BGN 1,000 a month is a fee for keeping Bivol at peace

Assen Yordanov and his better half collect “peace fee” form Black Sea mayors

Assen Yordanov (L) and Atanas Chobanov

BGN 1,000 a month. This is the fee which mayors of the Black Sea municipalities have to pay to the family of owner Assen Yordanov, show the data provided by the Monitor Agency under the Access to Public Information Act.

On paper, the sum is “payment for image services” provided to the coastal municipalities by the PR agency Image Advertising of Yordanov’s spouse, Alberta Alkalay. In practice however, this is the fee mayors pay to be left at peace – those who refuse to sign a contract with the “soft club” of the family, Alkalay’s Image Adverising, fell victims to the “hard club” of her husband – website Bivol.

In 2015, Mayor of Pomorie Ivan Aleksiev unveiled ugly facts about the racketeering scheme. Then, in an interview for the Monitor Agency he said that he became a target of a series of smearing articles published by the so-called “investigative journalism” site because he refused to extend the contract with Image Advertising concluded by his predecessor on the post. Again Aleksiev first mentioned the requested fee – BGN 1,000 a month or a total of BGN 12,000 a year.

It turns out this a “standing fee” under the contracts concluded by Image Advertising with various coastal municipalities. Apart from Pomorie, at the time before Aleksiev took the mayoral post, the firm signed two other contracts with the municipalities of the Burgas region where the family of Yordanov rules the roost, show references made available to our team.

It transpires from them that Primorsko municipality has signed a contract for image services with the company of Alberta Alkalay in 2012 and an annex to this contract was signed in 2013. The contract is worth BGN 12,000 for one calendar year, mayor’s administration wrote in the reply to our edition. In their letter they also specify that currently they have no contracts with Bivol. Despite that the website posing as investigative media has posted image-related articles concerning municipal projects, a reference with the internet page shows. The first such article was posted exactly in 2012 when the PR contract was signed. It was titled “The sports zone of Primorsko school is built with EU money”. The article was dedicated to a project implemented under the Cross-border Cooperation programme and there is not a trace of journalism in it, to say nothing of investigative one. It is written in PR style and Assen Yordanov apparently wanted to help his wife Alberta Alkalay to perform her image-building functions.

The situation in Nessebar is even more curious – this is the Black Sea municipality with which the family has contractual relations. According to a reply which the municipal administration sent to us, there are a total of eight annual contracts they concluded with Image Advertising. They were signed for the period 2011-2018, whereas apart from the firm of Alkalay the municipality had a contract with Bivol proper, too. It was for 2011. The archives of the site readily provide information about what functions the site performed during that year. The archives abound in reports related to the municipality on various topics, from “Nessebar designer restores 62-year-old wedding dress”, to “New tourist product for Nessebar Town Day”, to “TV7 starts off dirty election campaign in Nessebar”. It is noteworthy that as an author of these materials the same person is mentioned who wrote the image-related articles about Primorsko – a woman by name Evgenia Djordjeva, who is not Bivol’s team member. Most probably it is a penname used to cover up the PR nature of this website.

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