, the following year.