Andy (András) Vajna was one of the most powerful business oligarchs in Hungary. He died in Budapest on January 20, 2019, of an undisclosed illness.
Vajna owned eleven television stations, three daily newspapers, one radio station, five casinos and was co-owner of the Korda Studios film-studio complex located outside Budapest.
Vajna served as the Orbán government’s commissioner for development of the national film industry from 2011 until his death (sources A and B in Hungarian).
Vajna appeared in the annual napi.hu ranking of the 100 richest Hungarians for the first time in 2016, placing number 16 with estimated wealth of 44 billion forints, or around 142 million euros. Vajna remained ranked in this position in both 2017 and 2018 with estimated wealth of 60 billion forints and 69 billion forints, respectively (source in Hungarian).
Vajna was born in Budapest, though emigrated to the United States at the age of 12 with his family following the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. In the United States, Vajna became a successful filmmaker, producing the Rambo movies and some of the Terminator movies, among many others.
Vajna moved back to Hungary in 2010, the year Viktor Orbán returned to power as prime minister (source in English).
In 2014, the Vajna-owned company Las Vegas Casino Ltd. won government concessions to run all five casinos permitted to operate in Budapest and surrounding Pest County (source in Hungarian).
Las Vegas Casino generated after-tax profit of 7.3 billion forints (23.6 million euros) in 2017, up from after-tax profit of 6.5 billion forints in 2016, 6.1 billion forints in 2015 and 3.1 billion forints in 2014 (sources A, B and C in Hungarian).
In May 2017, a subsidiary of Las Vegas Casino began operating the first Hungary-based online casino after the country’s National Tax and Customs Authority (NAV) awarded the Vajna-owned company a seven-year license to conduct such business activity without calling an public tender (source in Hungarian).
Vajna purchased the TV2 Media Group in October 2015 (source in Hungarian). Vajna financed his purchase of the company partially through loans from the state-owned Hungarian Import-Export Bank and MKB Bank (sources A and B in Hungarian).
The TV2 Media Group operates the entertainment and news channel TV2, the sports channel Spíler TV, the movie channel Mozi+ and eight other channels (source in Hungarian).The TV2 Media Group will launch four new channels in 2018 (source in Hungarian).
TV2 has become a vehicle for the dissemination of government propaganda under the supervision of the Prime Minister Orbán’s unofficial chief strategic adviser Árpád Habony since Vajna’s acquisition of the station (sources A, B, C, D and E in Hungarian).
Vajna denied that Habony exercises any influence over TV2’s programming, though he did acknowledge that he regards the prime minister’s strategic adviser as a “friend” (source in Hungarian).
On April 10, 2018, Hungary’s National Election Committee fined TV2 3.45 million forints (11,100 euros) for violation of stipulation in the Media Laws requiring neutral news reporting after station’s journalists published a Facebook video four days earlier in which they said that they would vote for Fidesz in the impending National Assembly election (source in Hungarian).
The TV2 Media Group recorded revenue of 34.5 billion forints in 2017, up from 23.7 billion forints in 2016. However, the company sustained after-tax losses of over 2 billion forints in 2017 and after-tax losses of 7.2 billion forints in 2016 (source in Hungarian).
Vajna launched the popular-music radio station Rádió 1 on June 1, 2016 (source in Hungarian). In early 2018, Rádió 1 had the highest number of listeners among all commercial radio stations in Hungary and the third-highest number of listeners among all radio stations in the country behind the public stations Petőfi Rádió and Kossuth Rádió (source in Hungarian).
Rádió 1 generated 2.8 billion forints in revenue in 2017 (source in Hungarian).
In mid-2017, Vajna acquired Lapcom Ltd., the company that owns the daily tabloid Bors and the regional daily newspapers Dél Magyarország and Kisalföld (source in Hungarian).
On November 28, 2018, fellow oligarch Lőrinc Mészáros purchased Lapcom Ltd. from Vajna and immediately transferred ownership of this company along with his entire media portfolio to the Central European Press and Media Foundation (Közép-Európai Sajtó és Média Alapítvány, or KESMA) without financial compensation (sources A in English and B in Hungarian).
Korda Studios generated revenue of 1.1 billion forints in 2017 (source in Hungarian).
Government Film Industry Commissioner
More people have been watching Hungarian films at movie theaters since Andy Vajna became the Orbán government’s commissioner for development of the national film in 2011: in 2017, 1.28 million people attended screenings of the ten most popular Hungarian feature films, compared to just under 344,000 people in 2011 (source in Hungarian).
Last updated: January 20, 2019.