Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the imprisoned Russian tycoon, has offered to surrender all his shares in Yukos to prevent the authorities driving the embattled oil group into bankruptcy, people close to the discussions have said.
Executives at Yukos on Tuesday sent a fresh rescue proposal to the government, with Mr. Khodorkovsky's approval, suggesting a global settlement for its escalating tax debts in exchange for handing over all or some of the controlling shareholders' stake.
Mr. Khodorkovsky would be willing to give some or all of the 44 per cent stake in Yukos, which he holds with his partners, to the company.
Yukos would then either hand the shares directly to the authorities or sell them and provide the cash in part settlement of current and future tax claims.
In exchange, Yukos is seeking the lifting of a court order freezing its bank accounts and the sale of its assets, and three years during which to restructure and fully settle the tax debts, which it estimates are likely to total $7 billion-$8 billion.
Mr. Khodorkovsky would agree to hand over his shares without an initial payment but, in a contract yet to be negotiated, he is also seeking to gain some reimbursement for the value of his stake from Yukos over the coming three to five years.
The details are contained in letters sent by Yukos to both Mikhail Fradkov, the prime minister, and Alexei Kudrin, the finance minister.
They come as executives struggled to salvage the company ahead of a deadline on Thursday after which they fear that court bailiffs may seek to impose a judgment seeking payment of Rbs99 billion ($3.4 billion) in back taxes and penalties, in a move that could trigger bankruptcy. There is also a possibility of fresh tax charges amounting to Rbs98 billion.
In a sign of a fresh willingness to negotiate, a leading government official on Tuesday indicated his "theoretical" support for a rescheduling of Yukos's tax bills in co-ordination with the authorities. A U.S. law firm on Tuesday said it had filed the first US shareholder lawsuit against Yukos, alleging the company violated securities laws by evading taxes, Reuters reports from New York.