Who is Daniel Kretinsky? The billionaire ‘Czech sphinx’ trying to buy Royal Mail

By Staff

The board of Royal Mail’s parent company has accepted a £3.57billion offer to buy the group from Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, but who is the man behind the bid?

The parent company of Royal Mail has accepted a £3.57billion offer from Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky to acquire the group. If the deal is successful, it would mean that the postal service would become part of Mr Kretinsky’s business empire, EP Group. But who exactly is this Czech tycoon and why is he interested in our postal service?

– How did Daniel Kretinsky make his money?

Daniel Kretinsky, 48, also known as the “Czech sphinx” due to his reserved and enigmatic demeanour, is an entrepreneur and lawyer with a staggering net worth of £6 billion, according to the Sunday Times Rich List. He amassed his wealth in the energy sector, owning assets across the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, the Netherlands and the UK.

These include Eustream, a company that transports Russian gas via pipelines running through Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

– Why does he want to buy Royal Mail?

Mr Kretinsky already owns a 27% share in Royal Mail’s parent company, International Distribution Services (IDS). In 2022, when he increased his stake, ministers announced they would initiate a national security investigation into the company, but eventually gave the green light to the stake holding.

On Wednesday, Mr Kretinsky stated that his company has “decades of experience in owning critical national infrastructure” and that IDS could “become one of the largest postal logistics groups in Europe”.

– What else does he invest in?

Mr Kretinsky, like many modern billionaires, enjoys the finer things in life. He owns several football clubs, including his childhood favourite, Sparta Prague, and holds a 27% stake in West Ham United. He also has investments in several well-known British brands, owning a 10% stake in supermarket giant Sainsbury’s and sportswear retailer Footlocker.

In addition, Mr Kretinsky owns a 25% stake in an exclusive private island resort in the Maldives, known as Velaa. He is also the owner of one of Britain’s priciest homes, the 15-bedroom Heath Hall in Hampstead, which he purchased for £65million in 2015.

– Will he change Royal Mail?

Royal Mail, with its history spanning over 500 years, employs more than 150,000 people and remains a crucial part of the national infrastructure, despite being privatised in 2013. According to his takeover bid, Mr Kretinsky has no immediate plans to alter this, pledging to maintain key public services such as the one-price-goes-anywhere first class post six days a week.

The offer also includes a commitment to retain the company’s branding and UK headquarters for at least five years. Mr Kretinsky expressed his deep respect for Royal Mail’s history and tradition, stating that owning the business would come with “the utmost respect for Royal Mail’s history and tradition, and I know that owning this business will come with enormous responsibility not just to the employees but to the citizens who rely on its services every day”.

– What happens next?

Royal Mail shareholders will have their say on the deal at their next meeting on September 27. Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch has also hinted that any potential deal will be closely examined by the government, following her meeting with IDS chiefs in May for discussions.

On the other side of the political divide, Labour’s shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds has vowed to keep Mr Kretinsky accountable to his commitments. He asserted that should Labour triumph in the General Election, they “will take the necessary steps to safeguard [Royal Mail’s] undeniable identity and place in public life”.

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