Lado Gurgenidze, the chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Bank of Georgia, may replace Zurab Nogaideli as Prime Minister, Georgian media sources suggested on November 16.
When asked by Civil.Ge, an official at the prime minister’s press office refused to confirm or deny the speculation. “These are rumors, on which we can not comment,” he said. He did, however, confirmed that a cabinet meeting was due to be chaired by President Saakashvili at 7pm local time on November 16.
Gurgenidze, who is a British and Georgian citizen, has been with the Bank of Georgia since 2004. The BOG has made a significant leap forward during his tenure, becoming one of the leading banks in Georgia with 34% market share (according to the BOG).
This year the bank expanded internationally, with the purchase of Universal Bank of Development & Partnership (UBDP) in Ukraine for USD 81.7 million. The BOG is 85% foreign owned. Gurgenidze reportedly personally owns slightly over 2% of the bank.
Gurgenidze first came to public attention last year when he hosted a TV show, Kandidati (candidate) - a Georgian version of Donald Trump’s reality show, The Apprentice.
He has always been on good terms with the authorities and in particular with President Saakashvili. Last November, the Georgian president attended Bank of Georgia’s initial public offering at the London Stock Exchange and less than a week ago he spoke about Gurgenidze at a meeting with leading businesspeople in Georgia.
“Lado’s statements made on TV in recent days were especially remarkable,” Saakashvili said at the time, referring to his appearance on a Rustavi 2 TV political talk show in which he criticized the opposition.
“Lado went to the west to study earlier than me and when I arrived in New York I was hearing all the time about Lado… he was quite a respected person. Lado then returned to Georgia and at that time no one had any hope [in Georgia’s economy] and he [Gurgenidze] was the first to demonstrate real business acumen,” Saakashvili said. The president continued: “It was an honor for me and I was proud when I attended [the Bank of Georgia’s] initial public offering at the London Stock Exchange. It was the first for a Georgian company on the London Stock Exchange.”
In response, Gurgenidze told the president that government measures to stabilize the situation following the November 7 unrest in Tbilisi - when riot police broke up a demonstration - had allayed foreign investors’ fears. To make his point, he pointed out that Bank of Georgia shares on the London Stock Exchange had started on November 7 to make a come back, following an initial slump.