During last several days two persons have accused the government in forcing them to give up shares in TV-Companies and in dismissing them from management posts. First it was a founder and director of the First Stereo David Zilfimian who accused brother of the Head of Foreign Intelligence Department Gela Bezhuashvili in dismissing him from the post of Director of the First Stereo illegally. 23 May former owner of TV-Company Mze Vano Chkharitishvili accused President Mikheil Saakashvili in forcing him to give up shares of the broadcaster in favor of Gela Bezhuashvili’s family. Chkhartishvili gave a promise to get back the broadcaster.
Founder of Rustavi2 broadcasting company Erosi Kitsmarishvili was making similar statements in 2008, when he accused Saakashvili in seizing his share in the broadcaster and in handing it over to businessman Kibar Khalvashi. Kitsmarishvili failed to return the share.
Broadcasting Company Rustavi 2
Selling-handover of shares of the above mentioned three TV-Companies and mentioning of Gela Bezhuashvili’s name in relation to them started fromRustavi2 in 2004. At that time three persons – Jarji Akimidze, David Dvali and Erosi Kitsmarishvili owned 30% ofRustavi2 shares each. 10% of shares were in the ownership of the broadcaster Director General Nika Tabatadze. Paata Karanadze bought 60% of shares owned by Akimidze and Dvali in 2004 and in June of the same year handed them over to Kibar Kalvashi, friend of the then Interior Minister Irakli Okruashvili.
Erosi Kitsmarishvili’s 30% also became property of Kibar Kalvashi’s Company Panoraa. In total 90% ofRustavi2 shares became property of Kibar Khalvashi in June 2004. Nika Tabatadze owned his 10% only until October. His shares were sold to Panorama just for GEL 200.
On 26 December 2005 Kibar Khalvashi sold 22% of the broadcaster shares to Sakcementi LLC (currently Heidelberg Cement Georgia.) Gela Bezhuashvili’s father Robert Bezhuashvili was the owner of Sakcementi LLC at that time.
General license holder, frequency broadcaster Mze was founded in 2004. 44% of the broadcaster was owned by Sakcementi (meaning Bezhuashvili’s family.) Giorgi Kavtaradze was the owner of 33.8%, Vano Chkhartishvili – 15% and Gela Kobaidze – 7%. At that period Mze was quite a popular channel airing public-political programs.
In September 2005 Vano Chkhartishvili and Giorgi Kavtaradze vanish from the list of owners. Sakcementi becomes the owner of their shares also and gains 93% of the broadcaster shares. During the same period majority of employees were dismissed from the channel, it was reorganized and finally became an entertainment channel.
TV-Company First Stereo
Bezhuashvili’s name appeared in relation to the First Stereo a little later, on 28 April 2006. At that time owner of 54% of the shares David Zilfimian sold 3% of the shares to Georgian Industrial Group Holding for USD 13,846. Founder of the given Holding is again Robert Bezhuashvili. By the same deal Zurab Chelidze (sold his 22% of shares for GEL 96,924) and Vakhtang Chkuaseli (sold his 21% of shares for GEL 55,384) sold their shares to the Industrial Group also.
After one month Zilfimian sold 29% from his 51% of shares also to the same holding for USD 133 846 and as result the Georgian Industrial Group Holding became owner of 63% of the First Stereo shares. Other owners of the broadcaster were Marco Kupoletti (22%) and Luka Severini (3%).
2006 appeared to be an important year for all thee TV-Companies. Minister Irakli Okruashvili left the government and his friend Kibar Khalvashi faced problems with the government; as result his shares inRustavi2 and Mze went also to the Georgian Industrial Group. 12 September 2006 Robert Bezhuashvili sold 22% ofRustavi2 shares owned by his Sakcementi LLC to his another company Georgian Industrial Group for GEL 73 thousand. Kibar Khalvashi remained owner of 78% of shares. In November 2006, family of the then foreign minister of Georgia Gela Bezhuashvili owned 65% of the First Stereo, 78% ofRustavi2 and 78% of Mze shares.
In one month 55% ofRustavi2 and Mze shares went into ownership of DELGADO RESOURCES LTD registered atBritish Virgin Islands. Levan Karamanishvili was the representative of the given company inGeorgia. Today he is the owner of 90% ofRustavi2 and Mze shares. The TV-Companies became its property officially after legislation prohibited offshore companies to own broadcasters. 10% ofRustavi2 shares are owned by its Director Giorgi Gegeshidze.
2 February 2007, 55% ofRustavi2 shares owned by DELGADO RESOURCES LTD were sold for GEL 232,444 to Geomedia Group registered atMarshalIslands, represented inGeorgiaby Giorgi Mikeladze. At the end of 2011 Giorgi Mikeladze became owner of 15% of Georgian Media Production Group, current owner of Imedi TV.
At the end of 2011 after offshore companies were prohibited to own broadcasters the Georgian Industrial Group owned by Bezhuashili family, left ownership ofRustavi2, Mze and the First Stereo. Today Karamanishvili and Gegeshidze are sole owners of Mze andRustavi2. Owner of 65% of shares and Director of the First Stereo is Gela Kobaidze, who, according to former Director David Zilfimian is Bezhuashvili’s brother-in-law.