Bull fight between Tiso Blackstar and Independent's Survé heats up over PIC claims

Media group Tiso Blackstar has claimed that it was approached by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) in 2016 for "help with Independent Media".

PIC spokesperson Sekgoela Sekgoela could not immediately comment on the claims.

According to Tiso in a lengthy statement, dated October 23, the PIC was allegedly concerned about the running of Independent Media and was encountering difficulty in obtaining financial information from its executive chair Dr Iqbal Survé.

Tiso said the PIC allegedly had growing concerns about being repaid money loaned to Survé to fund his acquisition of Independent Media. Tiso alleged that a meeting was set up by the PIC for it to meet Survé at the Maslow Hotel in Johannesburg on September 29, 2016.

According to Tiso, the aim of the meeting was to see how the Tiso Blackstar Group could potentially help the PIC, including but not limited to Tiso Blackstar assuming management control of the titles owned by Independent Media.

Tiso claims the outcome of the meeting was, however, "unproductive".

This comes on the back of Surve's own claims that it was Tiso who "surreptitiously approached the shareholders of Independent Media, including the PIC, on many occasions to try and consolidate the newspapers of the two businesses".

Tiso has denied this.

The claims were made in a column by Survé, which was published in Independent Media publications.

Challenge issued
Tiso has now issued a challenge to Survé. It wants him to publish audited financial statements of Independent Media for the last three years so the performance that he (Survé) claims "can be measured".

The media group also wants Survé to provide "irrefutable evidence" of how the entities connected to him have repaid loans due in August 2018, particularly the loans from the Government Employees Pension Fund and especially "in the context of the looming PIC Commission of Enquiry".

Tiso Blackstar also wants Survé to "prove" that the company he purchased in 2013 has the same assets today and that, it is not technically insolvent.

"If our reporting on the above is found to be incorrect following a substantive and verifiable response from yourself we will issue an apology," said the Tiso statement.

Tiso furthermore denies Survé's allegations of "double standards" in reporting about issues like the Steinhoff saga and the SA Post Office. It also denies Survé’s claim that white managers and journalists at the Tiso Blackstar Group are remunerated differently to their black colleagues.

"We have a small executive management team in our media division which is majority black and is certainly not underpaid relative to white colleagues in the group," the Tiso management said in the statement.

Fin24 contacted Survé on his mobile phone, but there was no answer. At the time of publishing, Survé also did not respond to an email from Fin24 asking for comment.

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