Patarkatsishvili's death found suspicious

The media tycoon behind Imedi TV — the News Corp.-controlled independent channel in Georgia — has been found dead at his British home.

Police said Wednesday that they were treating 52-year-old Badri Patarkatsishvili’s death as suspicious. But the billionaire’s spokesman in Georgia said he was believed to have died of heart failure.

Patarkatsishvili, who ran for office against Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili in Jan. 5 elections, had complained that the authorities were planning to assassinate him.

Opposition leader Giorgy Khaindrava said that “nothing could be ruled out” until after the cause of death was confirmed.

Saakashvili had accused Imedi TV of promoting sedition in the politically troubled former Soviet state late last year and forcibly closed it for a month, causing thousands of Georgians to take to the streets in protest. Imedi TV execs voluntarily closed the station for a period before the election, blaming fears over safety as well as official pressure.

News Corp., which has a 49% stake in Imedi TV, took control of Patarkatsishvili’s 51% in late October under a power of attorney valid for 12 months.

Georgian authorities dispute the legality of the deal and insist the station is still under Patarkatsishvili’s control.

Patarkatsishvili, who quit Georgia in November to live in self-imposed exile in the U.K. and Israel, was found at his home in Leatherhead, Surrey, 20 miles southwest of London, on Tuesday evening.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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