A new reality at Maestro – timeline showing the changes in the TV Company’s ownership and management - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

A new reality at Maestro – timeline showing the changes in the TV Company’s ownership and management

05 February, 2016


04.02.2016 – General Director leaves Maestro

The partners’ assembly discharged Baia Gadabadze, the director of the Channel, from office. The same assembly appointed Levan Gachechiladze, brother of Giorgi Gachechiladze, as new director. Giorgi Gachechiladze owns 55 % of the company’s shares.

The lawyers of Maestro’s partners Maka Asatiani and Mamuka Ghlonti believe that the partners’ assembly was illegitimate; they say their arguments were not taken into account.

After her dismissal, Baia Gadabadze called on the Ministry of Justice and the Public Registry not to register the decision of her dismissal.

The Prime Minister released a statement concerning the developments around Maestro TV. He noted that any intervention in this matter on the part of the government or political forces would be unacceptable. Two days before, the Prime Minister had a meeting with Giorgi Gachechiladze. As Gachechiladze commented, they are friends and the meeting did not concern Maestro TV.

02.02.2016 – The Public Registry registered change in the  Maestro TV shareholders

On February 2, yet another change in Maestro TV shareholders was registered in the Public Registry. According to the Registry information, Giorgi Gachechiladze became the TV company’s majority shareholder (55%). He bought shares from two co-owners:  Giorgi Ebraelidze and Levan Chikvaidze, 15% shares from each. The purchase agreement was signed between the parties on January 22 and the change of partners officially occurred on February 2nd. The remaining 45% of Maestro TV shares are distributed among Mamuka Ghlonti (15%), Ekaterine Akobia (5%), and Maka Asatiani (25%).

As Giorgi Gachechiladze’s lawyer Irakli Kordzakhia said, Giorgi Gachechiladze borrowed the money for purchasing the shares from Irakli Rukhadze. Rukhadze is  in charge of Badri Patarkatsishvili's family business, including Imedi TV. Giorgi Gachechiladze confirmed involvement of Patarkatsishvili family.

Maestro’s executive director Eter (Baia) Gadabadze said she has no intentions to work in the company under the new distribution of shares but will continue to fulfill her duties until the final decision is made by the partners. According to her, the TV Channel’s independence is being jeopardized. Ms. Gadabadze also said that Maestro’s actual owner is now Irakli Rukhadze who bought shares for several million GEL.

The Maestro director mentioned that the company has a debt amounting to $ 50 million and therefore the channel can only be appealing for political reasons.

21.01.2016 – Maestro breaks off its relationship with Monitor Studio

TV Company Maestro terminated cooperation with Studio Monitor that conducts journalistic investigations. According to Studio Monitor, Maestro management said they were launching their own program.

Studio Monitor has produced a number of critical films, including "Obscure Priorities of the Reserve Fund", "How the City Hall Employees Won GEL 800 000 through Competition," "Judge Murusidze – a Victim of the Regime or a Servant of the System?”

Over the past seven years, Studio Monitor had been giving its films to Maestro free of charge.

19.01.2016 – Maestro’s commercial slot is bought by Imedi TV

Imedi TV bought 100% of Maestro’s commercial airtime. Maestro confirmed the deal but did not specify the amount received.

18.09.2015 – the process of driving Maestro to bankruptcy begins

Eter Gadabadze launched bankruptcy proceedings against Maestro. The Court accepted the suit.

Giorgi Gachechiladze said the channel was being deliberately driven to bankruptcy which was due to Maka Asatiani requiring the repayment of the loans that the company had taken from her.

Maka Asatiani denied Mr. Gachechiladze's allegation saying that commencing bankruptcy proceedings was the management’s obligation.

Ms. Asatiani's lawyer explained  that Studio Maestro Ltd owes GEL 42 million to Maka Asatiani and several millions more to her companies.

22.12.2014 – the head of the news service and a part of journalists leave Maestro

Following the confrontation with Kote Gogelia, Maka Asatiani’s spouse and fiduciary, Nino Zhizhilashvili, the deputy director of the channel and the host of the main news program "Nine", left Maestro. Some journalists and producers followed her. In the aftermath, the channel announced reorganization.

Ms. Zhizhilashvili later clarified that Kote Gogelia told her Maestro was to become ideology-driven and "pro Georgian”.

"The ideology that we were told the Channel was to carry out henceforth was labeled “pro Georgian.” This raised many questions in me since it was something we had always done -serving the public. Accordingly, a goal like this, denoting pro Georgian ideology, our channel might have already had, " explained Ms. Zhizhilashvili.

According to Ms. Zhizhilashvili’s comments, even though she was in charge of the news programs, important changes such as substituting ‘Nine’ by Koka Kandiashvili’s program “Tbilisi Speaking” were not agreed with her.

Other employees who quit Maestro named the company’s decision to pursue the pro-Georgian ideology, the dismissal of Ms. Zhizhilashvili, and cooperation with Koka Kandiashvili, a former consultant of the State Chancellery, as reasons for leaving the channel.

On the very day, December 22, Mr. Kandiashvili said that negotiations were underway with Maestro and other companies concerning the purchase of projects made by his studio; he denied other types of cooperation with the channel. Baia Gadabadze also denied Kandiashvili was involved in the channel’s management..

