Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

As you know, after posting yesterday’s post, Laško Brewery (under new management) issued a statement saying that it has received word from layers of Pierpaolo Cerani, owner of company Iniziative Generali 96 (to whom Boško Šrot reportedly sold Kolonel, a key company in the chain of ownership of Laško), that it had purchased a majority stake in Kolonel and is thus the new owner of entire Laško Brewery and its companies and assets. Pengovsky edited his post to reflect this. However, only minutes after that, POP TV website reported that Andrijana Starina Kosem, Boško Šrot’s right-hand and henchwoman, was replaced as CEO od Delo newspaper (owned by Laško). If you follow pengovsky on Twitter, you know that as well. But this where the plot thickens…

Boško Šrot (centre) and Andrijana Starina Kosem (right) on a handball match (source)

As I already wrote, Delo newspaper is an important factor this particular game of chess, but not only in terms of money it could fetch if sold. Ran by Andrijana Starina Kosem (nicknamed ASK) it served Boško Šrot’s interests directly, either by spinning information his way or attacking his enemies. That said, it should be understood, that Delo was not Laško’s company newspaper, but every time the going got tough, there was no mistaking who the owner is. So replacing ASK by Laško’s new management and citing differences in vision at first seemed like “cleaning out the barn”. You know – just to let everybody know there’s a new boss around. But…

Today’s Delo ran an exclusive interview with signore Cerani, where he said that he bought 30% stake in Kolonel, denying Laško’s PR release which quoted his lawyers as saying that he had bought a majority stake in Kolonel and thus owns Laško. Furthermore he refused to say how much he paid for 30 percent of Kolonel and said that he will not sell Laško’s assets and doesn’t think company’s debts are a huge problem.

This is where it gets interesting. The journalists asked Cerani “How much debt does Laško have?” and Cerani answerers “A lot, I’m sure. But that’s not the biggest problem, The biggest problem is that Infond Holding cannot exercise its ownership rights [due to a decision by the Competition Protection Office]. (…) We’re prepared to go to the European Court to insure that it can“. Later in the interview he said that he’d like to meet with the finance minister to present his rescue plan for Laško.

The above of course shows that Cerani doesn’t have the foggiest about what is really going on in Laško and is bluffing through and through. I mean – meeting with the finance minister? What the fuck? Going from not knowing how much debt the company you just bought has all the way to threatening with the European Court? Really. Seems like Cerani’s ego is writing checks his body can’t cash in. Adding to that contradictory statement by him and his lawyers about how much of Kolonel did he really buy shows that Cerani is quite probably Šrot’s stooge, likely being paid for stirring the shit on Šrot’s behalf. This is corroborated by yesterday’s swift removal of ASK by Laško’s new management. She was replaced late in the afternoon, quite probably after the interview with Cerani had been made and filed for publishing, which shows that the interview was done at Šrot’s behest rather than as a result of independent editorial decision. The fact that ASK-ran Delo was the only media able to “get to” Cerani only
reiterates the above notion.

The Delo angle of the story is a complication unto itself. According to pengovsky’s information, Laško (then still ran by Šrot) upon snatching Delo from under Janez Janša’s control in 2007 signed a management contract with ASK’s private company, so she was never actually employed by Delo, but was rather “outsourced”. Reputedly, that contract is a nasty piece of legal work so it is entirely possible that ASK will come back to haunt Delo and Laško’s new management. Not that a lot of people will miss her if she’s gone for good. Maybe the editor-in-chief will. But he’ll adapt. Apparently he’s very good at adapting.

Anyhow, he way things stand now pengovsky is willing to bet that Šrot never really sold Kolonel to Cerani, whose only purpose in to act as a straw-man and stir up some more shit. I mean, if you bought a company (even just temporarily, to park some shares for your friend), wouldn’t you like to know what is it you’re buying?

The Italian Job

As of last Thursday Boško Šrot is no longer CEO of Laško Brewery. Officially, he tendered his resignation in order to alleviate the pressure Laško was under lately and calm things down He was succeeded by Dušan Zorko, CEO of Ljubljana-based Union Brewery, which Laško took over in the so-called brewery war of 2002 when it clashed with (and won) Belgian Interbrew (now ABInBev). In the days following the resignation it became clear that the move was only a beginning of a fast-paced chess game which is still going on and where Šrot is now apparently on the defensive. However, he is by no means on the run.

