Juris Gulbis, currently chief financial officer and acting CEO of Lattelecom, has been appointed permanent CEO by the company's owners, the Latvian government and Sweden's TeliaSonera. Gulbis had been acting CEO since the April 1 resignation of Nils Melngailis.
Gulbis, born in 1969, received an engineering degree in Latvia and qualified as an accountant in Britain. He worked in banking, finance and accounting positions and was employed by Coopers & Lybrand, the predecessor of Coopers PriceWaterhouse in Latvia at a time when Melngailis was running the audit firm's Riga office.
The new Lattelecom CEO worked for Ave Lat Group, a food and beverages conglomerate owned at the time by the controversial Latvian politician Andris Skele. Later, Gulbis worked for and became director-general of the alcoholic beverages maker Latvijas balzams. For a time, he worked for the alcoholic beverages distributer SPI in Cyprus, a company linked to a controversial Russian oligarch. Gulbis has worked at Lattelecom since early 2007.
Latvian media have been speculating that Gulbis retains loyalties to Skele and may be part of an elaborate and byzantine scheme to sell Lattelecom to Russian interests, perhaps using a tangle of offshore companies that would make the "investor" appear to be a little known West European private equity company. The large US private equity group, The Blackstone Group, now represented by Melngailis in the Baltic region, is still interested in taking a stake in Lattelecom.
Others point out that Gulbis is a professional with loyalties to the owners that employ him and was chosed CFO of Lattelecom partly because Melngailis knew and trusted him because of their time together at the audit company.
Valdis Vancovics, the director of network services at Lattelecom, was appointed deputy CEO. He had been a candidate for the top post.