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Rustavi 2 employees will own 51percent of shares

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, March 28
Nika Gvaramia, the Director General of Rustavi 2, Georgia’s private broadcaster is currently involved in a heated ownership dispute. Gvaramia stated that a limited liability company (LTD) will be established by the staff of the channel, which will own the 51 percent of the shares of the broadcaster, constituting a 'control package'.

The statement came after the current owners of Rustavi 2 , the Karamanishvili brothers, who own 91 percent of the shares, said they would hand over control package of the shares to the company staff, which would be a guarantee of the channel's editorial independence amid the notorious ownership dispute.

“We are going to establish an LTD with the name ‘Rustavi 2 Team’, which will own 51 percent of the company. Who the members of the LTD will be – which will number 20, 30 or 50 people - decided by the employees of Rustavi 2,” Gvaramia said, and stressed that giving the shares to each of Rustavi 2's employees, as the Karamanishvili brothers offered, would cause controversies and additional complications.

Gvaramia, who served as Minister of justice and Education under the United National Movement leadership, called the offer “revolutionary” and “unprecedented”.

The brothers made the decision shortly after all level courts in Georgia returned 100 percent of the shares to the former owner of the channel, Kibar Khalvashi.

The latter claimed that the broadcaster was illegally seized from him by the United National Movement leadership.

Rustavi 2 lawyers appealed Georgia’s Supreme Court’s final decision over the ownership to the European Court of Human Rights, which is based in Strasbourg.

The court chamber made a solution over the temporal suspension of enforcement of the verdict of the Georgian court to Rustavi 2, until they delivered a verdict over the issue themselves.

However, the opposition and the civil sector welcomed the Karamanishvili brothers' decision over the 51 percent.

Government representatives stressed that the Rustavi 2 case was an ownership dispute and it was the court that was involved in the issue, not the government, as the opposition and Rustavi 2 staff claim.

Some analysts believe the Karamanishvilis' offer was a staged show agreed with Gvaramia.

The analysts say if the European Court ruled against the current owners, the offer would lose its meaning.