Pluralis, a media investment company controlled by an arm of US-based Soros Fund Management, has sold shares it recently purchased when taking control of Poland’s prime daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita to Hungarian business mogul Zoltan Varga’s Central Group.
There was no comment from Central Group confirming the purchase, but Varga has been appointed to the board of Gremi Media, the owner of both Rzeczpospolita and business daily Parkiet.
The share purchase by Varga’s company was confirmed in a stock exchange communique. Central Group has bought 13.43 per cent of the firm’s shares, giving him a 20.38 per cent holding in Gremi Media.
That matches the packet of shares bought at the end of August by the Soros-controlled Pluralis from KCI Holding, owned by Grzegorz Hajdarowicz.
As a result, the Soros-controlled firm no longer has an overall majority shareholding in the papers, although it remains the largest shareholder with just over 36 per cent of shares.
Varga, the owner of Central Médiacsoport Zrt magazine and online publishing investment firm, originally made his money in the real estate and financial sectors but for a decade has been expanding into the media market.
The largest media operation he owns is the portal 24.hu, a news site that focuses on politics. He also owns several printed media such as the women’s magazine Nok Lapia and the Hungarian editions of National Geographic and Marie Claire.
He is a critic of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban whom he accuses of starving his media business of state advertising, and has claimed that a tax case brought against him by the Hungarian authorities is politically motivated.
Agoston Mraz, from the Hungarian “fact tank” Nezopont Institute, which is a specialist in media monitoring, told Brussels Signal that Varga is “operating in a media coalition with George Soros”.
Mraz said Rzeczpospolita was once a paper with a centre-right political orientation but had shifted towards the opposition and the centre-left.
“Varga owns a centre-left media operation in Hungary and my expectation for Rzeczpospolita would be that given half a chance he will tilt that Polish paper even further Left than it already is,” Mraz said.
George Soros’s fund already has a stake in Agora, the media company that owns Poland’s oldest independent daily Gazeta Wyborcza, a paper that has also moved to the Left over the past few years.