homepage_name! > Editions > Number 067-068 > Management Giants - Georg Weifert

Georg I. Weifert

“We must give in order to regain!” - G. Weifert

Georg Weifert was born in 1850 in Pančevo. By origin a German from Upper Austria - at heart he was a Serb from a famous family of brewers. He had a very versatile personality. There is almost no field in which he hasn’t left a trace one way or the other. This respected industrialist, banker, researcher, collector, patron of cultural activities, bearer of numerous awards, freemason, benefactor - can be described in one sentence: “He is someone to look up to, he is history, he is success!”

Georg Weifert was born on 15 June 1850 in Pančevo. By origin a German from Upper Austria - at heart he was a Serb from a famous family of brewers.

Georg, son of father Ignaz and mother Ana, lived in a wealthy Pančevo family of industrialists. At that time, Pančevo was a small border town at the confluence of the Tamiš River and the Danube, populated mainly by Serbs, Germans and Hungarians.On the other side of the border, across the Danube, there was the city of Belgrade, a trade center and the capital of the re-established Kingdom of Serbia.

Weifert’s grandfather moved to Pančevo at the beginning of the 18th century, seeking his fortune, first as a trader, and then as a brewer. In order to strengthen his enterprise, he sent his son Ignaz to Munich to work in local breweries and learn the craft, which Ignaz did at brewery "Spatenbrau". Upon Ignaz ’s return, they built an even bigger brewery, which became the biggest in the Balkans and existed until 2008.

During 1865, the Weiferts rented the existing brewery in Belgrade to start the production there and to avoid the transport and customs costs when bringing the Pančevo beer to Belgrade.

Georg Weifert completed the German elementary school and the Hungarian high school in Pančevo, after which his father sent him to Budapest for further schooling at the Academy of Commerce. Georg then went to Weihenstephan near Munich to receive further professional improvement, where he graduated from the brewing school.Upon his graduation in 1872, Georg came to Belgrade.

In 1873, Georg Weifert married Maria Gisner.

Upon his return to Serbia, together with his father Ignaz G. Weifert he built a brewery at Smutekovac, today’s Topčider Hill, which at that time was the most modern brewery in the Balkans and the biggest for its production capacity.

Upon the completion of construction works, the brewery passed into Georg's hands. His brewery in Belgrade became famous throughout Europe, and at the end of the 19th century Georg Weifert was one of the wealthiest people in Serbia. In addition to the breweries in Pančevo and Belgrade, Weifert was also a co-owner of breweries in Sremska Mitrovica and Niš.

“Weifert” beer won a gold medal for quality twice at the World Beer Fair in Paris, in 1889 and 1900.

Mining

Georg Weifert deserves the credit for the development of mining at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, having established the Mineral Resources Research Center in the village of Glogovac, which was extraordinarily well-equipped for that time.

Weifert first opened a mine in Kostolac for very practical reasons - he needed coal for the steam brewery in Belgrade. Having an investigative spirit and impulsive nature, he requested and obtained an approval of the Serbian government, and started investigating mine deposits in Serbia. The investigation works started in 1897.

He brought with him engineers and miners, bought equipment, built mining settlements and spent a lot of money.Whatever he touched went downhill. He made money on beer and lost it on mercury.

The opening of a smelting plant in Ripanj near Belgrade was fruitless since the mercury mine on the Avala Mountain had almost no ore at all.

The situation was the same in mines “Sveta Ana” on Deli Jovan, “Sveta Varvara” on the River Pek, and in the mines on Miroč, Rudnik and in Zlot.

The brewery was not able to produce as much beer as Georg spent on this research. He went bankrupt three times.

Georg Weifert’s malicious contemporaries used to say that he was “ready for suicide".

However, his betting behavior suddenly got lucky. When all Belgrade banks closed their doors to him and rejected his bills of exchange, Georg one day appeared in the Commercial Bank, in an elegant suit. He asked for a loan of 50,000 dinars in gold. Miloš Tucaković, Director of the bank, signed the bill of exchange, not knowing that he thus made possible the opening of the Bor Mine.

At that moment, Georg I. Weifert became the owner of the best known copper ore deposit in Europe. This occurred in 1903.

However, he did not remain the owner for more than one year. Namely, huge money was needed for the mine exploitation, and neither he nor the state of Serbia had that money.He found partners in France and established a joint stock company named “French Association of Bor Mines”. The share capital amounted to five and a half million gold French francs, and Georg Weifert had in his hands 3,300 shares, worth more than a million gold francs.

