Media Moguls: On the Trail of Armenian TV Owners
Who will come out on top after the upcoming licensing competition
The next stage in the formulation of Armenia’s TV market is reaching its close. During the next few weeks, the main players in the market will become clear and most probably there will be some changes in who owns what TV companies.
Four companies are already gearing-up to cede their licenses. Clearly, there will be no new company to receive a broadcast license. The TV companies that will emerge victorious in the completion are known, what isn’t yet clear is the final make-up after the dust settles; who will control a majority of shares of this or that company, allowing for control. Let’s continue with a presentation of who owns the TV companies operating today and a list of potential changes.
AR TV Company
The founding company is “AR TV, Ltd”. There are three stockholders. 1. Hrant Vardanyan – 68% 2. Silva Alagulyan – 16% (Silva Alagulyan is the wife of Stepan Margaryan, Advisor to former Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan on Javakhk affairs. Current PM Tigran Sargsyan dismissed Stepan Margaryan from his post. The office he held was also shut down) 3. Lyudmila Saharyan – 16% (She is the wife of former Yerevan Deputy Mayor Vardan Vardapetyan) At one time, 17% of the stock of this company was owned by Meruzhan Ter-Gulanyan, presently Director of “Ararat TV”. In 2002, he sold his shares to Hrant Vardanyan, President of “Grand Holding” and a member of Armenia’s National Assembly. At the time of the sale, MP Vardanyan already owned 52% of the company. Silva Alagulyan and Lyudmila Saharyan do not actively participate in the management of the company. Hrant Vardanyan became a shareholder of “AR” before the parliamentary elections of 2003 At the time, he was listed on the ballot of the ARF. It would appear that it has already been decided that on July 20, this company will not receive a broadcast license.
The founder is “Hayrenik TV, Ltd”. The paid-in capital base is 1 million AMD. There are two shareholders: 1. Hrant Vardanyan – 95% (950,000 AMD) 2. Samvel Grigoryan – 5% (50,000 AMD) It would appear from the distribution of shares that the second shareholder is a formality. Hrant Vardanyan was an MP when the company was founded.
Armenia 2 TV
The founding company is “Armenia 2 TV, Ltd”. There are two shareholders. 1. Samvel Mayrapetyan – 50% 2. Natalya Mardinyan – 50% Samvel Mayrapetyan is a businessman and is known for the construction of elite buildings in downtown Yerevan. Natalya Mardinyan is most likely related to Armen Gevorgyan, RoA Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Territorial Administration. Armen Gevorgyan and Samvel Mayrapetyan are close friends and, according to press reports, have conducted joint business projects. We asked Deputy PM Gevorgyan to verify whether he was a shareholder in “Armenia 2” or not. Sometime later, the DPM’s Press Secretary neither confirmed nor denied the allegation, advising us to get verification from the TV company. To date, we haven’t been able to ascertain who Natalya Mardinyan is and her relation to Armen Gevorgyan. “Armenia 2” is a TV station that adopts a more cautious approach to the news than Armenia’s Public TV. This can be attributed to one of the founders, Samvel Mayrapetyan, a businessman who is cautious as a rule. There are also rumors floating around that Sedrak Kocharyan, the son former RoA President Robert Kocharyan, has a hand in the running of the TV station.
The founding company is “A-TV, Ltd”, the former “ArmenAkob” TV company. The former owner, Armen Amiryan, is now the Executive Director of Armenian Public TV. In 2008, an ownership change occurred. There are two new owners: 1. “Hopar Media, Ltd”. Otari Hakobyan founded and owns the company. 2. Vahe Ghazaryan The real owner of “Hopar Media” is Artur Janibekyan, chief producer of “Comedy Club Productions”. He, along with Mikayel Minasyan (the son-in-law of President Serzh Sargsyan) has a stake in the “Jazzve” chain of coffee houses. Artur Janibekyan is regarded as a successful businessman whose net wealth is estimated at $40 million. There has recently been a spate of press reports that Gerard Cafesjian, one of the stockholders of “Armenia TV” sold his 50% stake in the company. It is said that Mr. Cafesjian’s health has deteriorated of late and that he’s started to sell off his operations in Armenia Hetq sources indicate that Artur Janibekyan has acquired Cafesjian’s 50% stake. Furthermore, negotiations are said to be underway with Bagrat Sargsyan regarding the obtaining of the supervisory file.
