War Flares between Buyers of WAZ Media Assets in Bulgaria

Business | March 31, 2011, Thursday // 18:20|  views

Lyubomir Pavlov (l), Ognyan Donev (c) and Hristo Grozev (r). Photo by BGNES

Hristo Grozev, a partner in BG Privatinvest Ltd, wanted to force the participation of a Bulgarian alcohol producing company and of newspaper owner, Delyan Peevski, in Media Group Bulgaria.

The accusation was made Thursday morning by the CEO of the group, Lyubomir Pavlov, in a TV interview for the TV channel TV7.

Grozev struck back, saying Pavlov has been long-known for being an expert in black PR.

The new owners of WAZ Mediengruppe assets in Bulgaria, which include the two wide-circulation Trud and 24 Hours (24 Chasa) newspapers, have clashed in an open conflict just three months after sealing the deal. The scandal broke Tuesday and flared further in the hour-long TV exchange.

Grozev, who represents the Vienna-registered BG Privatinvest Ltd, controlled by himself, Austrian Karl Habsburg, and German Daniel Rutz, accuses their Bulgarian partners in an illegal corporate take-over of the newspapers.

According to reports, citing the Bulgarian Trade Registry, 83% stake in the holding Media Group Bulgaria, have been transferred to Ognyan Donev, chairman and majority owner of Sopharma, the biggest Bulgarian generic drugmaker, and Lyubomir Pavlov, former chairman of the Sofia-based Municipal Bank.

Pavlov says, Grozev and Habsburg, have participated only with two deposits of EUR 2M – a scanty amount. According to unofficial information, the WAZ assets have been sold for anywhere between EUR 50 M and 60 M.

Pavlov insisted Grozev wanted to bring in the alcoholic beverage maker "Peshtera" because he owed them money and confined earlier he feared for his life if the deal fails. Grozev further wanted to include Peevski, currently a Member of Parliament from the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms party (DPS) and a former Deputy Minister of Emergency Situations from the DPS quota, and the Director of the Central Corporate Bank, Tsvetan Vasilev, whose financial institution is believed to have close ties with DPS.

Peevski and his mother, murky tycoon, Irena Krasteva, are the owners of the "Monitor" and "Telegraph" news papers and the same TV7, all part of the media empire known as New Bulgarian Media Group. Vasilev also has shares in the group.

Grozev said there was an attempt to reduce the BG Privatinvest Ltd shares from 53% to 9%, but the Bulgarian Trade Registry did not pass the deal. He denied Pavlov's claims, stating he had even approached the European Commission over Peevski's attempt to monopolize media in the country.

Grozev further insisted BG Privatinvest Ltd had poured many USD millions in the purchase, but Pavlov has blocked them. He complained that Pavlov had been spreading rumors about him having ties with foreign intelligence and vowed to take everything to Court.

"I have an invoice, showing only two deposits of EUR 2 M. This man needs help, legal help I mean," Pavlov said.

Another subject of heated debates between the two was the criteria under which the new editors-in-chief of "24 Chasa" and "Trud" have been selected. Grozev accuses Pavlov of making a single-handed decision without involving any of the other partners and not giving the opportunity to the best candidates.

It must be noted that the same TV7 was owned by Lyubomir Pavlov, who sold it 3 years ago, along with the "Express" daily to the Peevski-Krasteva New Bulgarian Media Group.

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Tags: Media Group Bulgaria, BG Privatinvest, newspapers, 24 chasa, Trud, Serbia, Bodo Hombach, WAZ, BG Privateinvest GmbH, 168 Chasa, Hristo Grozev, Karl von Habsburg, Daniel Rutz, Lyubomir Pavlov, Ognyan Donev, 24 Hours, Karl Habsburg, Sopharma, Tsvetan Vasilev, Corporate Commercial Bank, DPS, Delyan Peevski, New Bulgarian Media Group, Irena Krasteva, TV7


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