Benefactor of Serbian people

It is hard to enumerate all the scientific, educational and humanitarian associations that Weifert founded or sponsored. As one of the biggest industrialists in the country, he was among the founders of the “Serbian National Bank”. From 1883 to 1889, he was Vice-Governor and was appointed governor of the National Bank on two occasions - from 1890 to 1902, and from 1912 to 1926, after which he was elected honorary governor for life. He acquired great merit in maintaining the value of the dinar and facilitating credit operations in Serbia. He was also the honorary chairman of the Chamber of Industry, President of the Belgrade Cooperative Monetary Bureau, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Independent Monopoly Directorate of the Kingdom of Serbia, and President of Pučka Banka in Pančevo. Knowing the severe consequences of every war, he founded with his own money the St. George Foundation for the Disabled, aiming at assisting and alleviating the hard life of Serbian war disabled persons and their orphans. He donated considerable amounts of money to this foundation. He was one of the founders, vice-president and head of the Finance Board of the Sveti Sava Association. He was also the founder, and later president of the Kralj Dečanski Association for housing and education of deaf-mute children, which he headed until his death. He was one of the biggest donors of the society, and he also facilitated a loan for the construction of the foundation building in western Vračar. He donated estates for charity. He donated land in Dedinje to the Women’s Association of Belgrade and provided a credit guarantee for the Saint Anne Ladies Home. In addition, he ceded land in Dedinje, completely free of charge, to the Belgrade Women Doctors Association, where they built a hospital with the assistance of women doctors from Scotland. Throughout the hospital construction, Weifert made its account with the National Bank available to the Association. He financed the construction of the hospital for women and children in Tiršova Street in Belgrade.

He made a large donation to the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts as a credit guarantee for the construction of its building in today’s Knez Mihajlova Street.

He also assisted the Restaurateurs and Hoteliers Association, the Waiters Foundation and the Association of Belgrade Shopkeepers. In 1924, at his own expense, he built the Roman Catholic parish church of Saint Anne and the portal building in the Roman Catholic cemetery in his birthplace, Pančevo.

In Glogovac near Bor he built the Orthodox Church of St. George. Weifert, as one of the founders of the Cyclist Federation, donated land for the first race track located at the site of today’s Army House of Serbia. He was president of the Firefighters Association of Banat and honorary president of the Firefighters Association of Vršac. He did not avoid wars.

During the Serbian-Turkish war from 1876 to 1878, he excelled in several areas. The first batteries of cannons for the artillery units of the Serbian Army were purchased with his money. During the war he volunteered as a cavalryman of the People's Army, and was awarded with a Medal of Courage for his merits.

During the Balkan War in 1912, because of the considerable food shortage Weifert personally donated 60,000 loaves of bread to help the population, while he sent the Serbian Cavalry a railcar of beer as a gift. In World War I, while he was in emigration in the South of France, he collected donations not only in Europe and America, but from other parts of the world as well, for the purpose of providing necessary assistance to the then enslaved people and the Serbian Army. He was a passionate collector.

He donated to the National Museum of Serbia and the University of Belgrade his very valuable coin collection comprising 14,000 mainly ancient coins, which he inherited from his family and enlarged during his lifetime. To the Museum of the City of Belgrade he bequeathed his very valuable collection of paintings, sketches and maps of old Belgrade, which he inherited from his father. During his lifetime he received the following awards: Order of the Karađorđe’s Star of the 2nd degree, Order of the Karađorđe’s Star of the 3rd degree, Order of Saint Sava Large Ribbon, Order of the White Eagle neck badge with a Star, Order of Miloš the Great neck badge, Order of the Cross of Takovo neck badge, Order of St. Sava Society, war testimonials, as well as the Star of Romania Ribbon, awarded only to royalty.He is the honorary citizen of Pančevo and Knjaževac.

He was never a member of any political party. In 1890 he became a freemason in the Masonic Lodge "Democracy" in Pest.

In 1912, he was elected the Great Commander of the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Order of Serbia, and he became the Worshipful Master of the Grand Lodge of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians, later the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia, in 1919.

He died on 12 January 1937 in Belgrade, aged 87. He was buried in Pančevo, in the family tomb at the Roman Catholic cemetery, next to the portal he built himself. Unfortunately, he had no offspring. After World War II his property was nationalized, and it is today estimated at 12 billion dollars. Today’s 1,000 dinar bill of the National Bank of Serbia features his image.

The breweries in Belgrade and Pančevo still fill the bottles with “Georg Weifert” beer.

There may have been even wealthier people in Serbia than Weifert, but there were no other businesspeople with so much entrepreneurial spirit who would acquire and invest their money in new business enterprises, giving so generously and unselfishly to their people.

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