Divac receives threats, backs down

BELGRADE -- Basketball ace backs out of Novosti company bid after receiving threats; Predrag Bubalo surprised.

Vlade Divac
Vlade Divac

Vlade Divac was hampered in his attempt to buy Knjaz Miloš; whenever he tried to invest a significant amount of capital in Serbia, someone prevented him. The Blic daily reports on the latest example.

“I received two phone-calls. The first let me know why I cannot become a Novosti shareholder, and the second advised me why I should back down”, Divac explains in his press statement, announcing his decision not to invest in the Novosti company, concluding that the phone messages arrived from secret and reliable sources.

Asked who was behind the phone calls, his advisor Zvonimir Nikezić said the matter was sensitive and was unwilling to discuss it further. “Divac left for the U.S. yesterday and will be back on August 20. He is currently unwilling to say anything beside what the statement already says, and that is within his rights. Whether or not he will say more after he returns, remains to be seen”, Nikezić said.

Reiterating that his intentions to invest in Serbia have been honest and honorable, but that he has lost patience and enthusiasm needed to go through additional trials and obstructions, Divac notes that the reality of the situation reminded him once again, in an ugly way, that beside the legal, the game is governed by other, more relevant rules. “To me personally that is unacceptable, with my moral principles and the desire for fair-play. I thank the shareholders and I hope that the Novosti director recommendation to include a group of honest, rich and experienced Serbian businessmen will serve to their advantage.”

In a brief recapitulation of his engagement since the establishment of the Divac Co Ltd, Divac says that despite the Supreme Court ruling, the Commercial registry agency never registered the added capitalization, since the Central register suddenly required additional documentation. “The procedure with the Agency and the Central register usually takes less than five plus five days, in my case, however, it has taken 150 days and counting”, Divac says.

Dragiša Okolišanov, Commercial registry agency director, says they are in compliance with the Supreme court ruling and that Divac Co Ltd has been registered, but that the membership has been halted due to incomplete documentation. Asked who pressured the Agency and him personally in the Novosti case, Okolišanov unconvincingly answered, “No one called me.”

Novosti’s Small shareholders association chairman Novo Tomić said Divac told them about his decision at a meeting the evening before last, but wouldn’t disclose who phoned him. “Last Friday Divac Co Ltd acquired 1560 shares. If they had let him, he would own Novosti today”, Tomić said. Asked if he was aware who the businessmen recommended by the director were, Tomić said that the shareholders managed to find out one of them is Duško Knežević from Atlas group.

Meanwhile, Economy and privatization minister Predrag Bubalo is surprised. Although he kept himself aside, Divac accused him on several occasions of indirectly working against him. “I can’t believe it”, the minister commented. “We can argue about the right way, but to dissuade someone, I condemn that in strongest terms. Divac is one of the most welcome Diaspora investors, a man who has worked hard to earn his fortune, someone we cannot be doubted when it comes to the origin of his money. I regret all this taking place”, a visibly shaken Bubalo said, and Blic reported.

While the new businessmen and the origin of their money are often overcast with a shadow of doubt in the big companies’ privatization processes, Divac made his money in a public and transparent way, withstanding the scrutiny of the world’s most rigorous, American tax system.