A foreign patron will soon take care of strengthening the left-wing media unanimity in our country. This man is the Serbian telecommunications and media mogul Dragan Šolak, the owner of the N1 television network, established in the Balkans, who is planning to launch an ambitious project of the N1 Slovenia news site in the spring, and a television company after that. According to the newspaper Finance, a prominent journalist and editor, Katja Šeruga, who was formerly employed in the show Svet (World) on Kanal A, will become the web portal’s editor-in-chief. Šolak is a “student” of the self-proclaimed philanthropist George Soros, who also gave him the first millions of start-up capital for his business ventures. What is also interesting is another claim made by Finance, that the N1 is an extension of the CNN. CNN is famous for its biased reporting on Trump, the 2020 U.S. elections, and the massive hooligan riots of the extreme Antifa and the Black Lives Matter movement, which happened in recent months. It is well-known that Šolak unsuccessfully tried to buy POP TV and Planet TV, and he also wants to buy TSmedia, part of which is the SIOL web portal. Will Soros soon manage two news portals – an already-established one and a second, emerging one? And what is especially interesting in this whole matter is that he is the wealthiest Serb, worth 1.22 billion euros, who owns several private planes and even some real estate in Slovenia, in Bled and Moravske Toplice!
If you have never heard of the Serbian tycoon Dragan Šolak before, it is high time you found out about him. Especially because he intends to re-enter the Slovenian media space. As is already known, he tried to buy Pro Plus (POP TV, 24ur, Kanal A) some time ago, as well as Planet TV; however, due to the Protection of Competition Act, the venture fortunately failed. He also wants to buy the media company TSmedia, part of which is also one of the most read Slovenian news portals – SIOL. We should justifiably be worried about what this means for the Slovenian media space, which is already predominantly left-wing. The matter is even more worrying if we take another fact into consideration – financial speculator George Soros is the person behind Šolak, which we will focus on down below. If Šolak has so far remained hidden in the shadows, out of reach of the media spotlight and mainly dealing with the Slovenian telecommunications (Telemach), he could soon help intensify the spring heat with his new media project. We are, of course, talking about the new web portal called N1 Slovenia, which certain media outlets have already reported on.
Šolak is also planning to launch a new television station after a while. Thus, the left-wing media front would get additional reinforcements from abroad. But first things first. According to the Serbian web portal Ekspres, the businessman’s story began in his native Serbia, where he designed the telecommunications giant SBB, which has diligently been operating since its establishment in 2002. The start-up capital for the business venture in question was “donated” by the self-proclaimed philanthropist Soros. The sum amounted to ten million dollars. Before the financial injection, Šolak was merely an insignificant, anonymous businessman from the city of Kragujevac, as evidenced by diplomatic dispatches from Belgrade, which were published some time ago by Wikileaks. He seems to be an exception among the tycoons, as he did not steal his start-up capital but rather “received” it. The dispatch in question was written on the 1st of June 2007, and it describes, in great detail, how the financial empire of the Serbian businessman developed and who financed it.
In order to thank Soros for the help, he was guaranteed a stake in the up-and-coming company. The information about the donation was also confirmed by the American embassy. The money in question was American taxpayers’ money. The start-up capital, therefore, came from the “South-eastern Europe Equity Fund,” managed by Soros himself and financed by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). The central development strategy of the SBB was that it would not be available for the public opinion radars or that it would not be the focus of the Serbian society, in order to strengthen itself in secret. The main fights, however, were focused on the optic cables and the web.
The goal was to conquer an important part of the market of the cable operators in Serbia
OPIC financed the “Southeastern Europe Equity Fund” while it was being managed by the “Soros Private Funds Management.” The speculator thus indirectly decided where and how the money would be invested. Thus, it was also decided that somewhere around the year 2002, 10 million dollars would be invested in the Kragujevac cable operator KDS, which was not very well known in public before that time. On the surface, it seemed like a perfectly normal company, and the purpose of the invested capital was the further development of the company and the purchase of the competition. In 2004 already, the EBRD invested an additional 15 million euros for one million shares of the newly established company SBB. The idea was to buy another twenty-five local providers and, as stated in the report, to conquer a significant part of the market of cable operators in Serbia. SBB’s revenue and profit growth had been exponential over the years, between 60 and 70 percent per year.
At the end of 2006, Telekom Serbia tried to buy SBB once again, but again, they were unsuccessful. Šolak also turned down another offer to sell his company. The central cause of the conflict was the control of the optical network, through which the entire internet traffic in the country is actually being controlled. In the current market situation, only Telekom Serbia has been granted access to international online streams. That is why all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must buy broadband internet wholesale from Telekom. After 2007, the situation improved for SBB. They gained an advantage over Telekom Serbia, not only as a cable provider but also as the largest internet service provider in Serbia. In 2007, SBB became the owner of the Mid Europa Fund, which later sold the company to the American KKR fund. And although the majority owners are changing, the constant – Dragan Šolak – remains.
Šolak has already tried to buy POP TV, and this time, he is establishing a web portal, which will be run by journalist and editor Katja Šeruga
Šolak did not limit himself to the domestic market but also successfully expanded his business activities across the wider Balkan area, and lately, he has been trying to break through to the Slovenian media space as well. According to Finance, he is known as the very reserved owner of the telecommunications operator Telemach. This is probably just the continuation of the tactics from the beginnings of his business in Serbia, where he avoided the attention of the public until his power grew enough. Finance also reports that he is already working on establishing a new media company in Slovenia. After he failed to purchase Pro Plus (POP TV), Šolak decided to start building from scratch.
However, the N1 news programmes, which they already offer in Belgrade, Zagreb and Sarajevo, are not yet available in Slovenia, but their arrival is expected soon. United Media, which is part of the United Group, is set to launch an online news portal, which will be part of the N1 brand, soon. This is a regionally well-established news programme, also known as a partner of the American CNN for this part of Europe, which began operating in 2014 in Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to Šolak, the brand has gained a lot of credibility in all markets where it is present. They intend to expand their professional, independent and responsible work to Slovenia as well, and are expected to offer both local as well as international news reports.
Šolak is the wealthiest Serb, worth 1.22 billion euros
According to some sources, a company called Adria News has already been established in Ljubljana, within which the new web portal will operate. In addition, it has been stated that the director of the company will be Katja Šeruga, who will also perform the role of editor-in-chief. The web portal is expected to be launched in the first half of the year, but there will be no television programme yet. The team will supposedly also be joined by some other well-known Slovenian journalists, such as Suzana Lovec, a well-known editor and journalist of POP TV, and Miha Orešnik from the show Svet on Kanal A.
Šolak’s friendship with the financial speculator Soros has definitely paid off. The web portal Kurir states that he is the wealthiest Serb, who is worth as much as 1.22 billion euros and owns three private planes. He is enormously rich, not just in terms of Serbia, but in terms of the world. According to Serbian media, he managed to build his enormous wealth with the help of speculative, “cowboy,” and even cartel campaigns, which border on mafia deals, and according to some sources, this also includes bribing politicians. The number of companies in which he is the partial owner is increasing each day, which is how he got the title of the first Serbian billionaire, who is also “famous” because of tax evasion. He owns a lot of property, the total value of which is a few tens of millions of euros.
Some of the companies he partially owns deal with the reselling of real estate, and others with the renting and management of the real estate. He also owns lots of real estate in Slovenia, including a golf course in Moravske Toplice. Since a lot of his property is moved to tax havens, he often avoids paying taxes at home.