To ‘Calm Tension’, Court-Appointed Managers Extend Offer to Rustavi 2 TV Owners

Temporary managers of Rustavi 2 TV, appointed by the court, have offered current owners of the broadcaster to name “any” person to whom interim managers would grant power of attorney with full authority to perform all the executive functions required for smooth day-to-day operation of the TV station.

Davit Dvali and Revaz Sakevarishvili were appointed as temporary managers of the broadcaster through a controversial November 5 decision of the court.

The ruling was delivered by Tbilisi City Court judge Tamaz Urtmelidze upon the motion from Kibar Khalvashi, ex-owner of Rustavi 2 TV who is trying to reclaim his shares of the TV channel through a lawsuit, which he has won in the court of first instance, but which will be appealed by current owners of the broadcaster.

With the same decision on November 5, the judge suspended authority of Rustavi 2 TV general director and financial director, Nika Gvaramia and Kakha Damenia, respectively.

Lawyers representing current majority shareholders of the Rustavi 2 TV plan to appeal this decision on change of management too.

Gvaramia, who condemned the decision as illegal, has refused to obey the order and to leave his office in the Rustavi 2 TV headquarters.

But no operation, requiring authorization of top managers can be performed by the company as both Gvaramia and financial director Damenia are suspended and temporary managers, who replaced them, are not able to actually assume their duties – situation, which the both sides agree is fraught with risk of having negative effect on company’s day-to-day operations.

On Friday evening Dvali and Sakevarishvili released a joint statement saying that they will not seek taking over management of the broadcaster unless all the avenues of appeal of decision on appointing temporary managers are exhausted.

In addition they have also expressed readiness to grant power of attorney for management of the company to any person selected by the current owners of the Rustavi 2 TV.

Levan and Giorgi Karamanishvili, who directly or indirectly hold 91% of broadcaster’s shares, have yet to respond on this proposal.

“As far as Rustavi 2 TV’s chief executive officer and chief financial officer have their authorities suspended, we are ready to accept and grant immediately to any candidate nominated by current owners, [Levan and Giorgi] Karamanishvili, power of attorney with full authority to carry out management of the company. Therefore we are waiting for a candidate to be named by [Levan and Giorgi] Karamanishvili in order not to create legal vacuum in operations of the TV company and to prevent certain problems in the operation of the TV company,” reads the joint statement of Sakevarishvili and Dvali.

Nika Gvaramia said late on Friday evening that he was not yet aware what the position of current owners of the Rustavi 2 will be on the proposal; but he also said that if they accept it, it would be better if Zaal Udumashvili, deputy general director and anchor of Rustavi 2’s main news program, assumes the position.

Davit Dvali, one of the court-appointed temporary managers, said in an interview with Imedi TV late on Friday evening that the offer was made in order to “calm” tensions and remove questions marks over the process that followed court’s decision on replacement of the Rustavi 2 TV management.

He also said that negative international reaction to this court decision also contributed to making such offer.

“Because of suspicions, because of questions that the process might be hasty, because there were unequivocal international reactions – there were also statements from the Republican Party [part of the GD ruling coalition] members whom I respect very much, we [interim managers] decided not to hurry,” Dvali said.

“We don’t need any fuss, hysteria in this process; we want the process to be calm; we want it to proceed calmly without any complications and that’s why we declared that we are not going there [to Rustavi 2 TV] unless this process passes through the entire [appellate proceedings],” he said.

Dvali is one of the former owners of Rustavi 2 TV, who co-owned the broadcaster along with Jarji Akimidze and the late Erosi Kitsmarishvili before 2004 when it was obtained by Kibar Khalvashi. The latter owned the TV station up until late 2006, when, he claims, he was coerced into selling of shares by then leadership of the country. Previous owners – Dvali and Akimidze also claim the ownership on the same grounds of allegedly being forced to sell their shares in 2004. Now Khalvashi, Akimidze and Dvali say that they have a verbal agreement, according to which if Khalvashi wins his lawsuit and reclaims his shares, he would give half of the Rustavi 2 TV stakes to Akimidze and Dvali.

A temporary manager, appointed by the court, is supposed to be a “neutral” person, but this announcement about having a deal on distribution of shares, which Khalvashi may reclaim, calls this requirement on Dvali’s neutrality into question.

Commenting on this issue Dvali said that he is not a legal expert and cannot go into detailed discussion of the matter, but added that if there are questions marks let the appellate court adjudicate it and overturn lower court’s decision on his appointment as a temporary manager.

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