Courtroom ‘brawl’ for TopTV

(Author’s note: This story refers to On Digital Media/Top TV and not to any other similarly named business)

Johannesburg-based pay-TV operator On Digital Media (which traded as TopTV) is still going through a business rescue plan which will see its assets transferred to China’s StarTimes group. But the process has proved to be something of a nightmare for all concerned, and a legal series of minefields to be negotiated.

The latest spat, described by local press as a “messy brawl”, occurred in South Africa’s High Court last week when a former investor on On Digital Media, First National Media Investment Holdings, was granted leave to take part in an action that is already running. This action concerns a state-backed organisation IDC and which invested just under 1 billion Rand into On Digital Media.

IDC sued First National Media for the recovery of a R293 million investment loan, and the action has unveiled a can of unpleasant worms in the form of various affidavits. One statement, from On Digital Media’s CEO Vino Govender, states that monthly subscription revenues have tumbled from R42 million to just R12 million -R13 million today, and that subscriber numbers have fallen to 80,000-85,000 from the more than 400,000 when he ran the business.

Further it is being alleged that the IDC had handed its shares to politically connected people and which subsequently “asset stripped” the business. The full trial will come to court early next year.

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