REZEŠ, one of the seminal figures of the Mečiar era.
Born July 9, 1948 in the village of Oborín in Slovakia's far-east Michalovce district, Rezeš studied economy at university and entered VSŽ in 1967, working in the human resources department. In March 1993 he became a member of the firm's supervisory board, and was made VSŽ president in December 1994 following the return of Vladimír Mečiar to power after a 1993 non-confidence vote. From 1994 to 1997 he was Telecom and Transport Minister in the same government, and on April 24, 1997 became head of the VSŽ supervisory board.
When Rezeš joined the 1994-1998 Mečiar government, he was among the owners of a 10 per cent stake in VSŽ. After parliament in March 1993 declared non-confidence in an earlier Mečiar government, the cabinet managed to quickly approve the sale of VSŽ shares worth a nominal Sk1.56 billion for Sk314 million to a company named Manager, created on March 11, where Rezeš was one of five equal co-owners.
After two years, Rezeš came to control, through various shareholder groups, a reported 47 per cent of shares in the firm. Under his leadership VSŽ expanded its empire to include press, a football team and an insurance company, as well as a fleet of over 20 luxury vehicles and aircraft. Police are still investigating alleged transfers of money from VSŽ to tax-free havens.
After Rezeš left the firm in 1998, following the election victory of parties allied with current Slovak Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda, the once-rich VSŽ was found to have lost Sk11 billion that year, and to be in danger of defaulting on its loans to banks. US-Slovak manager Gabriel Eichler was brought in to run the firm until it was sold in 2000 to American investor US Steel.
The steel chief later spent much time abroad, mostly in Spain at a massive oceanside villa, but also in Vienna, where he visited doctors for his heart condition. In Slovakia he was only ever charged with one crime, the allegedly illegal reconstruction of a historical building. The charges were later dropped.
On June 3 this year Rezeš set off to his Spanish villa by car, but took ill in Italy. He was diagnosed by doctors there with a diseased, enlarged heart, a problem that had plagued him for several years past. Following a slight improvement he returned to Slovakia, but was sent to Austria after his condition sharply worsened.
His funeral was scheduled for Friday, July 5 on a national holiday to honour the patron saints of Slovakia.
8. Jul 2002 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson