- Oleg Tinkov, who founded Tinkoff Bank, said he was forced to sell his family's 35% stake in the bank.
- The tycoon recently made comments on Instagram criticising Russia and its invasion of Ukraine.
- Tinkov said he has hired bodyguards after friends warned him he should fear for his life.
- For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Russian tycoon Oleg Tinkov said he was forced to sell his stakes in one of Russia's biggest banks after he openly criticised the war in Ukraine.
The businessman told The New York Times on Sunday that the "desperate sale, a fire sale" was forced upon him by the Kremlin.
"I couldn't discuss the price," Tinkov told the paper. "It was like a hostage — you take what you are offered. I couldn't negotiate."
Although he did not disclose the price, he told the paper that he sold his stake at 3% of what he believed to be its true value.
Tinkoff Bank denied his characterisation of events in a statement to The Times, and said there had been "no threats of any kind against the bank's leadership."
"Oleg has not been in Moscow for many years, did not participate in the life of the company and was not involved in any matters," Tinkoff reportedly said in the statement.
Reportedly speaking by phone from an undisclosed location, the businessman told The Times that he had hired bodyguards after friends with contacts in the Russian security services told him he should fear for his life. He said that although he had survived leukaemia, perhaps "the Kremlin will kill me," the outlet reported.
He has been one of the few prominent Russians to openly speak out against the war. Russian prosecutors have threatened to arrest corporate leaders there who criticise the government, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Despite saying he feared for his safety, Tinkov doubled down on his criticisms of the war and of Russian President Vladimir Putin in his interview with The New York Times.
"I've realized that Russia, as a country, no longer exists," Tinkov told the paper. "I believed that the Putin regime was bad. But of course, I had no idea that it would take on such catastrophic scale."
The businessman told the paper that he believed Putin would stay in power for a long time.
Following Tinkov's initial critical comments about the invasion of Ukraine, Russia's Tinkoff Bank said it intended to change its name in an apparent effort to distance itself from him.
Tinkov told The Times that the bank's senior executives were told that any association with him would be a major problem following his April 19 Instagram post.
"They said: 'The statement of your shareholder is not welcomed, and we will nationalize your bank if he doesn't sell it and the owner doesn't change, and if you don't change the name,'" Mr. Tinkov told the paper.