New gas boss is former PM Kalvitis

Take note – story published 8 years and 9 months ago

Aigars Kalvitis, a former Latvian Prime Minister has been confirmed as the new chief executive of Latvijas Gaze (Latvian Gas), the huge national gas utility.

The man who once described himself as the "guarantor of stability" for Latvia's economy - then promptly led it into a catastrophic financial meltdown that required an IMF bailout - was confirmed in the new position Friday at a meeting of shareholders.

The politician was selected from a field of 30 candidates and his appointment was announced by Juris Savickis, the deputy chairman of the company’s supervisory board, who is also chairman of gas importer Itera and a former KGB officer.

Savickis knows Kalvitis well as both are on the board of the Dinamo Riga ice hockey club.

"I have to say that this is not the first time when a former prime minister has been appointed as the head of Latvijas Gaze. Maris Gailis [Latvian PM in 1994-1995] also was in charge of this company,” Savickis said.

"It is a big challenge to take this office. Considering the gas market liberalization throughout Europe, it is a job that entails great responsibility and hard work,” Kalvitis told the BNS newswire after the meeting.

“The energy business has always held an appeal for me therefore I accepted this challenge,” he said.

He is no stranger to the company, having several links to them already, most notably as board member of the Dinamo Riga ice hockey club which plays in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League (sic).

Dinamo's main sponsor, gas importer Itera - headed by Savickis - is one of the owners of Latvijas Gaze, with a 16% stake, making for a cosy relationship.

Russian energy giant Gazprom holds a 34% stake in Latvijas Gaze with Germany's EON Ruhrgas holding 47%. EON has however signalled its intention to sell its stake.  

At present Kalvitis is also the chairman of the supervisory board of the distillery Latvijas Balzams and the deputy chairman of the supervisory board of Amber Beverage Group.

His period as Prime Minister from 2004-7 known popularly as the "fat years" was eventful and characterized by misplaced hubris regarding the state of the economy, a failed attempt to redraw security laws and the signing of an agreement that ceded Russian sovereignty over the disputed Abrene region which formed part of the territory of the first Latvian republic.

As the economy overheated his government eventually collapsed when he tried unsuccessfully to sack the well-regarded anti-corruption officer Aleksejs Loskutovs.

Kalvitis attempted a political comeback at the last parliamentary elections but his United for Latvia party was almost entirely ignored by voters and it failed to come anywhere near to getting the 5% of the vote needed to win mandates.

During the campaign he did however feature in a party political broadcast which required him to do no more than turn to the camera and smile in a convincing manner - a feat he accomplished with some obvious effort.

Whether he will be required to do more as chief executive of Latvijas Gaze only time will tell.

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