(source of original picture)

Namely: Even though he resigned as CEO of Laško Brewery (or “was resigned”, which is local-speak for being forced to resign), Boško Šrot remains the majority shareholder of the company via his company Atka Prima, which owns 78 percent of straw company Kolonel, which owns 71 percent of investment company Infond Holding, which in turn owns 55 percent of Laško Brewery. And the brewery itself owns entire Slovenian drinks industry. So, by resigning, possibly forced to do so by the banks which bankrolled his juggling of shares and now want their money back, Šrot is actually better off. He remains the single largest owner of the brewery, while the burden of managing a heavily indebted, but (this must be said) still very much solvent Laško Brewery now falls on Dušan Zorko.

And this is the biggest difference between Laško and Istrabenz, or – if you prefer – between Boško Šrot and Igor Bavčar. The latter ran Istrabenz into the ground by trying to finance his own MBO by draining the company financially, while the former has a much bigger war chest and several layers of defence between himself and the company he ultimately controls. And he just added another layer, which some people interpreted as a panic move, but it might just prove to be a very shrewd one. Yesterday Delo daily reported that Atka Prima (the company directly owned by Šrot) sold Kolonel (the straw company) to an Italian company Iniziative Generali 96 owned by one Pierpaolo Cerani and based in Trieste, just across the border with Italy.

The fact that the supposed sale was first reported by Delo newspaper, which is owned by Laško, naturally raised eyebrows and that alone was a clear indication that something was fishy about it. Things increasingly smelled like a fish market on a hot Saturday afternoon after a bit of googling showed that Signore Cerani was involved in the co called Savoy Scandal which rocked Bulgaria three years ago (not that Bulglaria isn’t a muddy pond with all kinds of fish in it, but this one did involve its PM and former king). And today Dnevnik daily reports that Šrot sold only 30 percent of Kolonel, keeping the other 70 firmly in his hands. And the only one saying anything about it is Signore Cerani, who indeed confirmed the deal, but apparently did so in the vaguest terms possible.

At the moment this looks as a dummy sale, another case of “parking shares” with a friendly company, an activity which Šrot is very skilled in. Obviously the Italian is getting something out of it, but most likely nothing more than a commission – possibly the said 30 percent of Kolonel, while Šrot gets some much needed hard cash to placate the banks which have already requisitioned Infond Holding’s share of Mercator, because the company (the immediate owner of Laško) ran out of cash to pay back the loan. And while banks cash in on Šrot’s collaterals, he is regrouping, apparently prepared to fight it out and protect his ownership of Laško Brewery to the last. In this he will apparently get a helping hand from the new CEO of the brewery, who said upon taking office that his goal cleaning up Laško financially, even by selling assets if needs be. And some of those assets can fetch a lot of dough. Like Delo newspaper for example. Or even some of the less lucrative parts of his drinks empire.

Upon hearing of Šrot’s resignation a lot of people thought this was the beginning of his demise. Not even close. If before last Thursday he was responsible for running the entire empire (Laško Brewery with its numerous assets as well as every company in a complicated chain of ownership) he can now focus solely on ownership, while Dušan Zorko (the new CEO) takes care of keeping the company solvent and continuing paying debts to finance Šrot’s buyout of the brewery. The Italian Job is here merely as a diversion to help Boško Šrot regroup and stave off future attacks by the Competition Protection Office, which is slowly building the case against Šrot and Laško.

EDIT@1500 hrs: According to a statement by Laško, Pierpaolo Cerani confirmed, via his lawyer, that he did indeed buy a majority stake in Kolonel. If this information is correct, this means that for the time being he controls the entire Slovenian drinks industry. However, this does not mean that he is not providing “parking” services.

Stožice Stadium Secures Shape (Sort of)

So, today pengovsky posts what he meant to yesterday: an update on the state of construction of the new Ljubljana football stadium. Originally promising to be finished by autumn 2008, mayor Zoran Janković revised the deadline after it transpired that the city (contrary to public statements of Janković’s predecessors) did not own all real-estate needed to build the stadium. When that particular problem was solved, mayor Janković set the new deadline for 30 June 2010. Truth be told, the city still has to buy some property to build the controversial Titova Street which is basically a part of stadium infrastructure, but apparently that is being taken care of.

