The CEO of Austria’s state holding company, a close ally of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, quit with immediate effect on Tuesday amid a controversy over chat messages.
The firm, known by its acronym ÖBAG, announced that, given the “ongoing discussion of the last months,” Thomas Schmid’s resignation was a “necessary step.”
Schmid, who until 2018 worked as a senior official in Austria’s finance ministry, is currently under investigation by the Austrian Prosecutor of Corporate Crime and Corruption (WKStA) for allegedly giving false testimony while under oath.
That, combined with a series of chat protocols — submitted to a parliamentary committee investigating the so-called Ibiza scandal as well as alleged cronyism under Kurz’s coalition with the far right — has heaped increasing pressure on Schmid in recent months.
Last week, chat transcripts were published that revealed Schmid had criticized the firm’s employees, proposed dismantling ÖBAG’s workers’ representation council — writing “get rid of it” to a colleague — and complained of having to travel without a diplomatic passport.
Controversy also swirled around his initial appointment to the post in 2018. Kurz himself is currently under investigation by the authorities for allegations of lying to a parliamentary commission over his involvement in Schmid’s appointment.
Kurz, at the time, texted Schmid: “You’re going to get everything you want.” To which Schmid replied: “I love my chancellor.”
More chat protocols revealed that Schmid helped edit the job ad, picked the board that would hire him and spent months during his time at the finance ministry to make sure he won the position.
Until now, ÖBAG’s supervisory board had held on to Schmid, although they had announced they would not renew his contract once it expired in March 2022.
The firm’s director, Christine Catasta, was appointed interim CEO. ÖBAG has stakes in 11 companies, including Casinos Austria and Telekom Austria. In total, its portfolio is valued at almost €27 billion.
Source : Der Standard