Alabbar and Kanoo clash over television show

EMAAR chairman Mohammed Alabbar has become embroiled in a bitter row with the Kanoo Group deputy chairman Mishal Kanoo, over two rival television shows planned by the pair.

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By  Anil Bhoyrul and Rhys Jones Published  February 27, 2005

EMAAR chairman Mohammed Alabbar has become embroiled in a bitter row with the Kanoo Group deputy chairman Mishal Kanoo, over two rival television shows planned by the pair. Alabbar is due to front The Apprentice, a pan-Arab version of the Donald Trump show in the US. In Alabbar’s show, 16 contestants will battle for the chance to run one of Emaar’s companies and be paid US$300,000 a year. The show is due to run on LBC over a 15-week period from October this year. However, last December Infinity TV announced the launch of CEO, in which 10 contestants will be filmed completing business assignments set by Kanoo, with a US$250,000 prize for the winner. Arabian Business can reveal that on February 16, 2005, UK-based FremantleMedia, who own the rights to The Apprentice in the Middle East, wrote to Kanoo claiming he was infringing their copyright. In the same week, Infinity TV received a letter from FreemantleMedia’s lawyers Al Tamimi & Co, giving the company seven days to “cease and desist” from making CEO. It warned that civil and criminal litigation could follow if Infinity TV did not meet its demands. Mishal Kanoo told Arabian Business: “I can only presume that Mohammed Alabbar sees me as a threat to him. The letter I have received is officially from FreemantleMedia, but I’m sure he is the one behind this. I am very surprised he has done this, but he is obviously frightened by this. You have to ask him why he is doing this, I really don’t know.” He added: “If Alabbar wants to issue proceedings, then that’s his prerogative. As far as I am concerned, if the show goes ahead then I shall be involved with it.” On December 17 last year, FreemantleMedia sent a letter directly to HH Sheikh Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, chief executive officer of Infinity TV. A copy of the letter has been seen by Arabian Business, in which the Sheikh’s name is misspelt. The letter demands that the Sheikh “respond in writing within seven days of the date of this letter with guarantees that The CEO does not infringe our rights in and to The Apprentice format.” No such response was given, and in the letter to Kanoo dated February 16, 2005, FreemantleMedia’s head of legal and business affairs Victoria Botsoff says: “We are currently considering pursuing a legal action against Infinity TV.” Ironically, FreemantleMedia has itself been the subject of legal action over copyright issues. Last year the company was named in a lawsuit by Harry Keane, a Texan man who claims the company stole his idea for the hit show American Pop Idol. Keane, who describes himself as a concert promoter and film producer claims he came up with the idea for an ‘Idol’ like show in the mid-1990s. Zeiad Al Batal, executive producer at Media Group, the production company behind Kanoo’s show, told Arabian Business: “This whole issue is about intellectual property rights. But I won’t take lessons from a company that is itself the subject of lawsuits over these rights. The bottom line is that what we are doing at CEO is totally different to what Mohammed Alabbar is doing. There is no way we are going to give in to his demands. If he wants a battle, he has got one.” Mohammed Alabbar was not available for comment.

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