Business

Former Croatian Politicians as Entrepreneurs: Some Failures, Some Successes

By 13 February 2020

They thought they knew how to run a country, and they couldn't even run their own companies... Slobodna Dalmacija has compiled an interesting list of Croatian politicians who failed as entrepreneurs, with some exceptions...

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 12th of February, 2020, Nikica Valentic is considered one of the most successful Croatian prime ministers, as Anita Belak Krile writes for Slobodna Dalmacija.

He led the Croatian Government through some difficult times, inflation was halted during his mandate and the kuna was introduced, the Croatian Armed Forces was put into action for liberation operations, and 650,000 refugees and displaced persons were taken care of.

But when he stepped into private waters and started his own business, things took a dramatic turn for the worse. His business empire went almost completely down the proverbial toilet.

According to a report this week, the bankruptcy trustee of Nive Engineering (a company founded by Niva d.d. and headed by former Prime Minister Nikica Valentic) was handed over to the Zagreb Commercial Court, 99 properties have been sold so far, as well as failed companies from which creditors claimed as much as 130 million kuna.

The selling of real estate via the courts just a continuation of the collapse of that particular business empire that has been going on for years.

When he retired from politics at the end of 1995, Valentic started a business importing Malaysian Proton cars and an insurance company, but this soon failed. He then moved to real estate, building attractive residential complexes in desirable locations in Zagreb. For a while, business was going well, but with the arrival of the economic crisis, this also started to go downhill.

Year after year, the company recorded large losses, and accounts were constantly being blocked.

Valentic is far from the only high-ranking former Croatian politician who was much better off managing state affairs than his own private ones. Two more ex Croatian politicians, former Minister of the Economy, Goranko Fuzulic, and Radimir Cacic, the first deputy prime minister and former leader of HNS, today the head of the Reformists, also did poorly on the market.

If you can remembe "Magma", "Turbo Limac" and "Turbo Sport", then you'll know what this means. There is no Croatian home where there were no toys or baby clothes from Turbo Limac.

Prior to entering politics, Goranko Fizulic had an enviable entrepreneurial experience. With his wife, Biserka, he created "Magma" d.d. which included the Turbo limac children's empire and then the Turbo sport store. He has been an advocate for brands such as Esprit and Mexx, and in March 2003, Magma International was established over in Hong Kong.

Its revenues exceeded an impressive 1 billion kuna. Then in 2008, it all went downhill with the recession. He went bankrupt and endured two bouts of serious illness. Fizulic was among several former Croatian politicians to be hit badly by the economic crisis, with share prices plummeting from 315 kuna to just 1.2 kuna.

''I went through an extremely difficult period of my life. In addition to the two illnesses, I also experienced business collapse. But in every trouble, a new opportunity must be sought. Now I'm starting over,'' Fizulic said in an interview with Globus.

He admitted that he even considered suicide.

''I didn't want to inflict pain and suffering on my family. I managed to pull myself out of that without medication and doctors,'' he said.

After trying to find his place in the 3D printing industry, he launched the online service “LikeFigures”, but today he is better known to the public as a Telegram columnist.

Radimir Cacic was the construction minister and the first deputy prime minister at a time when motorways were being built across Croatia. Before joining the government and as such a list of Croatian politicians who also had their fingers in the business world, he was a successful entrepreneur, but those times are now long gone.

The backbone of the former Cacic construction and tourism business empire, the company "Coning" d.d., has been in bankruptcy for a year and a half, and just recently the sale of that real estate has been estimated at around 180 million kuna.

The Varazdin Commercial Court announced the sale of the Trakoscan Hotel and the Zelena Punta apartment complex in Kukljica on the island of Ugljan, both owned by "Coning" d.d., now in bankruptcy.

Politics in Croatia was often the entry visa for entry into the often harsh world of business and entrepreneurship, but there were also those Croatian politicians who did things in reverse, such as Zeljko Kerum.

Most of the former Croatian politicians and other officials who didn't end up in prison like Ivo Sanader, or who are not awaiting trial like Nadan Vidosevic, are doing consultancy work today, or have thrown themselves into the well-paid banking sector, or even better, the golden haunches - sports organisations, such as Croatian Olympic Committee (Zlatko Matesa).

Former Croatian politicians include those who live well today, although their first steps in entrepreneurship were a complete failure. One of those is Dr. Franjo Tudjman's former adviser, Ivic Pasalic, a general practitioner who, after leaving politics, began getting involved in the construction business. For a long time he was unsuccessful, and as quickly as any business was started, it failed just as quickly.

However, lately, since turning to the development of furniture design, things have improved. His company, Mundus Viridis, received the prestigious Red Dot Design Award in the home furniture category last year.

For more on Croatian politicians-come-entrepreneurs, follow our politics and business pages.

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