Home / Royal Mail / Who is ‘Czech Sphinx’ and potential new Royal Mail boss Daniel Kretinsky? | Business News

Who is ‘Czech Sphinx’ and potential new Royal Mail boss Daniel Kretinsky? | Business News

Daniel Kretinsky is on the cusp of becoming the new man in charge of the Royal Mail.

The board of its parent company, International Distribution Services (IDS), announced on Wednesday it had agreed to a takeover by Mr Kretinsky’s EP Group, which has valued the firm at £5.3bn.

The deal must first be approved by IDS’s shareholders and regulators before it can go ahead.

But who is Mr Kretinsky and what is his background?

The 48-year-old is ranked 33rd on The Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated net worth of £6bn – up £2bn since 2023.

Low profile

He is known as the “Czech Sphinx” – a reference to the mysterious mythical creature – reportedly due to his enigmatic nature and reluctance to speak about his investments in public.

Mr Kretinsky is known for keeping a low-profile and rarely gives interviews, but is said to be a keen Anglophile.

Czech journalist Michael Mares once described him to the New York Times as someone whom “you can actually meet downtown, or see driving his [Porsche] Panamera… he lives here, but he’s not someone who will be in a paper.”

The billionaire reportedly holds a 40% share in Sparta Prague, pictured here in action against Liverpool earlier this year. Pic: Reuters

What is his background?

Mr Kretinsky was born into a high-achieving family in the Czech city of Brno. His mother was a top judge, while his father was a doctor of computer science.

After graduating with a degree in political science, he worked as a lawyer before joining investment group J&T Finance Group in 1999.

He quickly rose up its ranks to become a partner in 2003, before making his first significant investment a year later in Czech football team Sparta Prague.

Mr Kretinsky is now the co-owner of his boyhood club and reportedly holds a 40% share.

Daniel Kretinsky, 2nd from right, Czech co-owner of West Ham United and owner of AC Sparta Praha, and Member of the Board of West Ham United Jiri Svarc, right, are seen prior to the European Conference League final match: ACF Fiorentina vs West Ham United FC, on June 7, 2023, in Prague, Czech Republic. Photo/Ondrej Deml Photo/Ondrej Deml (CTK via AP Images)
Daniel Kretinsky, second from right, watches West Ham’s European Conference League final victory over Fiorentina last year. Pic: AP

What are his other investments?

The billionaire made much of his fortune from energy and fossil-fuel investments, but has a variety of business interests in countries spanning his home nation, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, the Netherlands and the UK.

They include Eustream, which moves Russian gas via pipelines running through Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and sportswear retailer Footlocker.

Read more: Many are mystified why a Czech billionaire wants to buy Royal Mail’s owner

In 2009 he became heavily involved in the founding of J&T’s energy investment company EPH. He is the current chairman and majority shareholder of the now multi-billion pound company, which is part of a network of linked firms.

In 2018 he snapped up a 49% stake in French Newspaper Le Monde, followed by a 3.05% stake in Sainsbury’s two years later – becoming its fourth-largest shareholder.

He later raised his investment in the supermarket chain to nearly 10%.

Mr Kretinsky made another splash into the UK market in 2021 when he bought a 27% stake in West Ham United football club – a deal worth £150m which was first revealed by Sky News.

His EP Group already owns 27.6% of the Royal Mail.

The fourth richest Czech and owner of Sparta football club and and director and major shareholder of English football club West Ham United - Czech billionaire's Daniel Kretinsky functionalist villa Kapsa (Kapsova villa) in Prague, Czech Republic, November 21, 2023. The family house of Lumir Kapsa (co-owner of the Prague based Kapsa - Muller construction company) constructed by the design of the architects Otakar Novotny, Adolf Loos and Karel Lhota in the functionalist style. Photo/Milos Ruml (CT
Mr Kretinsky’s villa in Prague. Pic: AP

What does he spend his money on?

Mr Kretinsky owns a 15-bedroom house in London’s Bishop Avenue – known as billionaire’s row – which he bought for £65m in 2015 and once rented to pop star Justin Bieber for a reputed £25,000 a week.

He also spent €21.5m (£18.3m) buying a Parisian townhouse down the road from the Elysee Palace from Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev.

The billionaire also owns a 25% share of the Velaa exclusive private island resort in the Maldives.

He lives near his office in Prague and has been redeveloping a property near Sparta’s ground known as Villa Kapsa, which was formerly the Iranian embassy.

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