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The News in Brief

Monday, February 8
Flu virus claims another life in Zugdidi, Georgia

A 35-year-old man has died due to the H1N1 flu virus in Zugdidi, Samegrelo, western Georgia.

As the head of Zugdidi Social Healthcare Center, Nana Odisharia, has told IPN, the patient was hospitalized on January 27 and diagnosed with H1N1.

According to her, the man was a resident of the Gali region.

A total of 10 people have died due to the flu virus so far, with 267 cases of the flu virus have been medically confirmed. Of these, 257 cases are of the H1N1 strain of the virus, while the others are H3N1.

Co-Owners Fight for Control of Debt-Ridden Maestro TV

Tbilisi-based Maestro TV, no stranger to disputes between co-owners and management or journalists and management, has now became embroiled in a battle between shareholders involving several court disputes, the redistribution of shares and the sacking of a top manager, accompanied by allegations of possible political meddling, fuelled by a meeting between a Maestro TV majority shareholder and his “friend”, PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili.

Three days after becoming a majority shareholder in Maestro TV, Giorgi Gachechiladze convened a shareholders meeting on February 4 and the sacked director of the channel, Baia Gadabadze, who, backed by some minority shareholders, has disputed the decision. Gadabadze was replaced by Giorgi Gachechiladze’ brother, Levan.

Giorgi Gachechiladze, a singer with a nickname Ucnobi (unknown), was one of the key figures behind the opposition’s lengthy street protest rallies in 2009 through his reality show on Maestro TV; Gadabadze was a producer of that show at the time. Giorgi Gachechiladze’s brother, Levan, was an opposition candidate in the 2008 presidential elections, who was defeated in the race by Mikheil Saakashvili.

Giorgi Gachechiladze became holder of 50% of Maestro TV’s shares in spring 2011. Shortly afterwards, he transferred half of his shares to his friend and distant relative Maka Asatiani, whose husband Kote Gogelia - a wealthy businessman with businesses in Russia - became the financial backer of the TV channel. The remaining 50% of the shares were distributed among four other co-owners.

In autumn 2015, Maestro TV launched bankruptcy proceedings in court, challenged by Giorgi Gachechiladze.

According to Gadabadze, an audit estimated Maestro TV’s debt at GEL 54 million as of December 2015 with Maka Asatiani being the largest creditor.

But Gachechiladze argues that these estimations are overinflated. His lawyer claimed that bankruptcy proceedings were initiated with Asatiani’s backing to make Maestro TV “go under the hammer”.

In TV ratings, Maestro trails far behind the two leading private broadcasters – Rustavi 2 and Imedi TV. Maestro TV reported GEL 3.53 million in ad revenues in 2015, far less than Rustavi 2 TV’s GEL 37 million and Imedi TV’s GEL 23.67 million in the same year.

In late January, Giorgi Gachechiladze agreed with two co-owners – Giorgi Ebralidze and Levan Chikvaidze - to buy their shares, 15% from each, for an undisclosed sum in a deal finalized on February 1. As a result, Gachechiladze became 55% shareholder of Maestro TV.

Giorgi Gachechiladze says that money for acquisition came as a loan from Irakli Rukhadze, who has long been a manager of late tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili’s assets and who remains affiliated with Patarkatsishvili family. Tbilisi-based Imedi television station is owned by the Patarkatsishvili family. Rukhadze has not yet commented on the deal.

“Maestro TV has a multi-million debt and from the commercial point of view it was absolutely unprofitable to pay large amount of sum for buying shares in such a company,” Gadabadze said, suggesting that politics not business interests are apparently behind this deal.

Tbilisi airport to close runway during daytime for four months

Tbilisi international will be closed during daytime for four months, starting from March 1, 2016, due to maintenance work on the runway.

During night-time, scheduled flights will either be cancelled or delayed.

According to preliminary information, the airport will be closed:

From March 1 to March 26, between 09:30am and 03:00pm.

From March 27 to July 1, between 10:30am and 08:00pm.

Airport management said the reason is maintenance work on the runaway.

Airlines which have scheduled flights during these time periods, will have the option of either cancelling or rescheduling flights.
(DF watch)