In the mean time, the project itself took a couple of blows, as Delta retail chain backed out of a 220 million euro deal. It took months to find another partner and finally it was Austrian Supernova who bit the bullet in the end. On June 30th (almost a month ago), with exactly one year to go, mayor Janković organised a tour of the stadium construction site. Everybody and his brother attended, The Firm™ did a piece and today pengovsky posts a gallery of the construction site as it was a month ago.


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Let Him Who Is Without Sin…

I was about to write up how construction of the new football stadium in Ljubljana is progressing, but was instead irked by a youtube video posted today on Facebook by Jernej Pavlin, former press secretary to Janša’s government (who resigned after it was discovered that he ordered his staff to curb or cut-off communication with Mladina weekly). The video (below) is a remnant of 2008 parliamentary election campaign and is aimed at editors of several more or less prominent print and electronic media, “exposing” them for not having a degree and insinuating that they are unqualified for their jobs.

Now, pengovsky is the first one to admit that there is shit to be shovelled out of Slovene journalism. Indeed, the only other place where will find such level of naiveté, lack of imagination and unfounded ambition is in 1970s porn movies (gee, mister, you mean that the time machine works only of I take off all of my clothes?). And yes, education or lack thereof can be a problem. But more on that in one of the future posts (I still have an itch to scratch regarding the bomb in the studio).

What irked me is the fact that the video was dug out after it was proven to partly incorrect. Namely, Jani Sever, one of the people named and editor of does have a degree. I mean, if you do have to resort to ad hominem attacks on journalists, at least do it correctly.

But verifying information seems to be even more of a challenge to SDS than to Slovene journalists. Dnevnik newspaper (whose editor-in-chief Miran Lesjak is among the degree-less editors named in the video) ran a series of stories in the last couple of days exposing how at least two SDS MPs have problems with their education. The newspaper claims that Branko Marinič, who ironically heads the committee for oversight of the anticorruption commission, tried to pass an written exam in German language by having someone else take the exam in his name at the Faculty of Organisational Sciencies in Kranj (also affectionately known as The Kranj Sorbone, where some professors were reputed to be not above bending the rules given enough stimulation).

While Marinič already denied the allegations, his party colleague and fellow MP Marjan Bezjak could not, simply because he was found to have provided false data on his education, both on his website (the site has already been taken down) as well as to the State Election Commission prior to elections and has – in fact – mislead voters about his education.

Branko Marinič and Marjan Bezjak have an education problem too (source:

Now, the problem with both journalism and politics is that you don’t need a degree to dabble in either of the two. That’s why every almost every twat in this country thinks he can do both. But what we have here is a party which (knowingly or otherwise) harbours people who lie about their education and has the balls to go after specific journalists for that very same reason, being fully aware that education and competence are not necessarily related in either of the two professions. But what does Jernej Pavlin do when his party is caught with its pants down? He “pulls a Branko Grims” and goes back to the original story (video), which was already proven to be false, and starts all over again. Just like pengovsky is sure Branko Grims (expected to be member of the Golobič Committee) will do for the next three and a half years

Sad and unimaginative, if you ask me…

The Harder You Try, The Dumber You Look

On Wednesday Slovene parliament formed a committee which is to investigate suspicions of corruption in actions of minister of science, technology and higher education Gregor Golobič. Championed by opposition SDS, this committee is a direct result of the Ultra Affair, where Golobič shot himself in the knee by omitting from his public statements a 7% ownership of company Ultra. Although it subsequently transpired that he had reported his share to the anticorruption commission (an independent agency), all hell broke loose, especially after allegations surfaced that Ultra got 21 million euros in unsecured loans. Although Ultra divulged information proving otherwise (6 milion euros in loans, with proper collateral), the media and political rampage had started, with Golobič being styled as a tycoon (a Slovenian version of an oligarch).

