UK

Who is Daniel Kretinsky, the Czech billionaire trying to buy Royal Mail?

The businessman, known as the ‘Czech sphinx’ because of his quiet, inscrutable style, could take over the 500-year-old organisation.

Daniel Kretinsky is already a 27% shareholder in Royal Mail’s parent company
Daniel Kretinsky is already a 27% shareholder in Royal Mail’s parent company (Alamy Stock Photo)

The board of Royal Mail’s parent company has accepted a £3.57 billion offer to buy the group from Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky.

If the deal goes through, it would see the organisation become part of Mr Kretinsky’s company, EP Group.

But who is Mr Kretinsky – and why is he trying to buy the postal service?

– How did Daniel Kretinsky make his money?

The Czech billionaire is trying to buy Royal Mail for £3.57 billion
The Czech billionaire is trying to buy Royal Mail for £3.57 billion (Rui Vieira/PA)

The 48-year-old, known as the “Czech sphinx” because of his quiet, inscrutable style, is an entrepreneur and lawyer with a net worth of £6 billion, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

He built his fortune in the energy industry, and has assets spanning the Czech Republic, 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.

– Why does he want to buy Royal Mail?

Mr Kretinsky is already a 27% shareholder in Royal Mail’s parent company, International Distribution Services (IDS).

When he most recently upped his stake in 2022, ministers said they would launch a national security probe into the company, but eventually cleared the stake holding.

Mr Kretinsky said in a statement on Wednesday 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”.

He has built up holdings in several well-known British brands, including Sainsbury’s
He has built up holdings in several well-known British brands, including Sainsbury’s

– What else does he invest in?

Mr Kretinsky is not immune to the trappings of the modern billionaire, and owns several football clubs including Sparta Prague, his boyhood club, and a 27% stake in West Ham United.

He has also built up holdings in several well-known British brands, including a 10% stake in supermarket giant Sainsbury’s and sportswear retailer Footlocker.

Mr Kretinsky has a 25% stake in an exclusive private island resort in the Maldives, called Velaa.

And he owns one of Britain’s most expensive homes, the 15-bedroom Heath Hall in Hampstead, which he bought for £65 million in 2015.

– Will he change Royal Mail?

With its roots dating back more than 500 years, Royal Mail employs more than 150,000 people and is still seen as a key part of national infrastructure, despite being privatised in 2013.

According to his takeover offer, Mr Kretinsky has no immediate intentions to change that, with a promise to maintain key public services including one-price-goes-anywhere first class post six days a week.

The offer also includes a promise to keep the company’s branding and UK headquarters for at least five years.

Mr Kretinsky said he has “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”.

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch indicated earlier this month that any deal will come under government scrutiny
Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch indicated earlier this month that any deal will come under government scrutiny (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

– What happens next?

Royal Mail shareholders will vote on the deal at their next meeting on September 27.

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch also indicated earlier this month that any deal will come under government scrutiny, having met with IDS bosses in May for talks.

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds said he would hold Mr Kretinsky to his promises.

He said if Labour wins the General Election, it “will take the necessary steps to safeguard [Royal Mail’s] undeniable identity and place in public life”.