Last couple of weeks were hectic for pengovsky, to say the least. I did my best to keep you, the faithful readers of this blog, at least marginally in the know about events this side of the Alps, but one item has consistently eluded my attention – mostly because it requires more than just one post. But as not to get overtaken by events (again), today we focus on Laško brewery and its CEO Boško Šrot.
Boško Šrot, the not-so-new owner of Laško brewery, Delo newspaper and Mercator retail chain. Approx. net worth: 2.2 billion euros (source)
You remember him from events surrounding Delo newspaper, subsequent anti-media drive by the government of PM Janša and his pre-dawn anti-tycoon raids aimed at making owners of capital once again toe the line and restore the government’s more or less shattered public image.
However, Boško Šrot is not some samaritan whose sole purposes in life are democracy and free media. He had (better yet – has) an agenda and was playing an angle all along – I have at least hinted at that many times on this blog. But yesterday Boško Šrot played his hand and confirmed what everyone suspected all along – that the overall strategic objective of his endeavours was taking over Laško brewery.
Mind you, this was not an ordirnary MBO. This was a long and winding road, which he embarked upon at least two years ago, possibly much sooner than that. And by employing a web of dummy corporations, friendly companies and share-parkings he has managed to steer most of Laško’s shares into his private company’s portfoilo. making him effectily more or less the sole owner of the largest Slovene brewery.
Ha! If it were only that! Noone really cares about the brewery… I mean, Boško Šrot obviously does, but it’s his now. Unless of course the authorities actually get their act together and bring charges against him (it’s a long story, suffice it to say that he wasn’t exactly forthcoming with information other investors and shareholders migth need to make informed cohices). But as Slovene authorities have shown in the case of Clean Shovel, they’re great at stirring up shit, but they awfully lack power and will to kick some serious ass.
So, Boško Šrot will probably get away with it. Or not… The funny thing here is not Laško brewery itself, but the fact that this company (now owned by its CEO) also owns the largest Slovene newspaper. Given the way this government obsesses over the media (and there’s no real guarantee that the next one will not follow suit), it is safe to say that Boško Šrot literally bought a seat at the table with the big guys and can now protect his assets by using Delo as he sees fit.
In the long term, this is not good. But before someone swallows an Energizer bunny and starts going on about how Janša was in the right to have started the anti-tycoon drive and that Delo was never anything more than a left-wing party rag, let me just add that it was basically Janez Janša and his obsessing over controling the media that allowed for this to happen. Janša let Laško and Istrabenz buy out Mercator, getting rid of Zoran Janković as Mercator’s all powerful CEO, making life much easier for both Laško an Istrabenz (owner of several food producing compaines). In return, Laško and Istrabenz bought Delo and installed a government-friendly supervisory board.
But in a classic boomerang effect, Zoran Janković was elected mayor of Ljubljana, Istrabenz sold its share in delo to Laško and Boško Šrot broke loose, running away with Mercator, Laško and Delo in his pocket, making him the fourth richest Slovenian. Whereas all Janez Janša is left with is an increasingly uphill election battle.