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Wild Wild East Part I

Updated: Aug 26, 2020


I can't recall exactly when I first went to Bratislava but it was sometime between the autumn of ’97 and the spring of '98. I was appointed as Group Head of IT for a TV business in August of '97. The holding company, based in London, owned and operated a number of TV stations in Central and Eastern Europe. It was my job to make sure we had common IT systems across the group.

We were making progress with most of the TV stations, yet there was one that remained a mystery: TV Markiza. The emails I sent to Markiza's IT manager seemed to fall into a black hole. TV Markiza had a bit of a reputation for being political and had several run-ins with the Slovakian government. There were rumours that the head of the station hired Russian Mafia, (Bratva) for protection.

So it was with some trepidation that I entered the TV station for the first time. It was 8:30 am, the TV station had a relaxed atmosphere, with small huddles of people drinking coffee and chatting. Maybe I'd been worrying about nothing, I reflected, while I followed a Bratva muscleman to TV Markizas's Boardroom.

I was shown to my seat at the end of a very long polished walnut table. I was trying to figure-out how much that had cost, and how that squared up with the lack of profit from Markiza since its launch three years earlier. When I looked up to see a man in a very expensive looking suit.  He was the Director General of TV Markiza, Pavol Rusko.  He took a seat at the other end of the table, and after the briefest of handshakes, I decided to fill the uncomfortable silence.

 "Thank you for seeing me and you certainly seem to have an impressive operation here at Markiza”. I said, attempting to sound diplomatic, but probably sounding like a creep.

It felt very odd sitting four metres apart. Is this a mind-game he’s playing, or maybe just Slovakian culture, I mused. I couldn’t fathom why this was a one-on-one meeting with the Director General. Surely he’d want his IT manager to be there?  <