Media Layoffs: LBC Employees and Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal

Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal speaks during a news conference in Riyadh 9 March 2011. (Photo: Reuters - Fahad Shadeed)

By: Amal al-Andary

Published Thursday, December 20, 2012

In April 2012, Saudi billionaire and prince Alwaleed Bin Talal made moves to liquidate an entire production company. The Production and Acquisition Company, or PAC, is the production arm of LBC SAT, the Lebanese satellite channel formerly affiliated with the Lebanese Broadcasting Company (LBC), which, along with Rotana TV, is mostly owned by Alwaleed.

Al-Akhbar reported in January 2012 that when Alwaleed bought his shares in LBC in 2008, it seemed that this injection of capital would facilitate the expansion of the channel. This has not been the case.

Instead, the liquidation came when Bin Talal’s partnership with LBC’s chairman Pierre Daher soured beyond repair. The company in which they were partners split with LBC SAT going to the Bin Talal’s Rotana Group, while Daher retained LBC International (LBCI). Some of those laid off by PAC as a result went on to be hired by LBCI, yet many were not.
It turns out, PAC has had outstanding financial claims against both Rotana TV, and the Daher-controlled LBCI.

On Tuesday, 18 December 2012, a settlement was reached after mediation by Maronite Bishop Boulos Sayyah. Almost 400 employees will be further dismissed by PAC and they will receive their salaries for the coming months. Those among them who were not rehired by LBCI, around 45 employees. will receive 90 percent of their severance packages by January 2013.

The salary arrangements prompted PAC’s former employees to cancel the protests they had called in front of the company’s studios in Kfaryassine, after they succeeded in convincing LBC Chair Daher to make a gesture of goodwill and agree to pay the $11 million that his group owed to PAC.

With this, the employees sacked by PAC and its partner LBCI managed to put an end to a long chapter of injustice, with their spokesperson Clovis Choueifati confirming that their lobbying efforts and protests have now drawn to a close. But what about the 352 other employees who were laid off by PAC, but didn’t receive compensations because they went on to find other jobs?

A source from the committee following up on their case told Al-Akhbar that these former PAC employees are preparing to take action soon, but this time in the direction of Alwaleed – who has not yet paid Rotana TV’s dues to PAC, which are in excess of $40 million.

Al-Akhbar has tried to no avail to get in touch with Leila Riad El-Solh, vice president of Alwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation, to ask her about Alwaleed’s view on the matter. But a source familiar with the issue told Al-Akhbar that the Saudi billionaire would not pay a single penny from his pocket, and would wait instead for the liquidation of PAC to be completed before handing over termination pay to employees.

Perhaps those who moved on to LBC had opted to keep a low profile, particularly since their 45 colleagues from PAC had targeted their boss Pierre Daher. But today, LBCI’s employees are done with any possible conflict, since the crosshairs are now aimed at Alwaleed.

The media has been covering news about the Alwaleed and his charitable deeds without end. Here, an LBCI employee who had been sacked from PAC, said sarcastically, “Let Alwaleed send us a picture of the $485 million jet that he bought recently, so we can congratulate him on it!”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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