MTV's Russia business has changed hands for $360 million.

Wayfarer Media Limited, the holding company of the MTV Russia and VH1 Russia TV networks, has been acquired by Estermina Ltd, a company acting on behalf of Russian diversified media company Prof-Media.

Wayfarer had been 53% owned by Viacom's MTV Networks International, 42% owned by private equity firm Russia Partners, with the remaining 5% owned by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

MTVNI says it will continue to grant an exclusive license to Wayfarer Media Limited for its MTV and VH1 programming in Russia, and their respective online presences.

MTV Networks' London-based vice chairman Bill Roedy tells Billboard.biz that the deal made sense both financially and strategically.

"We're happy with that (price)," Roedy comments. "It's a good return on investment. A very healthy return for us."

He describes Prof-Media as MTV's "ideal partner" for that market. "As Russia has become incredibly more sophisticated, and mature and even complicated, it really helps to have a strategic partner," says Roedy.

"They're a real solid media player in Russia. And we have found, particularly with complicated markets around the world, that it really helps to be tied up with a strong media player."

In a joint statement issued today, Prof-Media's CEO Rafael Akopov explained that the purchase was "very complementary to our existing operations" and that the acquisition "exposes us to a new segment of the young and proactive audience" in a market which is seeing huge growth rates from TV advertising.

Prof-Media operates a nationwide chain of multiplexes, has a broad portfolio of TV and Internet interests and is a leading player in Russian radio.

"We are optimistic about MTV Russia's future audience and market share growth," Akopov added.

MTV Networks chairman and CEO Judy McGrath commented, "MTV Networks has a long-term commitment to building our brands in the Russian market, and we look forward to continuing to advance the creative and business success of MTV Russia through our new partnership with Prof-Media."

Russia Partners launched MTV Russia launched in September 1998 through a license agreement with MTVNI. The following year, MTVNI bought a major stake in MTV Russia. VH1 launched through the joint venture in 2005.

The music TV broadcaster's feed is beamed into the homes of an estimated 94 million viewers in more than 650 cities in the Russian Federation and the other Former Soviet Republics.

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