Georg Weifert (1850–1937)

Georg Weifert (or Đorđe Vajfert in Serbian) was the principal industrialist in late-nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Serbia. He made his first fortune in brewing and later he developed mining in the country.

He was born in Pantschowa (now Penčevo) in Austria-Hungary, on the border with Serbia and across the River Danube from Belgrade. His family were German; his grandfather came to Pantschowa after 1800 and established a brewery which was expanded by Georg’s father, Ignaz (1826-1911). Georg was educated in Pantschowa, then at the commercial academy in Budapest and finally at the brewing school at Weihenstephan near Munich. After graduating in 1872 he moved to Belgrade where, with his father’s support, he built a very large modern brewery. He took partnerships in other breweries in Serbia and became one of the richest people in the country. He became a Serbian citizen and was an influential governor of the national bank of Serbia (later of Yugoslavia) for much of the period from 1890 to 1926.

In the late 1890s Weifert began to be interested in mining, at first because he wanted coal for his breweries. He opened a coal mine at Kostolac, about 50 km east along the Danube. This attracted him to other mining opportunities and he began to prospect for minerals, investing large amounts of money in equipment and expertise and creating an institute for mine exploration at Glogovica. In 1903 he became the owner of mining rights at Bor in the east of the country. After spending so much on exploration he could develop the mine only by creating a limited company with French capital, keeping one fifth of the shares himself. The mine at Bor became the largest copper producer in Europe and continues to operate today.

Weifert went on to explore gold mines successfully and operate a porcelain factory at Zaječar. He and his wife had no children. They gave generously to social, religious, scientific and cultural causes. The Weifert businesses were inherited by his nephew and nationalised after the Second World War. He is commemorated by his portrait on Serbian banknotes.