Esterhazy Foundations commemorate 25 years
The Esterhazy foundations are celebrating their 25th anniversary. But just how did the foundations come about and what are their objectives? How are they managed today?
Creation of the foundations
In 1946, Dr. Paul V. Esterházy, the last reigning prince and holder of the entailed estate, married Melinda Ottrubay, a commoner and celebrated prima ballerina assoluta at the Hungarian State Opera. His marriage to Melinda Esterházy remained childless. In 1986, the prince appointed his wife Melinda as sole heiress by will. Dr. Paul V. Esterházy died on 25 May 1989. Melinda Esterházy dutifully carried out her husband’s wishes and strove above all to accomplish her late husband’s most important concern: to preserve the properties that had been consolidated in the princely entail until the middle of the century and thus to safeguard these precious cultural assets for posterity.
Purpose of the foundations
The incorporation of the historical estate of the Esterházy royal family into Austrian private foundations is carried out with the aim of unifying and preserving the estate for Austria, Burgenland, and the Pannonian region. Beginning in 1994, Melinda Esterházy established three indissoluble foundations. These foundations laid the groundwork for high-growth commercial enterprises, which today are instrumental to the success of the Group. After setting this course, the benefactress largely withdrew from business matters as well as from public life in 2004.
In establishing the private foundations, Melinda Esterházy pursued two primary intentions: The first was to equip the commercial enterprises with contemporary management structures aimed at achieving healthy and progressive growth. The second objective was to invest these growing revenues into the preservation, restoration, and expansion of the region’s major historical monuments and historical collections and to make them accessible to the public.
Management of the foundations
The Esterhazy foundations are essentially autonomous economic entities, managed by the governing boards in accordance with the statutes. Esterhazy Betriebe GmbH (EBG) was founded in 2001 as a management company and administrative unit for the operational business activities. The governing board was established by resolution in 2013 and assumes various monitoring and management responsibilities.
EBG manages the assets of the three foundations in accordance with current economic principles. It is structured according to the following four corporate divisions:
- Tourism, culture, and events
- Weingut Esterhazy
The four divisions are managed with a high degree of autonomy, and responsibilities and objectives are carried out locally. At the same time, EBG also provides a number of central services from a single source: finance, human resources, legal consultation, as well as corporate communications and marketing for the entire Group. EBG is directed by the management of Esterhazy Betriebe GmbH and, at the top level, by the boards of the foundations.
In the sectors of forestry, agriculture, and nature management, Esterhazy’s remit goes far beyond simply preserving, caring for, and cultivating the existing grounds. The company is committed to its responsibility for nature and the environment as well as towards future-oriented agriculture and forestry. The agriculture production was already converted to organic farming methods 17 years ago. Since then, this division has focused on using eco-friendly machinery, creating refuge areas for animals, as well as on ensuring a prudent production process that adheres to organic standards and a sustainable cycle. With a view to ensuring short distances between producers and consumers, food products refined by Esterhazy are available under the PANNATURA brand. The company has also made a name for itself as a bridge-builder in the sector of organic farming: Among its activities are the Organic Field Days (Biofeldtage), a unique event in Austria during which practitioners, experts, scientists, and interested individuals can gather information and exchange ideas on the topic of (organic) agriculture.
Historical buildings, modern lake and leisure facilities, as well as the development of new, forward-looking projects are the focus of the property management division. Everyone involved shares the common aim of preserving the historical heritage and generating new opportunities through far-sighted investments. After all, the properties provide a vital impetus for value creation in the region – by creating tourist attractions, constructing leisure properties, and developing new projects in the hotel and restaurant sector. The Schlossquartier Eisenstadt is a pulsating district in the heart of Burgenland’s provincial capital, where culture, culinary tradition, and hospitality converge. Esterházy Palace, regarded for centuries as the centre of Pannonian festival culture, has been extensively renovated in recent years. The guest house Zum Oberjäger in Lackenbach has quickly gained a foothold in central Burgenland as a popular tourist destination. With construction plans currently in place for a project that includes a hotel as well as residential and office space on the site of the former regional health insurance agency in Eisenstadt’s city centre, Esterhazy is also filling a crucial need in the state capital.