28.10.2014 – Diana Trapaidze and Teona Gegelia leave Maestro

Diana Trapaidze and Teona Gegelia, hosts of the program "Subjective Opinion", left Maestro. Diana Trapaidze did not make any statement explaining the reasons for leaving the company. The program's producer, Irakli Absandze stated Trapaidze’s decision followed her meeting with the channel’s actual manager Mr. Gogelia.

Later on, Teona Gegelia gave her reason for leaving Maestro in social media: "Journalists need be protected not only from politicians, but also from rude, stupid, ignorant and incompetent managers. We wanted to stay and work on Maestro; I am so sorry, really sorry," - wrote Teona Gegelia on Facebook.

28.09.2014 - Vakhtang Sanaya leaves Maestro

Journalist Vakhtang Sanaya said he left the channel because of a disagreement with the company's director Baia Gadabadze, however, the disagreement did not result in a conflict. Sanaya was a host of the program "Nine". In December 2014, Sanaya announced about his decision to leave Maestro. Sanaya commented he was told during the meeting with the director that his programs may bring the channel into confrontation with the authorities and thus create problems.

A few months prior to that, Sanaya’s program was criticized by the Government. On May 20, the Government's Press Office released a statement referring to  “Vakho Sanaia’s Reporting” aired on Maestro on May 18 as biased. The program included reports containing criticism towards the Government.   

Maestro’s Revenues

Political processes taking place in Georgia before the 2012 parliamentary elections had a significant impact on Maestro’s revenues. The revenues started to increase in April 2012, several months prior to the parliamentary elections. In 2013-2014, the company's revenues were steadily increasing, while from February 2015 they showed a decline compared to 2014  and were reduced by nearly half.

11.07.2012 – seizing satellite antennas

A few months before the 2012 parliamentary elections, satellite antennas imported by Maestro were seized. According to the Prosecutor’s office, Elita Burji, a company affiliated with the Georgian Dream instructed Maestro to distribute satellite antennas free of charge. This fact was criticized by NGOs. The ban on the satellite antennas was removed a few days after the parliamentary elections

In August 2012, 2 months before the parliamentary elections, Must Carry regulations were enacted, as a result of which Maestro’s signal distribution area within Georgia increased.

30.11.2011 - confrontation between Erosi Kitsmarishvili and Maestro owners

In late 2011, Maestro broadcasted from the Radio Maestro’s office. The Channel’s  employees had to leave the TV Station building after Erosi Kitsmarishvili occupied it together with 15 other men following a confrontation with the company owners. This fact resulted in a delay in the Channel’s broadcasting.

Erosi Kitsmarishvili claimed his Rustavi Media Management Company was entitled to manage Maestro until December 2012 under a three-year  contract signed in 2009.

26.11.2011 - a pre-agreement was signed on the sale of 25% shares of the company

An agreement was signed between the company’s 25% shareholder Giorgi Gachechiladze and other partners. Under the agreement Giorgi Gachechiladze was to transfer his share to other shareholders no later than December 10, 2012, in the following proportions: 7.5% to Mamuka Ghlonti 7.5% to Levan Chikvaidze; 7.5% to Giorgi Ebralidze; and 7.5% to Ekaterine Akobia. Giorgi Gachechiladze received a unanimous endorsement to dispose of his share based on the  November 26, 2011, decision of the Partners’ Assembly. Until the transfer, the management of Giorgi Gachechiladze’s 25% share was assigned to Ilia Kikabidze. [3]

31.12.2010 - General Director leaves Maestro

The Channel’s Director Kakha Bekauri announced his resignation on 31 December 2010. This was preceded by the latter’s allegations against Erosi Kitsmarishvili on using Maestro as a political instrument. Bekauri also accused Erosi Kitsmarishvili of shutting off financial sources to the company.

The same day, Mamuka Ghlonti expressed his desire on behalf of the TV Company founders to terminate the agreement signed with Erosi Kitsmarishvili. However, in a few days, Maestro decided  to keep the contract with Mr. Kitsmarishvili.

30.11.2009 – Erosi  Kitsmarishvili’s company assumes the management of Maestro

In 2009, Studio Maestro Ltd concluded an agreement with "Rustavi Media Management Company", the director of which was Erosi Kitsmarishvili, one of the founders of Rustavi 2.

According to the agreement, Rustavi Media Management Company was authorized to manage Maestro TV for a three-year term until December 2012.

Based on 2002 and 2010 data, the company's shares were distributed as follows: Mamuka Glonti (38%), Giorgi Ebralidze (38%), Levan Chikvaidze (19%), Ekaterine Akobia (5%). No information is found in the Public Registry pertaining to changes in the company’s owners in the period between these years.

02.12.2008 – Maestro begins to air political programs

The National Communications Commission modified Maestro’s broadcasting license and allowed the company to air political programs. A few months earlier, in April, the National Communications Commission rejected Maestro’s request to modify its license. The dispute between the Commission and the TV Company continued several months and the broadcaster even appealed to court, but the dispute ended. as a result of the Anti-Crisis Council meidation.


Author: TI Georgia