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Mária Schmidt bought Figyelő for a song

House of Terror director and Fidesz-tied revisionist historian Mária Schmidt bought the once-reputable business/politics weekly Figyelő for well below its value, reports Magyar Nemzet.

The weekly, which was founded in 1957 and had a circulation of around 7,000-7,500 copies per issue, had been struggling financially for years. Despite its financial woes, Figyelő had a loyal readership and was known as a paper of record for business and economics reporting in Hungary.

In late 2016 it was reported that Schmidt purchased the weekly after several pro-government personalities spent months circling the struggling publication.

According to Magyar Nemzet, an intermediary company, Investender Kft., was used to make the purchase. Investender’s owner, Ákos Ducsai, is reportedly on good terms with Tamás Szemerey (cousin of National Bank of Hungary governor György Matolcsy) and his sister even works as the CEO of the National Trading House of Hungary.

Investender purchased Figyelő from MediaCity Magyarország Kft. in early December 2016, before selling the asset only a few days later to K4A Kft., a family business owned by Schmidt. The strange transaction’s attempt at covering up the real purchase price backfired though, as Investender Kft.’s corporate filings indicate the purchase price to be HUF 240 million (USD 886,000).

Schmidt’s purchase confirmed the fear of many: the weekly has become a Fidesz propaganda outlet. Several of Figyelő’s top journalists quit, think-tank Századvég’s Tamás Lánczi was installed as editor-in-chief, state propaganda advertisements appeared, and the formerly respected publication soon became yet another insufferable Hungarian “media” product.

In May, Átlátszó.hu reported that Figyelő has lost about 17 percent of subscribers since Schmidt bought it. The Átlátszó article reportedly prompted Figyelő to hire an IT consultancy in an attempt to determine whether the weekly had sprung a leak.

Benjamin Novak :