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Pro-Putin rapper takes over Domino’s Pizza in Russia

Russian restaurateur Anton Pinskiy and rapper Timati, who took over the Russian assets of Domino's Pizza
Restaurateur Anton Pinskiy (left) and rapper Timati bought Domino’s Russian business after its owner declared bankruptcy having been unable to find a buyer - REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

A rapper whose lyrics describe Vladimir Putin as a “die hard superhero” has taken over Domino’s Pizza in Russia after its former owner filed for bankruptcy.

Musician turned entrepreneur Timati and restaurateur Anton Pinskiy have secured Domino’s Russian business, as Western businesses face mounting pressure to sever ties with Moscow.

The announcement comes nine days after DP Eurasia, which owns the franchise for Domino’s Pizza in Russia, gave up on attempts to sell the business to a local buyer and filed for bankruptcy.

However, no sale process of the Russian division has taken place, according to DP Eurasia.

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A DP Eurasia spokesman said: “Following the announcement on 21 August 2023 by DP Eurasia relating to DP Russia, DP Eurasia confirms that it filed a bankruptcy petition to the relevant authorities for DPRussia. No sale process of DPRussia has occurred.”

Timati, whose real name is Timur Yunusov, and Mr Pinskiy, said they would keep Domino’s franchise’s partners, 120 restaurants and more than 2,000 employees in Russia.

The restaurants will be rebranded as Domino Pizza, with the “i” in Domino featuring the equivalent Russian letter и.

The pair have already invested hundreds of millions of rubles in the business, Mr Pinskiy told reporters on Wednesday.

The takeover comes after the duo bought a chain of 130 coffee shops previously owned by Starbucks, which exited Russia after 15 years in business.

Workers of the Stars Coffee are seen in a former Starbucks coffee shop
As Western brands have pulled out of Russia doppelganger businesses have sprouted up to replace them - Pavlov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The cafes last year reopened as Stars Coffee with a logo still featuring a mermaid, but with a Russian headdress.

Mr Pinskiy later revealed he paid 500m roubles (£4m) for Starbucks’ outlets, which employed nearly 2,000 workers across the country.

Timati, who also owns Russian fast-food chain Black Star Burger, has long been a vocal supporter of the Kremlin.

In 2015, the hip-hop artist released a pro-Kremlin song featuring the lyrics “My best friend is President Putin” and which described the Russian leader as a “die hard superhero”.

Another song released by Timati in 2019 mocked anti-Kremlin protests and noted the lack of gay parades in Moscow. The track became the most disliked Russian-language video on YouTube.

Western brands have been under pressure to sell off their Russian operations following the invasion of Ukraine. Their departure has led to the rise of doppelgangers, which have rebranded their abandoned assets.

Lego stores have since been reopened as “World of Cubes”, Krispy Kreme renamed “Krunchy Dream”, KFC rebranded as Rostik’s, and McDonald’s relaunched as “Vkusno & tochka”, or “Tasty and that’s it”.

Domino’s decision to sell its Russian division comes as Putin steps up seizure of Western business operations, including Carlsberg and Danone.