Armenia’s largest sports and concert arena located in Yerevan will be sold to a little-known private company for $30 million one year after being controversially renationalized by the government, it emerged on Thursday.
The government said on Thursday that it will sign within a month a takeover agreement with NTAA Investment Group, a company that was registered in Armenia last month. According to Armenian press reports, well-known individuals are not among its official owners.
The deal was approved by Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian’s cabinet after being presented by Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian, whose ministry has managed the Karen Demirchian Sport and Cultural Complex since August 2014.
Ohanian said that the new owner has pledged to turn the facility into a big entertainment center that will have not only concert halls but also a hotel, water park, stores and a casino. He said it will invest at least $100 million and create 250 new jobs for that purpose over the next four years.
The Yerevan arena commonly known as Hamalir (Complex) was built in 1983 and became one of the most modern Soviet facilities of its kind. It was subsequently named after Karen Demirchian, a late Soviet Armenian leader who was instrumental in its expensive construction.
The complex consisting of two large halls was sold in 2005 to the Moscow-based construction firm BAMO belonging to an Armenian-born Russian businessman, Murad Muradian. The company paid $5.5 million and pledged to spend over $40 million on its renovation.
In 2010, President Serzh Sarkisian appointed Muradian as Armenia’s ambassador to Iraq. Muradian was sacked in June 2014 amid judicial proceedings launched against the Hamalir management due to its failure to repay a $25 million government loan.
The government renationalized Hamalir in August 2014 after failing to auction it off. BAMO denounced the move as illegal and challenged it in Armenian courts. The Armenian courts rejected its lawsuits in the following months, leading BAMO to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.