War of words heats up in paper ownership row
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Flags of Milliyet and Vatan wave in front of the headquarters of both newspapers in Istanbul. The management of the two papers were handled to a trustee upon the ownership disputes between its two partners. Today, columnists tell one party to leave.The row between the columnists at both Milliyet and Vatan newspapers and the Karacan Group, a 50 percent partner, has intensified as journalists have responded to an open letter by Karacan.
Karacan claimed to have signed a protocol with MNG Group, owner of TV8 television channel, to buy the shares of Demirören Group at the Demirören Karacan (DK), which was established to acquire Milliyet and Vatan from Doğan Yayın Holding earlier this year.
The clash between the parties started when Demirören claimed 2 Numara, a DK subsidiary controlled by Karacan, was under a heavy debt burden. Karacan filed a lawsuit demanding shutdown of the company after members representing Karacan at the DK board resigned July 19. Then, an Istanbul court decided on a trustee to handle the management of DK on Aug. 26.
“Say Ali Karacan, partner of Vatan and Milliyet, managed to be the sole owner of Milliyet and Vatan in the end. How will Ali Karacan [head of Karacan Group] be able to work with Milliyet and Vatan columnists who told him to ‘keep out’?” said Ahmet Hakan, TV presenter and columnist at Hürriyet, in his column Dec. 30.
Leading Milliyet and Vatan columnists reiterated their stance Dec. 30 after Karacan issued an open letter in response to the columnists who called the partner to make the necessary payments or “stand aside” a day earlier.
“It is not possible for Karacan Group to sell its shares to any other firm,” said Fikret Bila, a Milliyet columnist, referring to an article in the DK master contract. The contract says partners cannot sell DK for three years, according to Bila.
Also, a sales agreement with Doğan prevents the partners of DK selling to any media firm for five years, said Bila.
“Demirören Group labors to keep [Milliyet] alive, doing anything it can, while Ali Karacan works hard to sell [it],” said Mehmet Tezkan, another Milliyet columnist.
“[Ali Karacan said] Demirören Group has paid 40 million TL [Turkish Liras] to acquire Milliyet and 14 million liras for operational costs. He despised the 54 million liras of payment. But how much has he paid? Let me tell you – only 2.5 million liras. And that is the obligatory payment to found the company with 20 million liras capital,” Tezkan said.
“One wonders if the Karacan [family] follows a strategy to temporize the process, sicken and intimidate the Demirören [family] in order to push them to sell their shares? Unfortunately, that is what it seems,” said Güngör Mengi, a Vatan columnist.
The dispute between Demirören and Karacan is also “the readers’ business,” said Okay Gönensin, another Vatan columnist. “A trustee managing the newspapers, [a situation] caused by Ali Karacan, is seriously making it harder to conduct journalism, to publish a good newspaper, a quality paper.”
Doğan, the former owner of the two newspapers, also owns the Hürriyet Daily News.