The founding company is “Shark Ltd”; founding shareholders Gagik Buniatyan and Arman Sahakyan. The latter is a businessman known to be a friend of Mikayel Minasyan. In the past two years, he has been able to get a foothold in the Armenian media market with the internet sites tert.am and armsport.am (in Armenia’s top ten) and the daily newspaper Kapital. The founding of the TV company is Arman Sahakyan’s latest move in his bid to strengthen his overall media position.
Century 21 TV
There are four founders of “Century 21” CJSC 1. Naira Aghababyan 2. Ashot Aghababyan 3. Anahit Popovyan 4. Gagik Abrahamyan The first three are registered at Leninakan Street 16 in Gyumri. They are members of the family of MP Ashot Aghababyan. Naira is the MP’s daughter and Anahit, his wife.
The founder is “Multi Media-Kentron TV”, CJSC. According to press reports, when United Labor Party President Gurgen Arsenyan sold the company it was purchased by MP Murad Gouloyan, an in-law of Gagik Tsarukyan. Thus, the real owner is Gagik Tsarukyan, who has never denied the news in various interviews. In any case, the stockholders are not known. From a political perspective, a unique role is reserved for Kentron TV. It was created by the authorities to resolve the problem of “A1+” TV and from that time on “Sharm” began to carry out political orders. However, sometime later, it found itself in an uncertain situation. “Kentron” was of no use to “Sharm” and it soon sold it off to ULP President Gurgen Arsenyan. During that period, Kentron showed a certain objectivity and neutrality when it came to news reporting. But all understood that it was done on purpose; to make the case that there was indeed “freedom of speech” in Armenia and that there was an alternative to “A1+”. Only “Kentron” broadcast pictures of law-enforcement dispersing peaceful protestors on the night of April 12, 2004. Arsenyan had crossed the line and was punished for it. Twelve days later, on April 24, Gurgen Arsenyan “sold” the company to Murad Gouloyan, a businessman elected to the National Assembly on the Republican Party ballot. In 2007, Gouloyan was reelected to the National Assembly, this time on the Prosperous Armenia Party ballot.
A.L.M. – Holding TV
Founded by “A.L.M. – Holding, Ltd. The company’s sole shareholder is Tigran Karapetyan, President of the Armenia’s People’s Party. The businessman from Russia founded the company in 2000 and during election campaigns it basically serves as a mouthpiece for the party. ALM will also lose its license in the upcoming competition.
Yerevan – Prometevs TV
The founding company is “Yerevan TV” Ltd. Contrary to other limited companies, there is some information as to shareholders in the state registry. According to the disclosure, the sole shareholder is Varsham Gharibyan. Varsham (Yura) Gharibyan is a stockholder of the “Shant” company. He is also president of “Elite Shant” and one of the stakeholders in the “Shant” restaurant complex. Varsham Gharibyan enjoys the backing of Chief Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepyan. When Varsham had a falling out with his brother Manvel, Chief Prosecutor Hovsepyan, according to press reports, openly backed Varsham. This TV company will also not receive a license in the competition.
“Shant Ltd” was founded by Artur Yezekyan in 1994 in Gyumri. Paid-in capital at the time of founding was 203,320, 900 AMD. There are two shareholders: 1. Artur Yezekyan – 52% 2. Minas Armen – 48%) Armen Minas is an Iranian-Armenian businessman. There are periodic press reports that oligarch Mikayel Baghdasarov has purchased a majority of shares in the company. When asked by Hetq if this was true, Baghdasarov answered, “And why not the New York Times?” Sat one time he said he wasn’t interested in the media business. During the past week it has become clear that the 48% stake of Minas Armen has been obtained by businessman Samvel Karapetyan, brother of Karen Karapetyan, Chief of Staff of the Presidential Office. However, it seems that he isn’t satisfied with 48% and that negotiations are underway for him to get a controlling stake. There are other business figures and political players who wish to get into the TV market. Ruben Vardanyan, owner of AmeriaBank and the company Troika Dialogue, wants to get his hands on a TV company. Today, it is difficult to say just how credible this information is. What is clear is that Ruben Vardanyan aims to expand his business operations in Armenia. Owning a TV station here would definitely help him do just that.