We will be seeing more of Golobič in this particular setting (source:

Winston Churchill once famously said that if you want to bury something, you should form a committee. In this case, however, the purpose of the committee seems to be exactly the opposite: to prolong this Ultra/Golobič business beyond any reasonable limits. OK, so you could say that the whole thing has become so muddled with disinformation, omissions and outright lies that it warrants a parliamentary inquiry. After all, the man is a government minister and should be as such subject to more public scrutiny than the rest of us mortals. To be sure, when scribing for the only Sunday rag this side of the Alps, pengovsky submitted that parliament should debate the business at hand and that it should be Zares, Golobič’s party which should start the debate in the form of interpelation of their own minister. Thus would both Golobič as well his opponents be given a chance to confront their views (to cross the swords, if you will) and get it over with.

However, opposition leader Janez Janša ruled out the possibility of interpelation quite early in the game. Somewhat surprisingly, he was quite candid about his motives when he said that interpelation of Gregor Golobič woud have achieved nothing, since the coalition would surely have supported their minister and the work and debates of the opposition would have been in vain. When considering this rare outburst of generous truthfulness by Janez Janša, one should keep in mind that it took place shortly after minister of interior Katarina Kresal survived her own interpelation and vote of confidence, which could have left Janša a bit dejected. On the other hand, it was only months before the wedding and he could have been focusing on other thin….err…. people 😈

Be that as it may, the fact remains that JJ’s imitation of Frank and Ernest clearly showed that the newly minted Mr. Bačovnik is not interested in debating or clearing up the Ultra affair, but only in removing Gregor Golobič from power, which basically confirms the original thesis, that the committee called for by SDS serves one purpose and one purpose only: to keep the Ultra affair artificially alive long after its echoes would have died down of their own accord. Namely: this particular committee (call it Golobič Committee) will exist for the duration of this parliament, which means that its findings (insofar as there will be any) will be published just before 2012 parliamentary election campaign will begin. No points for guessing what the opening salvo by SDS will look like.

Being called before a parliamentary investigative committee can be an gruesome ordeal, especially, if you are the subject of an investigation, which Gregor Golobič is. Incidentally, this is the first time such a committee was formed to investigate a specific person rather than an event or a series of events involving one or more public officials. Thus a sort of taboo was broken and the opposition will no doubt do its damnest to make it their worth while and make life extremely unpleasant for minister Golobič. My favourite prime minister is a great source of applicable quotes, as PM Borut Pahor so often reminds us. Among other things Winston also said that if you should find yourself in hell, keep going. Which is precisely what minister Golobič will have to do for the next four years. One would think that being a party president is punishment enough but apparently that was not the end. It wasn’t even the beginning of an end, but it was merely an end of a beginning (sorry, I couldn’t resist :)).

So what Gregor Golobič can do is to attend every single hearing, provide every single piece of information and answer all questions at length, no matter how stupid, inflammatory and biased they might be. And trust me, since the committee will most likely be stuffed with opposition heavyweights, the whole thing might from time to time easily look a bit a trial by the Spanish Inquisition. Odds are that more details about his ownership in Ultra will emerge, which will be interpreted in the most sinister way possible. It is also entirely probable that his own party will start questioning Golobič and his ability to lead. Not that Zares has much to choose from in terms of leaders (in this respect they’re like any other Slovenian party) but that has never stopped short-sighted egoists from trying to claim their twenty pieces of silver.

I will be thoroughly surprised if Branko Grims (Janša’s chief attack dog and Goebbels wannabe) will not be a member of the committee and even more thoroughly surprised if he will not repeat over and over that a) Ultra took out 21 million euros of unsecured loans, b) that Golobič’s share of Ultra is worth some 5 million euros and c) that this makes Golobič a tycoon. The fact that none of the above is true bear little or no relevance to Grims who (to add insult to injury) is partly related to Golobič (their wives are cousins, apparently) and who will no doubt ignore every evidence refuting claims of the opposition, driving home the message of a corrupt and incompetent left government, personified in this case by that horrible übertycoon Golobič.

