High-profile support for indicted OMV chief

A group of leading businessman has publicly backed OMV boss Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer who faces legal action for alleged insider trading.The entrepreneur, who has headed the oil and gas company since 2002, will be in court in January after the state prosecution decided to press insider dealing charges.Ruttenstorfer acquired OMV stakes worth 632,000 Euros in March 2009. Their value rose dramatically when the firm sold its 21.1 per cent interest in Hungarian competitor MOL to Russian’s Surgutneftegas a few days later. Ruttenstorfer has denied any wrongdoing. He stressed the sale of OMV’s stake in MOL came unexpected to him and the whole board.Now a group of 27 managers has expressed its support for the OMV head in a public letter published in several newspapers.One of group of businessmen is Hans Peter Haselsteiner, head of market-leading building firm Strabag. Haselsteiner accused juridical decision-makers of “an over the top reaction” to the case.Erste Bank chief Andreas Treichl said: “It’s outrageous that one of the most successful and decent managers is being tarred with the same brush as dishonest people.”The Federal Association of Judges and State Prosecutors stressed it would not let itself be influenced by a “media campaign”.Klaus Schröder, a judge at the High Provincial Court of Innsbruck and head of the association, said today (Fri): “The attempted exertion of influence has failed.”The group of managers backing the OMV CEO, meanwhile, argued that not just the reputation of Ruttenstorfer but the image of the whole company would be harmed by the accusations.OMV, which is based in Vienna, is one the most powerful Austrian brands in the world. It achieved a turnover of 5.67 billion Euros in the third quarter of this year, up by a fifth year on year. The Republic of Austria holds a 31.5 per cent interest in OMV via the Federal Industry-Holding Stock Corporation (ÖIAG).The businessmen’s publication of the supportive letter occurred only days after OMV supervisory board chief Norbert Zimmermann attacked the Austrian Financial Market Supervisor FMA for reporting OMV boss for insider trading.Zimmermann said he would take FMA to court were he head of OMV. “The accusations against Ruttenstorfer are baseless,” he claimed, adding that FMA might have just wanted to “beat a fat cat.”Meanwhile, OMV’s Romanian subsidiary firm Petrom opened its new headquarters in the city of Bucharest yesterday.Petrom boss Mariana Gheorghe lauded the building called Petrom City as “both an architectural landmark for (…) Bucharest (…) and a milestone for our evolution as a company.”