Opimus Press, a Hungarian company allegedly close to right-wing and government circles, has acquired 100% of Mediaworks Hungary. Mediaworks, publisher of various Hungarian journals, including daily Népszabadság, suspended the left-wing paper earlier this month citing financial reasons, the website of the Budapest Stock Exchange showed on Tuesday.
Opimus Group informed its shareholders during the day that its wholly-owned subsidiary had bought Mediaworks Hungary with the approval of the Competition Office. According to Hungarian media reports, Opimus is close to Lőrinc Mészáros, mayor of Felcsút, the Hungarian Prime Minister’s hometown located in Fejér county. Mészáros (pictured above), is known as Viktor Orbán’s long-time friend and often accused of being one of the few Hungarian “oligarchs”. He has been under constant fire by the opposition media over its “suspicious enrichment in recent years.”
Mediaworks’ former owner Vienna Capital Partners told MTI in a statement that the company had been sold. The owner, Austrian businessman Heinrich Pecina, has decided to immediately sell Mediaworks because of a “high level of interest in the company” and because “the temporary suspension of Népszabadság resulted in misleading and malicious rumours (while a complete shutdown of the paper was never a realistic option)”. Opimus Press has been chosen because “it expressed an intent to seriously examine the possibility” of relaunching Népszabadság, the statement added. “We truly hope that the new owner will be able to successfully develop Mediaworks Hungary further and resolve the temporary difficulties,” it added.
Mediaworks suspended the printed and online publication of Népszabadság on October 8. It insists the reason was that over ten years, sales dropped by 74 percent, or by more than 100,000 copies, and as a result, the paper generated losses of more than 5 billion forints (EUR 16.2m) since 2007. However, critics say the suspension is a massive blow for the Hungarian press freedom as the owners have made a political decision by “killing” the 60-year-old left-wing daily.
via hungarymatters.hu, MTI and index.hu