BILLIONAIRE Mikhail Fridman yesterday said that he is likely to step down as acting chief executive of BP’s Russian joint venture TNK-BP, which will appoint a new permanent chief. <br /><br />The void at the helm of TNK-BP is the result of a row over strategy and control that erupted last year between BP and the four billionaires, including Fridman, who share ownership of the company, which generated $5.3bn (£3.2bn) in profit in 2008.<br /><br />Asked whether he would continue as acting chief executive, Fridman said: “It’s unlikely.”<br /><br />TNK-BP's board is due to meet this month to discuss candidates for the chief executive post. <br /><br />Fridman, ranked Russia’s fourth-richest businessman by Forbes, was appointed interim chief executive in May in a move perceived as the final step by BP in ceding management control at the firm, which contributes a quarter of BP’s global oil production.<br /><br />The last permanent head of the company, Robert Dudley, left Russia with a number of other expatriate workers at the height of the shareholder dispute. Tim Summers, until recently the firm’s chief operating officer, was acting chief executive before Fridman.<br /><br />When Fridman was appointed in May, TNK-BP said it hoped to select a new chief executive by the end of this year. Two young executives were also appointed at the time to vie for the role.<br /><br />The front-runner is seen as the Russian partners’ candidate, Mikhail Barsky, a 35-year-old former head of smaller oil firm West Siberian Resources.<br /><br />BP’s nominee, Pavel Skitovich, ran gold miner Polyus Gold for five months in 2007 and worked as a Soviet diplomat in Uganda early in his career.<br /><br />Sources have said that Fridman's ally and another key TNK-BP shareholder, executive director German Khan, is the real power behind day-to-day operations at the company<br /><br />The company was formed in 2003 as a result of the merger of BP’s Russian oil and gas assets and the oil and gas assets of Alfa Access Renova group (AAR).