Lőrinc Mészáros

Lőrinc Mészáros.

Lőrinc Mészáros.

Lőrinc Mészáros has become the most powerful business oligarch in Hungary since the dramatic rift between Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Lajos Simicska in 2015 (see The Fury of an Oligarch Scorned).

Mészáros served as the FideszChristian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP)–supported mayor of Orbán’s home village of Felcsút, located about 25 kilometers west of Budapest, from 2011 until 2018, when he resigned from this position “in order to concentrate exclusively on his economic interests” (source in Hungarian).

Football Friendship with Orbán 

Mészáros began operating a small gas-fitting company in Felcsút (population 1,800) beginning in the 1990s. He became acquainted with Viktor Orbán through their common interest in football.

In 2007, Orbán appointed Mészáros to serve as president of the Ferenc Puskás Football Academy (Puskás Ferenc Labdarúgó Akadémia) that the former and future prime minister had founded in Felcsút the previous year (source in Hungarian; see also One Man’s Plaything).

The Ferenc Puskás Football Academy sponsors the Puskás Academy FC football team that will play in the first division of the Hungarian professional football league during the 2018–2019 season.

Puskás Academy FC plays its home matches at the modern, 3,500-seat Pancho Arena built in Felcsút at a cost of 3.8 billion forints and opened in 2014 across the street from Prime Minister Orbán’s weekend home (source in Hungarian).

The Orbán II Era Brings Riches  

Lőrinc Mészáros and Viktor Orbán watch a football match in Felcsút in 2013 (photo: MTI).

Lőrinc Mészáros and Viktor Orbán watch a football match in Felcsút in 2013 (photo: MTI).

Lőrinc Mészáros has become the second wealthiest person in Hungary since Viktor Orbán returned to power as prime minister in 2010 after his gas-fitting company Mészáros and Mészáros nearly went bankrupt in 2007 (source in Hungarian).

Mészáros increased the number of companies he owns from one—Mészáros and Mészáros—in 2010 to 203 in January 2018 (sources AB and C in Hungarian).

Mészáros reportedly acquired direct or indirect control over 21 more companies during the first nine months of 2018 (source in Hungarian).

These 203 companies include the following: media company MediaWorks Hungary; hotel company Hunguest Hotels; Lake Balaton tourism company Balaton Tourist; and insurance company CIG Pannonia (sources A and B in Hungarian).

The share values of the four Mészáros-owned companies that trade at the Budapest Stock Exchange—Appeninn, CIG Pannonia Life Insurance, Konzum and Opus Global—rose sharply immediately following the victory of the Fidesz-KDNP alliance in the National Assembly election held in Hungary on April 8, 2018 (source in Hungarian).

The opposition website atlatszo.hu calculated based on an examination of official documentation that in the eight years from the beginning of 2010 through the end of 2017, nine companies operating under the ownership of Mészáros, his wife, children, brother and son-in-law had won public tenders worth 476 billion forints, or 1.55 billion euros at an average exchange rate of 307.1 (source in Hungarian). According to atlatszo.hu, the European Union financed 83.3 percent of the public tenders that these Mészáros-affiliated companies won during the period 2010–2017.

According to atlatszo.hu, companies that operate under the ownership of Mészáros and his children won public tenders worth 139.9 billion forints (450 million euros) during the first quarter of 2018 (source in Hungarian).

The atlatszo.hu data thus indicates that Mészáros-affiliated companies won public tenders worth nearly 500 billion forints (1.62 billion euros at an average exchange rate of 310.4) from the time of the Orbán-Simicska rift at the beginning of 2015 through first quarter of 2018 (sources A and B in Hungarian).

The Second Wealthiest Person in Hungary

Lőrinc Mészáros was ranked the second-richest person in Hungary in 2018 behind OTP Bank Chairman-CEO Sándor Csányi with estimated wealth of 280 billion forints, or slightly more than 905 million euros at the average 2017 exchange rate (source in Hungarian). Mészáros has generated an exponential increase in wealth since he first appeared on the annual napi.hu list of the 100 richest Hungarians in 2014 (see table below).

Source in Hungarian: napi.hu.

In April 2014, Mészáros said during an interview: “That I have been able to come so far, God, luck and the person of Viktor Orbán have certainly played a role, though I never privatized and I never took anything—I acquired everything through my work and my mind” (source in Hungarian).

Concessions to Sell Tobacco

Mészáros, members of his family and his business interests won concessions to sell tobacco at the 19 Auchan grocery stores in Hungary under the state monopoly on the retail sale of tobacco that the Orbán government introduced in 2013 (source in Hungarian).

State Land Purchases

In December 2015, Mészáros, his wife, his two daughters and his brother purchased 1,391 hectares (114 square kilometers) of land in the vicinity of Felcsút for 1.9 billion forints in a state land auction (source in Hungarian).

Purchase of Mediaworks Hungary

On October 25, 2016, Opimus Press—an offshore-owned company over which Mészáros exercises either indirect or direct influence—purchased Mediaworks Hungary from Vienna Capital Partners for an undisclosed price (sources A and B in Hungarian). Mediaworks Hungary owns 14 of the 19 regional dailies published in Hungary as well as the rights to the daily national newspaper Népszabadság, which Vienna Capital Partners stopped publishing on October 8, 2016 (see The Demise of People’s Freedom).

Mediaworks Hungary publishes both the print and on-line editions of the economic daily Világgazdaság, the sports daily Nemzeti Sport and 13 of the 20 regional newspapers in Hungary (source in Hungarian).

In 2017, Mediaworks Hungary posted after-tax profit of 4.3 billion forints on revenue of 20.4 billion forints (source in English).

Purchase of Echo TV

On December 1, 2016, Mészáros purchased the pro-government television station Echo TV from fellow oligarch Gábor Széles (source in Hungarian).

Divestment of Media Portfolio

On November 28, 2018, Mészáros transferred ownership of 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).

Purchase of NK Osijek

In 2016, Mészáros purchased a majority stake in the Croatian First Football League club NK Osijek (source in Hungarian). Mészáros and co-owner Ivan Meštrović are building a new, 35–50-million-euro stadium for the team (sources A and B in Hungarian).

Purchase of the Mátra Power Plant

In March 2018, Mészáros acquired indirect ownership over the Mátra Power Plant, which generates the second largest amount of electricity in Hungary behind the Paks Nuclear Power Plant (sources A, B, C and D in Hungarian).

Adriatic Villas and Yacht

In 2015, Mészáros purchased villas on the Croatian islands of Vir and Ugljan at an estimated cost of 2.5 million euros (sources A, B and C in Hungarian). Mészáros keeps a 4.5-million-euro yacht at the nearby port of Zadar (sources A and B in Hungarian).

Lőrinc Mészáros climbs aboard his yacht at the Adriatic port of Zadar in August 2016 (photo: 444.hu).

Orbán’s Front Man?  

The opposition to the Fidesz-KDNP government has accused Mészáros as serving as a front man in charge of building a post-politics football-economic imperium for Prime Minister Orbán in his home village of Felcsút.

In April 2016, Jobbik President Gábor Vona asked Prime Minister Orbán during a session of the National Assembly: “Is Lőrinc Mészáros your front man [stróman] or not?” Orbán answered: “I have never had a front man of any kind, nor will I ever” (source in Hungarian).

Last updated: January 1, 2019.