Tourism, culture, and events
The Esterházy Palace and the Forchtenstein Castle are regarded as landmarks of Burgenland – accordingly, the tourism, culture, and events division continually develops innovative ways to highlight these historic buildings. The number of visitors is a reflection of the success of these endeavours. Since the establishment of the foundation and the organisation of top-quality events, all locations within the Esterhazy Group have recorded continuous growth. At last count, some half a million people have taken advantage of the diverse range of offerings. New formats such as the HERBSTGOLD Festival in Eisenstadt, the opera in the St. Margarethen Quarry with a revised concept, the castle park festivals “Groove Quake” and “Lovely Days” in cooperation with Barracuda Music, as well as the classic.Esterhazy concert series offer a wide-ranging programme for music and culture enthusiasts from the most diverse genres. The collections of the Esterhazy Private Foundation attract cultural attention far beyond Austria’s borders – and even outside Europe: Objects from the collections have been or are currently on display in international exhibitions in cities including Tokyo, New York, and Milan.
Viticulture has a long tradition in the Pannonian region and has been closely associated with the Esterhazy name for several centuries. Today, as in the past, the winery is innovative and forward-looking. While the introduction of Pinot Noir in the middle of the 18th century placed new emphasis on the varieties, the 21st century is marked by a focus on environmentally sustainable cultivation. Establishing the winery and refurbishing the adjacent Kalandahaus in Trausdorf meant the creation of a state-of-the-art facility for vinification that also serves as a venue for celebrating wine, culture, and festivities in an elegant setting. Every year, 800,000 bottles leave the winery. The grapes for this wine are grown in vineyards on the hillsides of the Leitha Mountains and encompass an area of roughly 90 hectares. The wines are not only served at high-profile events in Austria, but also enjoy international popularity: More than forty per cent of the wines are exported. This makes Weingut Esterhazy one of the most important ambassadors for wines from Burgenland and Austria.
The element that unifies these divisions is the Group-wide commitment to preserving and enhancing the assets over the long term and to ensuring quality-driven practices at all levels.
Investments in cultural tourism and in the region
Strategic investments form the cornerstone of the foundations' success as well as their goal of expanding the business operations and fostering culture. Since the inception of the Esterhazy foundations, a total of approximately EUR 109 million has been invested in cultural tourism and the region.
The revenue generated by the commercial operations is used for the restoration, preservation, and
display of the great historical monuments, such as the opera in the St. Margarethen Quarry.
ESTERHÁZY PALACE, MEUR 10.23 TOTAL INVESTMENT
Esterházy Palace has undergone a number of transformations throughout the course of history. Each of these modifications revealed new facets and added further highlights to the palace. For Esterhazy, processing and presenting these changes is a matter of great importance. Extensive work on the roof has uncovered many a new detail, and the Café Maskaron and the palace boutique have created further attractions for visitors. The five permanent exhibitions – augmented by alternating annual exhibitions – are the highlight of every visit, guiding guests through the illustrious history of the Esterházy estate.
SCHLOSSQUARTIER EISENSTADT, MEUR 10.17 TOTAL INVESTMENT
A fresh economic boost
Esterhazy’s extensive renovation work in the Schlossquartier in Eisenstadt injected new life into the former horse stables. The Restaurant Henrici and the Selektion Vinothek Burgenland have both made their mark as popular dining venues. The Kulinarium Burgenland market hall serves residents by providing locally sourced products, florist Eva Steiger adds flowery inspiration, and the pan.event ticket office rounds out the range of service offerings. Many of Esterhazy’s employees also work behind these historic walls. In 2006, the management and other central services moved to occupy three floors in the stable wing.
FORCHTENSTEIN CASTLE, MEUR 6.22 TOTAL INVESTMENT
A mighty fortress
For centuries, Forchtenstein Castle has defied the elements. Accordingly, the castle keep and the roofscape have undergone major renovations in recent years. The renovation was carried out using traditional materials and historical techniques. The opening of Café Restaurant Grenadier in the castle’s Red Bastion in 2015 filled a culinary niche in the region. The Esterhazy Treasury, which has been open to the public since 2005, is just one of the many popular attractions at the castle. Three permanent exhibitions, as well as temporary exhibitions that change regularly, continually present the castle in a new light.
LACKENBACH PALACE , MEUR 3.67 TOTAL INVESTMENT
In touch with nature
Lackenbach Palace is among the oldest Esterhazy estates, yet the winds of change still sweep across its grounds. The exhibitions at this palace in the countryside have been dedicated to themes that are close to nature since its renovation in 2008. The park encourages visitors to stroll and linger – with highly unique objects that have been created in cooperation with students from the Graz University of Technology since 2015. Since the opening of the guest house Zum Oberjäger in 2018, guests can now extend their visit and enjoy the idyllic atmosphere of the Renaissance palace and its gardens for a longer stay.
