Inside Move: Gov’t appeasing CME

Czech pols proffer Nova as settlement stalls

The Czech government has offered Central European Media Enterprises a share in Nova TV as part payment of the $355 million it owes the U.S.-backed company for failing to protect its interest in the commercial broadcaster in the first place.

The irony is not lost on CME CEO Fred Klinkhammer.

“It would take a couple of years” to sort out ownership problems and outstanding litigation cases CME has with Nova in the Czech Republic, Klinkhammer says. “Nova is Typhoid Mary until they solve these problems.”

The government has also suggested giving CME a TV license to replace the one it lost when director general Vladimir Zelezny ousted CME from Nova in 1999.

“As long as they come to me with an intelligent, reasonable proposal, I’ll consider it,” Klinkhammer says.

The Czech finance ministry has agreed to deposit $355 million into an escrow account by April 28 while it continues to fight the arbitration court’s ruling in favor of CME. In return, CME agreed to set aside any further claims on interest, now growing at $74,000 daily. But if the Czechs fail to make the deposit by April 28, the amount will increase by $20 million.

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