Michael Surguladze has developed businesses in publishing, oil and gas, property, travel, financial and luxury lifestyle services. He has always successfully combined his business interests with the things he loves; he is an excellent commentator on travel, sports and luxury brands. A family man with a European sensibility, Michael has lived in London for 25 years. Today, he is a shareholder and board member for Insignia Group of Companies.
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Personal Life and Education
Michael is the eldest son of Leila Menabde, a teacher and Nodar Surguladze, a documentary film director.
He was educated at 64th Secondary School before graduating from the Tbilisi State University in 1976 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Mathematics. Michael also graduated with a Master’s Degree in Journalism in 1981 from the Moscow State University.
Profile and Career
Michael Surguladze’s early business interests involved publishing and sports. In his later career, Michael switched his attentions towards financial and luxury lifestyle services as CEO and Managing Director of the company SBS World Service.
Early career and the Georgian State TV Broadcasting Company
Michael’s first job was as a computer programmer but then became a radio journalist for the Georgian State TV Broadcasting Company whilst concurrently studying for his Masters at university. Michael’s ambition saw him rise to the position of Chief of the Radio Sports Department after only one year as a journalist and he hosted television interviews with sports personalities before rising to the position of Managing Director of the Movie Corporation department.
Vesta Limited, Elite Publishing House and DiaWest Publishing House
In 1987 the Soviet Union allowed limited privatisation of non-state businesses. Around this time, Michael formed the company Vesta Limited which pioneered the ownership of private companies in Soviet-Georgia. Vesta Limited bought the rights to many of the Russian’s and European’s most well respected writers and authors and published their work.
In 1989 Vesta Limited created the first ever computer designed, digital publications. Until this time, all publications within the Soviet Union were printed using the traditional method of typecast printing. Following their success, Vesta Limited, later that same year published the first colour magazine in the Soviet Union.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991 gave businesses the flexibility to expand and Vesta Limited, under the name Elite Publishing House by 1992, quickly established themselves as one of the largest publishing houses in Eastern Europe. Elite Publishing House produced more than 4,000 publications that had been prohibited under Soviet rule. They were the first publisher to take advantage of the free market by printing works by authors such as Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Iosif Brodsky and many others. They also began to produce high quality, glossy, large format coffee table gift publications that were highly sought after.
In late 1992 Elite Publishing House teamed up with Austrian company BRÜDER HENN on a joint venture, which witnessed the inception of DiaWest Publishing House. Their head office was based in Vienna and they owned the Colour Separation Studio and Printing House. DiaWest published internationally recognised magazines throughout Europe and was the first company to publish Russian language editions of well-known Western publications starting with The National Enquirer, followed by Business Elite, Most, Marie Claire, Penthouse and a number of other high profile magazines and newspapers.
In 1997 Michael was invited to be the Managing Director of Russia’s first non-governmental pension scheme ‘NPF Pension Fund Reconstruction and Development’. This company managed the pensions of some of Russia’s largest and most valuable enterprises.
SBS World Service
In 1995 Michael bought the company Stanley Bennet Society and renamed it SBS World Service shortly thereafter. Operations from 1997 to 2001 involved travel and travel related services as well as the distribution and promotion of American Express Cards in Russia and other CIS countries through a partnership bound by a Card Marketing Agreement.
In 2001, SBS World Service sought to introduce its own range of payment cards and launched the first line of Premium Cards. These ‘elite card programmes’ were designed to have a range of advantages and benefits unrivalled on the card market. They were launched concurrently with concierge services operated by a luxury lifestyle services provider Lifestyle Boutique.
In 2009 SBS World Service underwent a rebranding and emerged as Insignia Group of Companies, which has 21 international offices, more than 700 employees and generates an accumulative annual turnover of more than 1 billion US dollars.
In 1989 Michael sought to reignite his passion for sport and subsequently Vesta Limited purchased from the State, two sport clubs; the internationally renowned football club Dinamo Tbilisi (two time USSR champions and winners of the European Cup Winner’s Cup competition in 1981) and rugby club Lokomotiv Tbilisi (ten time Soviet Union champions) which was renamed Vesta Tbilisi. Michael held the position of President of Dinamo Tbilisi in two separate terms from 1989 to 1992 and then again in 1999.
Michael held a prominent position as a member of the board for the Georgian Football Federation from 1998 to 2002. It was through this affiliation that Michael was appointed as President of FC Dinamo Tbilisi in 1999.