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Renata Kellnerova, the richest woman in Eastern Europe, turned her empire westward. international business news

when the richest man Eastern Europe He died in a helicopter crash, his wife’s name hardly known.
Nearly three years later, that is no longer the case. Renata Kelnerova Now synonymous with family business – Prague-based telecommunications, media, financial services and e-commerce Empire It employs 61,000 people and operates in 25 countries.
In the region, PPF is perhaps best known as the owner of private TV stations in six countries in Eastern Europe and as one of the largest phone companies in the Czech Republic.
With assets of $43 billion, PPF has emerged as one of the main winners of the Czech Republic’s post-communist transition, a success that Kellnerova’s late husband Petr Kellner capitalized on by expanding into the fast-growing markets of Russia and China . But as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has thrown geopolitics and business into turmoil, many companies, including PPF, are now prioritizing growth closer to home.
In an email exchange with Bloomberg News – her first public comments to the media since taking charge of PPF – Kelnerova recalled the challenging time she spent familiarizing herself with the company’s complex operations following her husband’s sudden death.
“The first priority was to secure the sustainability of PPF and then start growing the business again,” he said. “I realized that PPF is personal to me and my job is to prepare our children so that they have the possibility of taking leadership of the group themselves one day.”
Since taking control, the 56-year-old has left his mark on the company. She is overseeing a major move away from Asia – once a major source of income – and has shifted her focus back towards Western markets. She has chosen a new chief executive and cut ties with some of her late husband’s close associates. He brought the company under full family ownership by buying out two minority shareholders, then named himself and his three daughters to the board of a new holding company that held all of his assets.
Now the wealthiest woman in the region, with her family’s net worth estimated at about $11.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Kelnerova is devoting more and more time to making major investment decisions. She cites her close collaboration with PPF CEO Jiri Smezak, one of Kellner’s former investment partners, as central to her approach.
“If the situation requires, we are able to take decisions about deals in just a weekend,” he said. “We are proud of PPF for being very flexible in responding to investment opportunities.”
Under Kellnerova, PPF has finalized several major transactions, including agreeing the €2.15 billion sale of a controlling stake in telecommunications operations in Eastern and Central Europe to Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Telecom Group Company. The company also includes its consumer finance division, Home Credit Group BV. Agreed to sell its Philippine and Indonesian businesses in 2022 in a deal worth about €615 million ($669 million).
This helped boost the PPF’s profitability to pre-pandemic levels, with first-half net income of €709 million in 2023. This compares with a loss of €406 million the previous year, mostly due to costly withdrawals from Russia.
Although there is no exact timeline yet for a full exit from Asia, “the main focus of our business going forward West Over the past three years,” Kelnerova said.
With excess cash on hand and high interest rates hitting valuations of privately owned and publicly traded assets, PPF is scanning Europe for new acquisition targets. Its biggest purchases to date are taking a stake in Polish e-commerce company InPost SA, which operates self-service delivery lockers, and building a stake in German broadcaster ProSiebensat.1 Media SE.
Like her late husband, Kelnerova keeps a low public profile and closely guards her family’s privacy. She would not disclose specific investment targets her company is or may be eyeing. The PPF plans to maintain its four primary investment pillars – financial services, telecom, media and e-commerce – but, he said, “it does not rule out small opportunistic investments.”
Since the group is not a typical investment fund with a fixed horizon for holding its assets, “we can be patient,” he said. “This is why short-term returns are not the primary parameter when we are considering an investment opportunity.”
The PPF, now a complex network of companies, began its rise soon after the fall of communism. Kellner founded the company in the early 1990s, when then-Czechoslovakia began selling state assets through a program that issued vouchers that people could exchange for shares in either companies or funds. Could have kept in.
In 1991, Kellner established a fund to acquire stakes in 202 companies. According to the firm, it ended up handling the sixth largest batch of assets available at the time, which then became known as PPF Group. Over time, PPF built a 20% stake in Ceska Pozistovna, the country’s largest insurance company, creating the foundation of Kellner’s wealth. He raised money by selling insurance assets to Italy’s Generali in a $3.3 billion deal in 2013.
As Kellner built his empire, his wife joined the Kellner Family Foundation, one of the first philanthropic organizations in the Czech Republic, which has donated approximately 2 billion koruna ($89 million) to social projects and scholarships . Kelnerova brings this perspective to her new approach, describing PPF as “social responsibility that reaches beyond the scope of business”.
As well as the PPF, a handful of other ultra-wealthy Czech families emerged following the communist sale of state assets, including property magnate Radovan Vitek and energy tycoon Pavel Tyček, one of Europe’s largest real-estate investors. . Companies owned by billionaires living in the Czech Republic now employ thousands of workers across the continent and have played a vital role in the region’s economies.
He has also done the investigation. In an interview late last year, former Czech President Miloš Zeman criticized the privatization process for creating a sharp wealth gap in the former communist nation. Yet Zeman was a major supporter of Kellner, and was even awarded the highest state honor after the tycoon was killed in a helicopter crash during a trip to Alaska.
Zeman said, “I really value Petr Kellner, we worked well together.”
PPF also faced criticism from the local investor community when it moved to pull the country’s largest traded phone company from the Prague Stock Exchange, reducing its market capitalization but giving the group full control. This process was finalized in 2022.
While most close associates and former employees have kept quiet about PPF’s new leadership, Ladislav Bartonišek, one of PPF’s former minority owners, spoke in an interview with the country’s largest business daily newspaper, Hospodarske Noviny, in September. Shared your thoughts.
“The responsibility is different for the very actively involved Renata and the second generation,” he told the newspaper. “It’s no longer a one-man company – in a good way. Shareholders will be more conservative. The question is who will be most involved in the family in the future.
Kellnerova’s former and current business partners declined to be interviewed for this story. Of his three daughters, the only one with a public profile is Anna, a 27-year-old show-jumping rider who competed at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
The company has long been proud of its well-established culture, he said, and Kellnerova wishes for the family to remain PPF’s majority owner for decades to come. With her own children at different stages of life, she wants to give them an insight into the company’s operations.
“When he is ready, I will hand over the main responsibility to him with a clear conscience,” she said. “I’m not worried about the future, because they’re already taking part in running our companies to some extent.”

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