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Controversy over Maestro TV
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 30 Nov.'11 / 12:15

Tbilisi-based Maestro TV’s broadcasting was suspended on Wednesday morning after a conflict between the owners of the station and founder of its managing firm Erosi Kitsmarishvili.

Mamuka Glonti, founder of Maestro TV and owner of its 15% shares, said that on the morning of November 30 Kitsmarishvili, accompanied by about ten unknown persons “broke into the television station’s premises, occupied it” not allowing TV station’s staff to go inside and work.

Rustavi Media Management Company, founded by Georgia’s ex-ambassador to Russia and former owner of Rustavi 2 TV Erosi Kitsmarishvili, took over Maestro TV’s management in November, 2009 for a three-year term.

Kitsmarishvili recently publicly voiced criticism of Maestro TV’s coverage of political events in the country, telling one of the TV station’s talk show programs on November 15 that the station was overly and unnecessarily focused on covering developments related to billionaire-turned-politician Bidzina Ivanishvili. Maestro TV’s talk show hosted Ivanishvili for a lengthy interview late on November 29 during which Ivanishvili spoke much about his keen interest towards psychology, psychoanalysis and also interests towards “methods of upbringing children.” There was little substance about his political plans in the interview.

Kitsmarishvili said on November 30, that after taking over the Maestro TV’s management he “attracted USD 4.5 million” into the station and turned it into one of the leading stations in Georgia and as the founder of the managing company he was authorized to sack the station’s director Bacho Kikabidze and producer Mamuka Glonti; he said that he was not interfering into ownership issue and was only acting in frames of his managerial duties. He also said that the station suspended broadcasting not because of him, but because of the decision by the station’s owners.

Shortly before the noon on Wednesday Maestro TV resumed broadcasting showing a live footage from outside the station’s premises. Mamuka Glonti in a live address from the TV station’s studio denounced Kitsmarishvili’s moves describing him as “a bandit” and accused him of an attempt to seize the station. He also said that founders of the Maestro TV were suspending a contract with Kitsmarishvili’s managing firm.

In a joint statement Maestro TV’s journalists also condemned Kitsmarishvili’s moves. Speaking from the same studio Tamar Rukhadze, head of the station’s newsroom, said that they were now trying to resume the TV stations regular programming.

Shares in the Maestro TV are distributed between several individuals. 25% of Maestro TV’s shares are owned by Giorgi Gachechiladze, brother of an opposition figure Levan Gachechiladze. 25% of Maestro TV’s are owned by Maka Asatiani, Gachechiladze’s long-time friend. The rest of the shares are divided between four original founders of the TV station with three of them holding 15% of shares – Glonti is among them – and one holding 5%.

On November 26 an agreement was signed between Gachechiladze and four original founders of the station according to which Gachechiladze is handing managing rights over his 25% of shares to the station’s director Bacho Kikabidze. Kitsmarishvili now claims that he had sacked Kikabidze. According to the same contract Gachechiladze’s 25% of shares would be sold to four original founders by December 10, 2012, after the term of three-year contract with Kitsmarishvili’s managing firm expires.

Erosi Kitsmarishvili is also a political secretary of the Georgian Party, which was chaired by ex-public defender Sozar Subari. Subari confirmed on November 30, that he quit the party several weeks ago.

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