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Slightly Wealthier

Perhaps not surprisingly, entrepreneurship is the best way to get rich in Slovenia. More than half of those among the 100 richest Slovenians, as tallied in April by business monthly Manager, were typical entrepreneurs. The richest Slovenian, Mirko Tuš, started his business in the nineties with a simple shop. In a short time he had created a small retail empire with centers in Slovenia and in other Southeastern European countries and has also become active in telecommunications. Tuš shuns the media spotlight and seldom appears in public, but he has nevertheless become a true entrepreneurial icon in Slovenia. The value of his assets is estimated at 550 million euros.


Joc Pečečnik (at sixth place) and Igor Akrapovič (at seventh) are other examples of super-successful individuals who made their way from rags (well, almost) to riches. Both are top global players in their respective narrow niches: Akrapovič in high-end exhaust systems for motorcycles and Pečečnik in automated roulette wheels (and see the article on Pečečnik in the Focus section of this issue). Most of the richest entrepreneurs are active in industry, sometimes with niche products like plastic window frames (Ajlec, at 21st place). A survey of their stories leads one to the conclusion that it’s not the product that counts but rather the spirit of entrepreneurship that animates their work. Take Franc Frelih (who is at 20th place). He started by producing plastic bottles and bags – hardly an exciting area. Gradually he moved to plastic car components and his company SEP became a supplier of companies like Renault. Apart from industrialists there are quite a few financial entrepreneurs like Branko Drobnak (in the eighth position), the founder and the main owner of the Poteza Group, a financial company active throughout Southeastern Europe. Four of the 100 richest made their fortune in information technology. Other wealthy entrepreneurs are a mixed lot active in areas like printing, construction and trade.




Relatively few people on the list became rich through privatization. To be sure, privatization provided ample opportunities in Slovenia (as elsewhere), and a number of financial experts were very successful in turning the privatization certificates issued by the state in the nineties into profit for themselves rather than for the citizens to whom those  certificates were issued. Yet these examples aren’t nearly as numerous as in other transitional economies in which privatization was the leading way to become superrich.


A number of individuals on the list acquired their wealth through manager buyouts (MBOs). Some are still regarded as controversial by the public, like the buyout of the largest Slovenian construction company, SCT (Ivan Zidar, at 19th place) and of Ljubljana's “shopping city” BTC (six names on the list). The most recent example is the MBO in technical retailer Merkur in 2007. The company's CEO, Bine Kordež, shot to 68th place.




In general public MBO's are regarded with suspicion. But so are the wealthiest persons in general: Slovenians carry very strong egalitarian sentiments. Public surveys show that most of the population think that the difference between the richest and the poorest is too big. Statistics don't necessarily confirm such an opinion.


And while Slovenia's multimillionaires can be considered fairly wealthy on the global scale, they’re certainly not superrich. It’s enough to have “only” 11 million euros to be included on the Manager magazine list. The collective net worth of the 100 richest Slovenians is 4 billion euros: that's approximately one fifth the wealth of the richest Russian tycoon,  Oleg Deripasko. Slovenian millionaires are far from being tycoons – but then again, Deripasko and the other Russian and East European billionaires who made their fortunes during the transition from communism of the last decade and more are far from being typical entrepreneurs.


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