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Rustavi 2 turns down temporary managers’ offer

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, November 13
The temporary managers of the Rustavi 2 private broadcaster offered the media outlet’s Deputy Director Zaal Udumashvili the chance to run the channel before the court makes a final decision over the legal dispute between the current and former shareholders of Rustavi 2.

The Tbilisi City Court delivered a verdict this month, through which the former owner of Rustavi 2, Kibar Khalvashi (who claimed he was illegally deprived of his shares under the previous state leaders), regained 100% of his shares in the channel.

However, based on the decision of the Constitutional Court, enforcement of the verdict cannot be carried out until the court has covered every legal aspect of the case.

After returning the shares to Khalvashi, the Tbilisi City Court judge Tamaz Urtmelidze ruled that until the completion of the legal process, temporary managers should be appointed at Rustavi 2. The judge appointed the Rustavi 2 founder and ex-shareholder Davit Dvali and Revaz Sakevarishvili, a former Rustavi 2 employee, to the position.

On the grounds of not wanting to cause complications in the channel, the two offered the current Rustavi 2 leadership the chance to nominate any person to whom they would surrender their roles.

The offer was turned down, and the Rustavi 2 leadership stated that the two were the Government’s puppets; the Government, they claim, wants to control the “most impartial and critical TV channel.”

After the refusal, Dvali and Sakevarishvili again addressed the Rustavi 2 leadership and stated that they gave their power to the current Deputy Director of Rustavi 2, Zaal Udumashvili.

At a special press conference on November 11, Udumashvili stated he had no experience in financial management, as he had only previously headed the channel’s news team, and rejected the offer to run the company.

Nika Gvaramia, the current Director of Rustavi 2 (temporarily suspended from his post), said that Dvali and Sakevarishvili were just frightened and did not know how to act, as due to the court’s “biased” verdict, the company might face serious financial problems.

The Georgian Government publicly said it did not interfere in the Rustavi 2 ownership dispute; the Government said it was a legal matter, not a political issue.

"Between 2004 and 2012, Rustavi 2 changed owners approximately 20 times, often in controversial deals that had a political flavor, involving people with close links to [then] President Mikheil Saakashvili and to officials of the United National Movement-led government,” read a survey published by non-governmental organisation, Transparency International Georgia.