COLLECTIONS , MEUR 9.89 TOTAL INVESTMENT
Art as a project
The Treasury at Forchtenstein Castle is home to an extraordinary wealth of unique objects spanning several centuries. Priceless furniture, paintings, and porcelain were also part of the everyday life of the royal court and can still be admired today in the collections, which include exhibition items that are in demand around the world. Art collection and patronage continue to occupy an important role: Esterhazy serves as a patron for numerous contemporary art projects and also presents the Esterhazy Art Award to emerging Hungarian artists.
PROPERTIES, MEUR 20.21 TOTAL INVESTMENT
Recreation and leisure
Esterhazy’s leisure facilities offer recreational activities for some 5,000 residents at eleven locations in Burgenland. They contribute significantly to value creation in the region, encouraging visits to local establishments, shopping, and commissioning regional businesses. Esterhazy also invests heavily in the facilities to upgrade the infrastructure and water quality. Yet Esterhazy is committed to revitalising the region and also represents a building culture that focuses on quality and is regionally rooted. A variety of projects are designed to give residents and visitors alike new insight into Burgenland.
ST. MARGARETHEN QUARRY , MEUR 12.47 TOTAL INVESTMENT
Culture amidst the craggy cliffs
The location of the St. Margarethen Quarry is recognised as one of the most spectacular open-air arenas in Europe. The festival grounds were renovated in 2007 and 2008 and now boast two stages. Visitors are captivated by the magical atmosphere as soon as they enter: The entrance leads along a free-floating ramp made of Corten steel, giving guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in the ambience of culture and history. Following the insolvency of the former venue operator in 2014, Esterhazy also assumed responsibility for the use of the stage in the context of the Opera in the Quarry at St. Margarethen. In addition, the grand stage creates a perfect backdrop for concerts and international stars.
PANNATURA, MEUR 20.06 TOTAL INVESTMENT
Experience the taste of nature
With centuries of experience coupled with the technology and expertise of the 21st century, the agriculture and forestry sector was placed on new footing in 2002. Esterhazy is one of the first large-scale farms in Austria to operate entirely organically. Since 2017, food from Esterhazy’s own production has been sold under the PANNATURA brand. In its forest management activities, Esterhazy not only procures vital raw materials, it also benefits other forest users. Esterhazy has also become a reliable partner for the construction industry since the acquisition of the Pauliberg basalt quarry in 2009.
WEINGUT ESTERHAZY, MEUR 12.17 TOTAL INVESTMENT
The event venue with a passion for wine
For centuries, the exquisite wines of the Esterházy princes were kept stored in the palace in Eisenstadt, and eventually the grapes were also pressed there. By opening the winery in Trausdorf in 2006, Esterhazy elevated the quality of its wines to a new level: state-of-the-art production facilities, impressive premises, and a full range of services that also allow the winery to be used as an event location. When the former dairy farm behind the winery was renovated in 2015, a new event space was created. The Kalandahaus is used for a broad spectrum of events and is already enjoying great popularity.
Investing in the future
As a key player with international appeal in the sector of culture and tourism, Esterhazy makes a decisive contribution to regional value creation. As a trailblazer in the area of sustainability with a steady focus on the next generation, Esterhazy will continue to make substantial investments in the region in the coming years.
Breitenbrunn seaside resort: Redesign creates an upswing
For several decades, the seaside resort of Breitenbrunn was under lease to the township of Breitenbrunn. At the beginning of 2019, Esterhazy assumed the management of the spacious swimming and recreation area once again. Initial remodelling and refurbishment activities, such as renovating the footbridges and restructuring the catering facilities, began immediately after repossession. Several experts are involved in the planning process for the new facilities. The wishes and requirements of water sports enthusiasts and recreation seekers are not the only factors being considered. By calling in landscape and environmental experts, the project also focuses particular attention to the seaside resort’s sensitive environment, the unparalleled ecological landscape of Lake Neusiedl. The coming years will see the completion of the project’s next step, a total redesign of the complex. Lodges will offer overnight accommodation on the waterfront, while compatible dining options provide an additional attraction. The project will upgrade the lakeside resort area to become a year-round excursion and holiday destination.
