Petr Kellner, Czechia’s Richest Man, Dies in Heliskiing Accident

Petr Kellner. Photo: EPA-EFE/PPF GROUP

The reclusive billionaire's death leaves uncertain the fate of a business empire stretching from the Czech Republic, through Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), to Russia and China. The 56-year-old Kellner was also believed in recent years to be playing a significant role in Czech politics, pushing, alongside President Milos Zeman, for closer links with Moscow and Beijing.

Kellner, whose net worth was estimated at 17.5 billion dollars (14.8 billion euros) by Forbes, was one of five people killed during a heliskiing trip to the Knik Glacier, around 80 kilometres east of the city of Anchorage. A sixth person is in a serious but stable condition.

"With great sadness, PPF announces that on March 27, 2021, majority shareholder of PPF Mr. Petr Kellner tragically passed away in a helicopter accident in the Alaskan mountains. The incident, in which 5 lives were lost, is under investigation," the company statement said. "Petr Kellner was 56 years old. His professional life was known for his incredible work ethic and creativity, but his private life belonged to his family. His funeral will be held with only close family members."

It was five years after graduating from Prague's University of Economics in 1986 that Kellner established the První privatizační fond (PPF) to take advantage of the infamous Czechoslovak voucher privatisation scheme, which proved the starting point for many a Czech oligarch. Holding just under 99 per cent of PPF Group, Kellner has sat at the head of the group during its three and a half decades of expansion.

Although concentrating on insurance and finance assets picked up during privatisation in its early years, PPF soon turned to other sectors and countries. Energy,...

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