Hungarian holding company Opimus has acquired the publisher Mediaworks from Austrian businessman Heinrich Pecina's Vienna Capital Partners, the company said in a statement on Tuesday, bringing the company into government-friendly hands. In response to the scandal, Freedom House issued the following statement: "The suspension and sale of Nepszabadsag show the government's growing influence over Hungary's media. Hungary's government uses ownership as a political tool to silence critical coverage. The EU and the United States should forcefully condemn this attack on the press."
Opimus Press, which was established via a HUF 6 billion private placement bond issue by the parent company Opimus in March, along with several other new Opimus companies, is very close to Lőrinc Mészáros, a friend of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who had been his gas man before he became the mayor of Orbán's hometown Felcsút and one of the country's richest people.
On paper, Mediaworks is still owned by Austrian investor Heinrich Pecina and private equity firm Vienna Capital Partners (VCP). Local weekly HVG reported that Pecina and VCP representatives held talks in Budapest last Tuesday, although there was no confirmation that the sale of Mediaworks was on the agenda or not.
The Mediaworks portfolio includes a popular sports magazine (Nemzeti Sport) and 13 freshly acquired regional dailies that each cover about one of the country's 19 counties. These are published by Pannon Lapok Társasága. The unit bought by Mediaworks has annual revenue of HUF 8 billion and is a key weapon in the media arsenal of the ruling Fidesz party.
Mediaworks abruptly closed down the country's largest political daily, left-leaning Nepszabadsag, earlier this month, and local media had speculated the company might be sold on to Opimus, a marginal player on the Budapest bourse.
The closure of Nepszabadsag reignited criticism of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has limited press freedoms with a media law and whose associates have built a sprawling network of news outlets, taking over old titles and starting new ones.
Source: hvg.hu; reuters.com; portfolio.hu
Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 October 2016 06:50