June 28, 2017 / 6:35 PM / in 5 months

Hungary central bank chief's son buys major media group

BUDAPEST, June 28 (Reuters) - Hungarian central bank governor Gyorgy Matolcsy’s son has bought the publishing company that runs some of the country’s largest news web sites, the publisher confirmed on Wednesday.

Hungary’s media is increasingly dominated by those close to Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has faced criticism at home and abroad for stifling free speech, including via a crackdown on foreign universities and non-government organisations.

Publisher New Wave Media Group told news agency MTI on Wednesday in a statement that the new sole owner and chief executive of the company was Adam Matolcsy.

His father is a close ally of Orban, serving as economy minister from 2010 to 2013 and then being picked by the prime minister for the top job at the central bank.

A group of businessmen including the elder Matolcsy’s cousin launched a media group shortly after he took over at the central bank and acquired and consolidated a large online media portfolio -- partly using central bank cash, a Reuters inquiry found last year.

At that time the ties of the group’s owners to the central bank were unclear, and neither the central bank nor the company running prominent news web sites Origo.hu and VS.hu said there were direct connections between them and the Matolcsys.

Media analysts have expressed concern that Origo, once a leading source of independent news, may now toe the government line more closely.

“Origo, which had been known for investigative work before, has become palpably more loyal to the government,” the media analysis centre Mertek wrote in a report last month.

Origo declined immediate comment.

In the statement to MTI, New Wave Media’s outgoing owner and CEO Istvan Szaraz said that the company turned a profit for the first time in 2016, and Adam Matolcsy said that he had ambitious plans to shake up the Hungarian media market with new technology.

Neither Szaraz nor Matolcsy were available for further comment. A central bank spokesman declined to comment.

Mertek says Origo is the single largest news web site in Hungary, with 2.3 million users in the country of 10 million. (Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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