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Matt Nash

The fight for LBC

Money, power and politics surround the dispute over the future of the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, and any resolution to the fight for ownership of the most popular local television station will impact media markets in Lebanon and abroad.

In a lawsuit, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea is trying to wrest control of the LBC Group from General Manager Pierre Daher.
 
The LF founded LBC as a mouthpiece in 1985. Pierre Daher, whose father was an important member of the Kataeb party in North Lebanon, was brought on board at LBC’s inception, shortly after he finished studying Industrial Engineering in California. The station was popular, and despite war damage survived Lebanon’s long conflict.

When Samir Geagea was jailed and the LF banned from functioning in 1994, the LF’s assets were distributed, with Daher getting LBC. The LBC Group now operates a local Lebanese station LBCI and several satellite channels including LBC SAT – a prominent free-to-air channel in the Gulf market.

At the heart of the current legal dispute are the exact terms – and documents – involved in the LF’s divestiture as well as questions on how Daher financed LBC’s rapid and very successful expansion.

In the suit Geagea is claiming LBC should have been returned to the party once he was freed from prison in 2005 and that Daher used LF-supplied funds to build the brand. Daher disagrees with the return policy, and says he grew LBC with capital from private investors.

Daher started launching LBC satellite channels in 1996 and established the Production and Acquisition Company (PAC). PAC built new studios, purchased equipment, hired employees and began producing some content for foreign markets and almost all content for LBCI – making it today little more than a brand name and outdated equipment. 

Geagea is asking for control of PAC as well as the satellite channels, both now actually in the hands of Saudi Prince Walid bin Talal– who owns the Rotana group of free-to-air satellite channels. In 2008, bin Talal bought at least 85 percent of both PAC and LBC SAT (the exact size of the stake was not disclosed). The deal did not include LBCI – the local channel in Lebanon.

Should Geagea succeed in getting the entire group, it would certainly raise the ire of bin Talal. The Saudi billionaire in 2007 named Daher president of broadcasting for the Rotana group of free-to-air satellite channels, an operation he is trying to grow and diversify.

Bin Talal appears to be positioning Rotana to rival MBC – which dominates the Gulf’s free-to-air market – said Jihad Bitar, general manager of the media analysis company Comtrax Solutions. The prince has incorporated LBC SAT into the Rotana family with crossover advertising and made a number of agreements in recent years to diversify the content Rotana channels offer, Bitar told NOW.

(On Tuesday Rotana announced it sold 9 percent of its shares for $70 million to Rupurt Murdoch’s media conglomerate NewsCorp, which bin Talal took a stake of almost 13 years ago.)

Rotana losing LBC SAT could start a new set of court battles.

A loss for Geagea could push him to launch his own local channel. The LBC brand name, however, is strong, and the local market is crowded with stations controlled by Lebanon’s political bosses.

If a judge decides PAC and the satellite channels should stay with Rotana but award LBCI to the LF, Rotana may still fight for use of the LBC name. In the Gulf market the brand is well-known and has a certain cache, Bitar said.

A source close to the LF, speaking anonymously as it is an ongoing legal matter, told NOW that an initial court decision is expected in June with the case, initially filed in 2007, fully concluding shortly thereafter.

  • LBC 3am te7tere2 min warakon kellkon

    chi biza33el walla !!! LBC lal ness moch la LF wala la Pierre el Daher wala lal Walid Ben Talal ... bestaghreb chou 3am ysir !! 3eib 3laykon kellkon !!! di3an el history wel dreams wel events... di3an kell shi sar, mnez3al 3al LBC, mnez3al enno el kell hammo $$$$ .... nway min maken mfakkar yemteleka lazem ya3ref enno el name lawa7do mabyekfi... we already miss all the staff... ness da77et 7atta wassalet el LBC la chou hiyyi el yom w ballachna nchoufon 3am yelma3o barra !!! MABROUK la kell el channels yalli 3erfo kif yestafido min hal ness el kafou2in w khsara la chou 3am ysir bel LBC !!! chi biza33elllllllllllll.... w last question: mabsoutin ya LF ?? mabsout el walid Ben Talal ?? mabsout Pierre el Daher ??? LBC saret less than zero !!! 7aram 3laykon...

    March 10, 2012

  • opinion

    I fully respect the LF sacrifices and patriotism, but legally speaking, the ownership of LBCI goes to its shareholders which is Pierre El Daher. Without the wisdom of PD the station wouldn't have reached its position and wouldn't have survived all the political obstacles. Lebanon needs LBCI more then the LF needs it.

    October 22, 2010

  • cc

    What right did Daher have to expand LBC with foreign investors anyway. Like if that is a cause for his right to own it. He indeed "Arabized" it!

    October 14, 2010

  • bach

    It did belong to Sheikh Pierre El Daher. His father invested millions of his own money into the station. Later on he struggled to make the station work and make it what it is today. Also, Sheikh Pierre created PAC by himself, which provided for content and technology to LBC and other networks. PAC didn't even exist when Geagea went to jail

    July 12, 2010

  • Mounira

    to Bach who handed it over to him? it did not even belong to him it was illegally taken from the LF and still doesnt belong to Daher he has only suceeded for his own greed turning it into a ..... station well done pierre you are a modern day .....

    March 2, 2010

  • bach

    LBC belongs to Sheikh Pierre El Daher, and noone else. When LBC was handed over to him, he invested millions of his own money and that of other investors, to make it what it is today.

    March 2, 2010

  • Lebanese princess

    i think LBC doesnt give the full truth of what really is going on in Lebanon. It should go back to its rightful king, Geagea

    March 1, 2010

  • luka

    what's happening between Daher & Geagea is sad but i believe that Lbc belongs to Geagea and yes Daher did not not have z right to sell it & he's been really taking some bad decisions concerning z station lately but as they say: @z end ma biyseh ella l sahih..in leb unfortunately that is not often the case but hopefully Geagea will win it back.

    February 28, 2010

  • Kadisha

    What belongs to Caesar will go back to Caesar

    February 25, 2010

  • Justis

    LBC belongs to Lebanese Forces. Pierre Daher illegally sold LBC which he did not own personally.Where was the court when the sale took place ? it could have stamped the sale null and void...

    February 25, 2010

  • abdallah

    for the sake of Lebanon it should not be in ja3ja3's hands.... its nothing personal but we could do without another political station creating an endless media war, which would eventually break out to the streets.

    February 24, 2010

  • Mounira

    I hope the LF get their channel back it rightfully belongs to them not the Saudis or Khaleejis and Pierre Daher who sold their cause for money which never belonged to him

    February 24, 2010