BTW: in case you’re interested, based of publicly available information one can conclude the following: a) Ultra claims to have taken out 6 million euros worth of loans with propper collaterals and has provided data to corroborate. b) Golobič’s share of Ultra is worth (according to a rough estimate based of their 2008 report) either 180.000 euros (7% of company capital) or 1,8 million euros (7% of total company assets), depending on how you estimate a company’s value and c) while there is no textbook definition of a tycoon in Slovene political terminology (making the term applicable according to daily needs, predominantly those of Janša’s SDS) it was generally accepted that Slovenian tycoons have attempted to buy out state owned (or partly state owned) companies they ran. The buy out would usually take place in the form of an MBO which was financed by unusually generous loans from several banks, at least some of which are state owned too. That is how Janez Janša while he was Prime Minister helped transform Boško Šrot and Igor Bavčar from more or less successful managers into full-fledged tycoons (Slovenian style), leaving it to the current government to clean up the mess. Gregor Golobič, on the other hand, does not fit the above description, as 1) he has no direct role in running Ultra, 2) the comapny is not nor was never state owned.

While media and (by extension) the public will suck up every detail about the alleged millions, the whole story probably still has to do with Golobič bringing the Directorate of Communication under his control. Pengovsky maintains that was probably one of the few sound moves this government did so far, but Golobič is bound to take some serious flak for it, especially since the opposition will maintain that he did it to ease access to government money to Ultra. The problem is that there is no way Golobič can prove in advance that he didn’t do it for precisely that reason. He can of course give his word that this is not the case, but at the moment that isn’t saying much, given the fact that he has a credibility problem.

Pengovsky already wrote that had Golobič really had sinister motives, he’d have left the Directorate where it was: within the ministry of commerce, headed by his party colleague Matej Lahovnik. Moving the Directorate only brought unnecessary attention to it, which is something he and Ultra would have wanted to avoid if they really had sinister motives. So, rationally speaking, the very fact that Golobič moved the Directorate under his control indicates that he did it for all the right reasons. Naturally, the opposition and most of the media will probably not see it that way, which means that minister of science will have to weather that one out and hope that the message will somehow get through. It would help, of course, if Ultra indeed doesn’t do business with Golobič’s ministry, although legally there is nothing that can prevent it from applying for tenders. A company becomes illegible for doing business with the government only when a public official owns 20% share or higher. Gregor Golobič, as noted above, owns about 7% of Ultra.

So, while minister Golobič was less than candid when (not) revealing his ownership of Ultra, the opposition is preparing to drag him through the mud for the next three and a half years, not seeking the truth, but rather seeking to neutralise Golobič politically. It is quite possible, though, that they bit off more than they can chew. Golobič is not your average Slovenian political twat who doesn’t know his ass-hole from his ear-hole, but a highly intelligent individual, who is capable of tearing his opponents to pieces rhetorically. He is also capable of making members of the committee nervous and make them look like bunch of buffoons. And while he runs the risk of being overwhelmed by sheer volume of stupidity which is bound to emerge during the lifetime of this committee (pengovsky often warns about stupid people in large groups), I can hardly wait for remakes of “mortadella” exchanges.

For the uninitiated: in early nineties, when the newly minted democratic coalition ran the country, it tried to find people responsible for arresting Janez Janša in 1988. Specifically, it tried to pin the blame on then-President Milan Kučan and Stane Dolanc. In 1988 Kučan was head of the Communist Party in Slovenia, while Dolanc (A Slovenian Party heavyweight) was federal interior minister in Belgrade. The two conversed often, and the committee was for some reason interested in one particular debate, trying to establish a link between Kučan and Janša’s arrest via Dolanc. When asked about it, Kučan calmly replied that he and Dolanc were talking about how to slice a prosciutto, while Dolanc said that Kučan was wrong and that they talked about how to cut up mortadella: in slices or in cubes. The answers completely baffled and humiliated members of the committee, who until that time failed to realise that they were barking up the wrong tree.

We’ll see if the political right wing learned anything from their previous failures. Maybe they’ll finally be able to come up with a half-decent investigative committee. Or maybe, they’ll stick to what they know and prove once again that the harder they try, the dumber they look. How will we know? Simple: If the opposition will again try to use the famous quote by Slavoj Žižek against Gregor Golobič. Years ago this world-famous Slovene philosopher said of Golobič (they’re great friends, btw) that he sees him as Slovene Stalin. While it was more than obvious that it was meant as a joke, Janša and the entire opposition failed to get it and interpreted it literally. That’s how dumb they can be.