“These days, if you are not a friend, you are the enemy. So you definitely need political connections to avoid being forced out of business. These days, when we negotiate about a piece of real estate or a debt, everyone starts by declaring whom they know. It is like putting your guns on the table, Wild West style.”
– A real estate businessman in Hungary, 2019
The above quote is from a report about a successful, but still unknown businessman in Hungarian real estate. The article explains in detail how he made his fortune by doing complex, high-effort deals in the less sexy segment of Hungarian real estate market, like brown field investments. His investors and partners are in the US, and so far he evaded politically sensitive businesses in Hungary.
The problem is that he has grown big and successful – and thus came on the radar of politics. He also appeared in a sexier segment of the market that is ridden with politicians looking to take a cut.
“…he is navigating this world now and it means he needs to balance. He can’t get very close to politics because of his foreign investors – but he can’t keep his distance either due to the domestic political environment.”
Oligarchs don’t like businesses that take effort. (Some of them actually believe they are good at business, but even those prefer to buy out already existing, successful businesses, whether they are for sale or not). But most of them just go for the low hanging fruit. Balancing among them means that “when politicians ask for something, you can’t give them everything because you couldn’t make a profit, but you can’t give too little either because they would crush you.”
I can’t help daydreaming about how much cheaper my life would be if politicians didn’t take their cut all the time…