CME asking $527 million plus interest

PRAGUE — A London arbitration court began hearing arguments on Monday to determine the financial award the Czech Republic must pay Central European Media Enterprises for failing to protect its investments in Nova TV.

Ronald Lauder’s CME is asking $527 million plus interest, which could bring the total close to $700 million in the long-running case. CME lost control of its Czech station to principal license holder and Nova general manager Vladimir Zelezny in August, 1999.

Under the CME/Zelezny leadership, Nova TV was the most successful launch in the republic’s TV history, rising to a 70% aud share in two years. Nova remained CME’s cash cow for five years, however Zelezny complained that the station’s profits were being used to support CME’s other Euro stations and staged a management coup.

The hearing comes at an especially hard time for the Czech Republic, which is facing upwards of $2 billion in damages due to the recent floods that devastated several cities and villages.

The court is expected to deliberate until the end of the year or early 2003 before announcing its results.

There are rumors that the government and the republic’s media council could try settle out of court with CME by offering it the license to another station, but CME says it was never directly approached.

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