Now 60, Demko sits at the head of Nafta Trade and Nafta Gbely, two lucrative Slovak gas storage firms. He has spent a total of 37 years in the oil industry. Born in the tiny central Slovak village of Bijacovce, he began as a technician in a regional gas utility outlet in 1962. He did not get a university degree until 1983, an Industrial Management diploma from the Economic University in Bratislava
In 1992, Demko became the general director of the massive state gas utility SPP, a position he held until he was replaced by political appointee Ján Ducký in 1995. He rose again to the head of the Nafta firms in 1997.
Demko is unusual among top Slovak managers not only for his flair for communicating with both executives and common workers, but also for his abililty to survive at the head of state-owned firms during changes in government.
People who have worked with Demko say that his professional skills and spotless reputation are what protect him from politically-motivated personnel shuffles. Even though he opposed the Mečiar government's plans for SPP, he still commanded enough respect to be offered the Nafta job.
Demko, for his part, is proud of his common beginnings. "I wish everyone had a chance to go through various jobs and learn how to talk to people," he said in an interview with The Slovak Spectator on November 10. "I see many politicians and businessmen who are not able to talk to people, which puts a big wall between them and those who put their ideas into practice."
Despite his current success, Demko says he feels that the 1989 revolution came too late in his life. "To tell you the truth, I expected more from the Velvet Revolution. I also expected more from the split-up of Czechoslovakia, and much more from the results of last year's parliamentary elections," he said.
Demko added that his business idol was the German executive Klaus Liesen, who was chairman of the board of directors at German gas giant Ruhrgas, and now serves as the head of the supervisory boards of insurer Alianz, car producer Volkswagen and Ruhrgas. "Liesen was someone who had a vision and was able to put it into practice successfully," Demko said.
15. Nov 1999 at 0:00 | Peter Barecz