Ina Gudavadze, widow of late tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, took over ownership of 90% of shares in a company, which wholly owns Imedi TV and radio stations, for 3 Georgian Lari (USD 1.8).
Imedi, which in recent years was run by President Saakashvili’s long-time ally and former government member Giorgi Arveladze, was launched in 2003 by Badri Patarkatsishvili, who was funding the broadcaster up until his death in February, 2008.
Gudavadze, who is Russian citizen, became majority shareholder of Georgian Media Production Group, after three of its previous owners, including Arveladze, relinquished their shares in the company, according to new ownership papers registered on October 19.
Gudavadze paid “symbolic amount of GEL 1” to each of the three previous owners, according to a contract. Arveladze owned 45% of shares; two businessmen Giorgi Korakhashvili and Giorgi Mikeladze owned 30% and 15% respectively.
The contract, which was signed on October 18, shows that Georgian Media Production Group, which wholly owns Imedi TV and radio stations, has not ever paid any dividends.
According to the contract total financial liabilities of Georgian Media Production Group and its affiliated companies amount up to GEL 6 million (about USD 3.6 million), not including debts accumulated in unpaid taxes.
According to July, 2012 data Imedi TV had GEL 13.9 million (up to USD 8.4 million) in tax debt. In a controversial move the outgoing government offered on October 15, one day before Imedi ownership transfer was announced, to write off part of the debts accumulated by television stations in unpaid taxes.
10% of shares of Georgian Media Production Group remain owned by Joseph Kay, a distant relative of Patarkatsishvili with whom the late tycoon’s family was in a dispute over Imedi ownership and some other assets for about three years up until mid-2011. It was not immediately clear whether Kay would retain his shares or not.
Imedi TV said on October 17 that it was “temporarily suspending” news bulletins while the television station was in the process of ownership transfer. It remains unclear when the channel will resume its news programs.