Erosi Kitsmarishvili, a founder and former owner of the Rustavi 2 TV and Georgia’s ex-ambassador to Russia, said on November 26, he wanted to regain control over the television stations.
Speaking at a news conference, Kitsmarishvili, who was the President Saakashvili’s close associate, has claimed that the authorities “seized” the Rustavi 2 TV from him in 2004.
“I will file a law suit against [President] Saakashvili and demand return of my shares into the television station,” he said. “As soon as I reclaim my shares back, I will hand over these shares into the television station to a group of journalists and I will only work on management.”
In 2004, as it was reported at that time, Kitsmarishvili sold his shares to a businessman Kibar Khalvashi, who was a close friend of then interior minister, Irakli Okruashvili. Kitsmarishvili alleged just recently that he was forced to give up his shares in the television stations. He has made no such allegation in previous years.
The ownership of the television station again changed in 2006 after Okruashvili quit the government. The new shareholder of the television station in November, 2006 became Georgian Industrial Group (GIG), owned by MP Davit Bezhuashvili, a brother of Gela Bezhuashvili, who is now chief of the intelligence service.
It emerged in 2007 that offshore company GeoMedia Group owned 55% of the television station’s shares and the rest was owned by GIG. No information is available about GeoMedia Group, which is registered in Marshall Islands.
Kitsmarishvili claimed on November 7, 2008 that President Saakashvili was personally behind that offshore company and he was a holder of bearer share certificate of GeoMedia Group.
The most recent redistribution of shares in the television station came this year. Irakli Chikovani, general director of the Rustavi 2 TV, has become owner of 30% of the television station’s shares, according to the notification sent by the TV company to the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC). According to the notification, dated with November 7, GeoMedia Group’s shares into the television station have been decreased from 55% to 40% and the Georgian Industrial Group’s (GIG) shares from 45% to 30% as a result of the changes.