Soros Eyes 99-Year Lease of Vienna Landmark After Hungary Clash

(Bloomberg) -- Central European University, the Budapest-based institution founded by George Soros that’s embroiled in a legal fight with the Hungarian government, is closing in on a 99-year lease of a landmark Vienna property to expand its presence in the region.

A memorandum of understanding “will soon be signed” that would open the Otto Wagner Areal to development by CEU, according to a statement by the city. The 144-hectare (356-acre) Art Nouveau site -- about the size of London’s Hyde Park -- was completed in 1907 and has housed medical and administrative facilities as well as housing and recreational grounds.

“For Vienna as a university town, cooperation with CEU offers the chance of a century," said Mayor Michael Haeupl.

Soros has been locked in a legal fight with Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has targeted Hungarian-born investor and philanthropist for promoting open societies via the university and non-governmental organizations. The European Union’s executive has filed a lawsuit against the Hungarian government for violating the bloc’s academic freedom by tightening rules against foreign-funded universities.

CEU President Michael Ignatieff said Monday that Budapest would remain the institution’s “home base.”

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