More than two-thirds of poll respondents don’t trust Sazka head Aleš Hušák and would like to see him step down from the company
Lottery operator Sazka, which has been dealing with financial difficulties for several years, has only its own management to blame, according to the vast majority of respondents to a poll by the Center for Analysis and Empirical Studies (SANEP).
People aren’t just dissatisfied. They say the current CEO of Sazka, Aleš Hušák, should resign from his post, as should Pavel Kořan, the head of the Czech Association of Physical Education (ČSTV), who has long been a Hušák supporter.
“For most respondents, Sazka is an untrustworthy company, and the way it is led by Hušák threatens the existence of sports associations,” SANEP said in its report. Sazka is legally required to support sports associations from its profits, but the massive debt that the company accrued from building Sazka Arena (now O2 Arena) in 2004 has cut into the amount of money that the associations receive.
The construction of Sazka Arena (now O2 Arena) cost Kč 8 billion
Penta Investments and E-Invest reached a deal on Feb. 7 to rescue Sazka, which was on the verge of economic collapse after missing a payment on a bond. So far, Hušák has held his position as the head of Sazka. Before the deal was sealed, real estate tycoon Radovan Vítek had been acquiring some of Sazka’s multibillion crown debt and seeking to force the company into bankruptcy. Financier Karel Komárek had also been interested in acquiring an interest in Sazka.
In mid-January, credit ratings company Standard & Poor’s reduced Sazka’s rating from ‘CC’ to ‘D’; S&P also cut the rating in mid-December 2010. The SANEP poll took place took place between Jan. 31 and Feb. 4, when the deal to save Sazka was finalized.
“The overwhelming majority of respondents (70.9 percent) agree with the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Josef Dobeš, who believes that the situation of indebted lottery firm Sazka and hence the lack of funding for Czech sports is not only due to Sazka CEO Hušák but also because of the passive stance of representatives of sports associations,” SANEP said. In total, only 8 percent disagreed with that statement.
When it comes to whether the Minister of Education Dobeš (Public Affiars, VV) should become involved in the operation of Sazka and the resolution of its problems, people were divided with the largest number — 32.2 percent — saying they didn’t know. A “moderate yes” got 26.3 percent and an unqualified “yes” got 25.4 percent, making a slim majority of 51.7 percent. Only 16.1 percent did not want the minister to take action. Exactly 50 percent of people say that funding for Czech sports should be more of a priority for the government of Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats, ODS), while 29.8 percent disagreed.
Respondents were harsher on Hušák when it came whether he could be trusted. Just short of half — 49.5 percent — said strongly that he was not, and an additional 19.9 percent felt that he was fairly untrustworthy, totaling 69.4 percent. Altogether only 8.5 percent said he had any degree of trustworthiness.
People were also eager for Hušák to resign, with 46.9 strongly supporting the idea and 23.8 percent rather agreeing, totaling 70.7 percent. Again, just 8.5 percent wanted him to stay. ČSTV head Pavel Kořan also should step down, according to 64.8 percent (with 8.8 percent disagreeing). If Hušák remains at the company’s head, moe than two-fifths say it could mean the end of Czech sporting associations.
Some 53.8 percent said there was a strong or moderate possibility that Hušák could be intending to “tunnel” Sazka, or strip it of its remaining assets, while 17.6 percent said there wasn’t.
Sakza as a company fared a little better but still received the scorn of a majority of the public, with 56.1 percent finding the lottery company to be untrustworthy and 25.4 percent disagreeing. People split on whether sports associations should be the only shareholders, with 39.4 percent saying they should not and 27 percent saying they should. More than a third of people had no opinion.
As for who is accountable for Sazka’s indebtedness, just over two-fifths of respondents hold all the leaders of sports associations, which are the major Sazka shareholders, responsible, while slightly more thana quarter held Hušák, who has been general manager of the firm since 1995, to blame. Less than one-tenth hold the ČSTV responsible. Slightly more than two-thirds of repsondents said that Sazka and its main shareholder, ČSTV, were more concerned with their own financial benefit than funding sports.
The polling took place between Jan. 31 and Feb. 4, with 5,709 respondents between 18 and 69 years of age. The margin of error was 1.5 percent.