Czech broadcaster TV Nova appears to be pushing ahead with plans to purchase Prague's Barrandov Studios despite recent setbacks, including a ruling against it Wednesday (Nov 21) by the Czech Supreme Court in its dispute with the US's Central European Media Enterprises (CME).
Last week, Nova director Vladimir Zelezny spent the night in jail as Czech prosecutors cracked down in a move that appeared timed to coincide with recent international rulings against the local media mogul.
In Wednesday's ruling, the Czech Supreme Court reversed a lower court's decision in favour of Zelezny and his firm CET-21, the holder of Nova's broadcast license.
Yet despite its setbacks in the dispute with CME and the jailing of its director, Nova appears eager to acquire Barrandov, long considered the most prized asset of the Czech film industry. The station has reportedly had problems with financing, however. One source in Prague says the Austrian bank Erste Bank was ready to bankroll the deal, but backed out last week, as did another would-be financier earlier this week. It was unclear whether financiers' cold feet were related to Zelezny's jailing.
Prague's Stillking Films, a local film production services company that has expressed interest in Barrandov, is another contender for the fabled film studio complex.
Local weekly Prague Business Journal quoted unnamed industry sources on Monday saying Zelezny's production firm would have first option on Barrandov as long as Zelezny stays out of jail and secures $20 million by the end of this month. "If Zelezny can stay out of jail, he has a 70 percent chance of securing the studio - it would just be a question of securing the money," the source was quoted as saying.
Nova is engaged in a long-standing dispute with CME, the media firm controlled by American cosmetics heir Ron Lauder. Zelezny stands accused of backing out of a service agreement between CME and CET-21 in 1999, effectively stripping CME of its most valuable possession, TV Nova. The case is likely to be sent back to Prague's Municipal Court, which ruled in favour of CME last year, for one final decision. There is no more room for appeal within the Czech court system.