The messenger logo

Rustavi 2 TV owners hand 51% of shares to employees

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, March 27
The current owners of the private broadcaster, Rustavi 2, handed 51% of the company shares to its staff amid the ongoing notorious ownership trials in both Georgia and at the European Court of Human Rights.

The Karamanishvili brothers, who own 91% of the broadcaster’s shares, initially offered 40% of shares to be given to the company's employees.

However, Rustavi 2's Director General organasied a special briefing in response with the TV’s staff, and stressed they wanted to have 51%, a control package of shares that would ensure the editorial independence of the media outlet.

The current owners accepted this condition.

All the offers came after all courts in Georgia returned 100% of Rustavi 2's shares to its former owner, Kibar Khalvashi.

The media, which says the current Georgian Dream leadership aims to silence the critical media, appealed the final verdict of Georgia’s Supreme Court to the European Court of Human Rights.

The European Court stressed the Georgian court’s verdict’s enforcement must be suspended until they made a solution.

Georgia’s civil sector said Karamanishvili's decision had no “precedent”, and stressed that having the key package of the media by its employees would be the best guarantee of the outlet’s editorial independence.

The United National Movement and the European Georgia opposition parties, as well as the Free Democrats and members of the Republican Party, applauded the current owners’ decision.

The opposition believe that the government of Georgia is actively trying to create problems for Rustavi 2, as it remains critical of the authorities.

Meanwhile, members of the government reiterated the it is an ownership dispute and dismissed the notion of having any influence on the courts’ verdicts.

Founded in 1994, the broadcasting company changed ownership about 20 times between 2004 and 2012 during the previous United National Movement government, Transparency International Georgia said.

Khalvashi filed a lawsuit in 2015 and stressed the property was illegally seized from him by the UNM authorities.

He stressed he purchased the company for $7 million USD in 2004 but was forced under strong pressure to concede the company to a new owner in December 2006.

Now Khalvashi says the case's discussion in the European Court of Human Rights may continue for a long time, and this will financially damage him, as he will not be able to take any action in the media outlet.