A soccer player made USD 25 million when he applied to a public tender without any experience. Here is how he did it. He was in the right place, at the right time – and knew the right people.
Our Step-by-Step Guide to Become a Hungarian Millionaire:
- Make a good friend in the Prime Minister’s circles.
- Create a brand new company.
- Apply for government funding in a new public tender.
- Rejoice when the tender is unexpectedly closed right after you applied.
- Rejoice again when the government decides to distribute four times as much funding as originally planned.
- Win billions of forints with no experience, or even a website.
- Enjoy your wealth and success.
31-year-old Tamás Sáfrány is a lucky man.
He went from unknown soccer player to a rich man in just a few weeks — at least according to an optimistic interpretation of the events. And if you attribute his miraculous financial success to sheer luck and bold entrepreneurship.
Mr. Sáfrány was a football player in the team of Tiszakécske, a town of 11,000 in Middle Hungary. Just a few days before Christmas last year, he resigned from the team, and created a company for the first time in his life. Luckily, Hungarian Tourism Agency Ltd., owned by the government, opened up a public tender just a few days later. It called for proposals to renovate large hotels. The total allocation was USD 63 million. The deadline was March 2020.
By good fortune, he saw the call – a young man very much on the spot – and he prepared a 25 M USD application to renovate three large hotels. Despite his inexperience, he filled out the paperwork in a few days. He submitted it in early January. Well done, he set the pace for others!
His luck did not end here.
On January 7, the tender was unexpectedly closed, despite an original deadline set for March. According to the Agency, the decision was made “due to the large number of applications.” Surely Mr. Sáfrány blessed his foresight to submit the application just in time! (For the lovers of irony: the Tourism Agency does not have an English website.)
Soon he learned of another fortunate change of plans: the Tourism Agency decided to exceed the original allocation amount and distribute almost four times more money to grantees, USD 266 million.
Blissfully, Mr. Sáfrány’s company won the USD 25 million public procurement (HUF 8 billion) — despite the crushing competition, and despite the fact that his company was brand new, with no history, no website, and no experience in hotel renovation. The only contact information is Mr. Sáfrány’s personal gmail address. Hurray!
Journalists including Bálint Fábián at G7.hu made efforts to explore the background and found out that Mr. Sáfrány happens to be a personal friend of Mr. László Szíjj, the fourth richest person in Hungary — who coincidentally lives in the same town, Tiszakécske.
Mr. Szíjj’s rise to prominence in Hungary was no less mysterious than Mr. Lőrinc Mészáros’ story, which we have previously discussed. Mr,. Szíjj’s rise began in 2000, when the first Orban government came to power, and his income grew exponentially during the second and third Orban administration (2010-2020). His company’s wealth increased from HUF 18 Billion (USD 57 million) in 2010 to HUF 75 billion (USD 237 million) in 2017.
Among the other beneficiaries of the same public tender, you can find other strongmen closely linked to Orbán’s family and inner circle.
As 24.hu reported, the person to have won most is of course Mr. Mészáros, who will renovate 14 hotels in HUF 17.7 billion (USD 55 million) from public money. The government denies there is any connection between Mr. Szíjj’s or Mr. Mészáros’ enrichment from tax-payer money and their personal friendships with the prime minister of Hungary. And if you do not want yourself to be labeled a Soros-agent or an enemy of the state, you shall believe in the Hungarian dream: that fortune favors the bold in Hungary, where young and talented people can get rich overnight!
Contributed by Péter Sárosi.
Illustration by István Gábor Takács.
Pro Tip: If you want to avoid staying at a Hungarian hotel that is owned by Hungarian oligarchs, or just want to spend some time familiarizing yourself with just how widespread tourism related corruption is in Hungary, please check out NER Hotel by K Monitor and browse a map of hotels that helped channel funds to friends of the Hungarian prime minister.
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Executive Director of the Rights Reporter Foundation.
He is a historian, a human rights activist and drug policy expert, the founder and editor of the Drugreporter website since 2004, a documentary film maker and blogger. He has been working for the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) for more than 10 years. Now he leads the Rights Reporter Foundation.