The legal battle over ownership of troubled Georgian TV station Imedi, operated by News Corp., will take place in New York.
Inna Gudavadze, widow of station founder Badri Patarkatsishvili, who died in February, filed suit against Joseph Kay and Emanuel Zeltser, Patarkatsishvili’s lawyer, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Friday.
She accuses Kay, a Georgian-born naturalized U.S. citizen who says he is a distant relative, and Zeltser of forging documents that allegedly show Kay bought a 70% stake in Imedi last November. She also claims they tampered with her late husband’s will.
Rupert Murdoch’s conglom, which has been running Imedi under a power of attorney agreement with Patarkatsishvili since October, also disputes Kay’s claim.
News Corp., which owns 49% of the station, says it has a witnessed verbal agreement to wholly acquire the company that is supported by Patarkatsishvili’s family.
In a statement issued in late March, News Corp. said: “Mr. Kay has failed to provide any documentation to prove he is the legitimate owner of Imedi’s parent company. We have independently received information supporting the allegations of Mr. Patarkatsishvili’s family and reserve the right to join them in this legal action and/or to start legal proceedings of our own.”
Imedi supporters in Georgia, which rallied to the defense of the TV station late last year when it was raided by armed troops and accused of encouraging sedition by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, say Kay is a government stooge. The station found itself at the center of sometimes-violent political protests last year ahead of a bitterly contested presidential election.
Incumbent Saakashvili narrowly won that contest, but parliamentary elections next month in the small Caucasian republic are likely to provide a fresh flash point for unrest.