The local residents were given the opportunity to actively contribute suggestions right from the start of the project. The new design of the Breitenbrunn seaside resort was presented to the public in the summer of 2016. After in-depth discussions with all user groups, the municipality of Breitenbrunn, the World Heritage advisory body for design, and in consultation with experts from the province of Burgenland, a concrete preliminary draft was drawn up and presented to the public again in the summer of 2018 as part of a dialogue and information exhibition.
A central objective in all of these measures is to create an infrastructure that offers a peaceful coexistence for water sports enthusiasts and those seeking relaxation and leisure. Esterhazy also attaches great importance to the safety of its guests. In order to guarantee an accident-free recreational environment for all users, an optimised solution for safe interaction is being developed together with representatives of the community to ensure that the time spent on Lake Neusiedl will remain a restorative experience for all visitors and water sports fans.
Sludge was suctioned off to make the access to the lake even more convenient, which has already contributed significantly to enhancing the quality in the swimming area. There have also been new developments in the restaurant facilities. The old restaurant had fallen into disrepair and was torn down. In the course of the redesign and the establishment of a hotel, the dining facilities will also be upgraded to reflect a more sophisticated standard. Until then, a temporary catering concept will cover the culinary needs of the visitors. With the completion of the facilities, which is planned for 2022, Esterhazy is creating fresh momentum for tourism in the Lake Neusiedl region.
The renovation work at the Breitenbrunn seaside resort commenced at the beginning of this year. The popular swimming facilities were still open as usual throughout the summer.
Economic momentum for Eisenstadt
By purchasing the premises of the former regional health insurance agency, Esterhazy has taken an important step towards expanding the Schlossquartier in Eisenstadt.
A multi-purpose building complex is being constructed on the premises of the former regional health insurance agency in Eisenstadt and will accommodate a hotel, apartments, as well as office space. The facility provides a boost to tourism in the state capital, and more importantly, to the city’s economy. Guests, residents, and employees in these buildings will appreciate the close proximity to the historic old town as well as to the varied offerings of the Schlossquartier. Initial demolition work in the interior of this sprawling building complex already commenced in the summer. Soon the building shell will be dismantled. In 2020, work will then begin on the new building, which has been designed to blend in harmoniously with the historic ensemble of the Schlossquartier district that includes the palace, national bank, and stables. Through this project, Esterhazy not only responds to the desire expressed by many visitors for a premium hotel in Eisenstadt, but also contributes to the revitalisation of the city centre by creating living space that is close to the city.
In a prime location close to the city centre and directly adjacent to Esterházy Palace, modern, high-quality condominiums are scheduled for construction in the upcoming years.
Milestones in the history of Esterhazy
The passing of Prince Dr. Paul V. Esterházy
Establishment of the first foundation by Melinda Esterházy
Founding of Esterhazy Betriebe GmbH
Foundation of the organic farm Bio-Landgut Esterhazy
Esterházy Treasury at Forchtenstein Castle opened for the first time
First organic Angus cattle at the Bio-Landgut Esterhazy
Construction of the Weingut Esterhazy winery in Trausdorf
First contemporary exhibition, Central Europe Revisited I
Renovation of the museum at Lackenbach Palace
New exhibition, Haydn explosive. Music from revolutionary times in the Esterházy Palace
Acquisition of the Pauliberg basalt works
Inauguration of the Esterhazy Art Award as part of NOW – Esterhazy Contemporary
Integration of Esterházy Palace into the managed property
Start of the opera production: Don Giovanni
First festival.Esterhazy (predecessor of classic.Esterhazy)
Construction of the Selektion Vinothek Burgenland
Restitution of the Bibliotheca Esterházyana, Esterházy Palace
New concert series, classic. Esterhazy at Esterházy Palace
Opening of the Kulinarium Burgenland market hall
The passing of Princess Melinda Esterházy
Acquisition of Opera in the Quarry
New opening of Restaurant Henrici
Opening of Café Restaurant Grenadier
Opening of the Kalandahaus at Weingut Esterhazy
Beginning of cooperation with Schlosspark Festivals
New exhibition at the Esterházy Palace, Melinda Esterházy
Conferment of the PEFC Award
PANNATURA brand launch
Awarded the Wildlife Estates Label
New festival format, HERBSTGOLD Festival in Eisenstadt
Opening of the guest house Zum Oberjäger, Lackenbach Palace
Austria’s first Organic Field Days (Biofeldtage) at the Esterhazy organic farm
Conclusion of an agreement in principle with the province of Burgenland and launch of the Festivalsommer Neusiedler See
Start of construction for the redesign of the Breitenbrunn seaside resort
Acquisition of the Eisenstadt Orangery