Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
Source: Jutarnji list
Author: Gordana Grgas
Maybe you haven’t heard of them, but you’ve certainly heard for their ads, especially those related to the Hrvatski Telekom that had been their largest client for years. They were literally a factory of successful and award-winning advertising campaigns. I want Internet or Wasn’t there an apple? Ad for juices most certainly didn’t pass by you unnoticed, nor the First Three are the Most Important, for UNICEF, to name only a few. At the same time, they leased media space for large companies, they produced TV soap operas (Dolina sunca, Sve će biti dobro, Pod sretnom zvijezdom), they were PR and strategic communications advisers, they organized big events … They had been everything that the industry had the offer, they were where the money is, they were the propulsive and creative dream team, but they were also market predators.
The Digitel system, however, has failed unceremoniously, and its story is, many agree, one typically transitional. The context in which it all took places ranges from the Tudjman era, over Račan’s coalition government, the rule of Ivo Sanader, until the final one of Zoran Milanović, during which you have constant overlapping of business and politics, money and power, media and marketing, business and private. In such an environment, Digitel emerged into a Croatian marketing and communications empire that ruled the 2000s and at one moment ranged into as much as 500 million in revenue and had more than 200 employees in a number of affiliated companies, only to fail in debt.
The Digitel agency was started in the mid 90s by Vladimir Smolec and his wife Jasna Hrvić Smolec, together with director and former journalist of Polet and Start Dario Vince, who have collaborated on projects since the time of Z3 television (launched in 1988 as a co-production program of Television Zagreb). The young editor of the Globus Magazine, Aljoša Roksandić, joined the team for a after a few years because of the expansion into the PR business. This personnel decision, as it turned out, was a two-sided sword: Roksandic grew as a respectable manager and co-owner, but was also largely responsible for the demise of the company. Those who worked with him describe him as extremely ambitious, and the lifestyle he led was associated with that of “the golden youth.”
The founding team has managed for a fairly long time to be at the right time at the right place. Although many associated them with the HDZ party, until the 2011 parliamentary election campaign (when the party was led by Jadranka Kosor), they never worked for them, Vince underlines, and generally they had very few jobs for state administration or state companies. In terms of political campaigns, they also worked on the first presidential campaign of Stjepan Mesić. Since Smolec was in good standing with him, there were also plans that they work on the first presidential campaign for Ivo Josipovic, but the then top people of SDP party disliked that.
While conquering the market, in which Unex with Agrokor ties was their greatest competitor, they swallowed everything they could, both potent staff and competing companies, on occasions even reaching far outside their own primary business, and even outside Croatia. The key regional expansion operation, dubbed “From Athens to Vienna”, in which they collaborated with Slovenian partners, speaks volumes of their ambitions when they were at their peak. With the beginning of this operation in 2005, a series of ownership, personnel and corporate reshuffles ensued, so in 2013 Digitel ended on the verge of financial abyss. In the summer of that turbulent year, police visited the offices of the company several times, taking away documents and talking with executives, as all witnesses who worked there recall, but there were no indictments raised.
Millions of HRK in debt was left, and since 2014 these debts went through countless pre-bankruptcy, and then bankruptcy procedures, in a whole range of affiliated companies, burdened by guarantees and loans for the umbrella company (Digitel Komunikacije, established in 2005) as well as huge mutual claims. Some of these procedures unfortunately are still ongoing, in accordance with the infamous Croatian judicial reputation. The stakeholders also threatened with lawsuits, all who could collected their debt through cessions and in various other ways, and the best illustrator of the times of this fall is probably the fact that Roksandic held his former driver in the position of director, while he rarely appeared in person at the hearings in court.
Tomorrow read: The demise of Digitel (2): Zombie firms