Czech billionaire Petr Kellner killed in Alaska helicopter crash

Czech billionaire Petr Kellner killed in Alaska helicopter crash

TRAGIC DEATH. An undated handout picture shows Czech billionaire Petr Kellner, who was killed in a helicopter crash in Alaska.

Photo from PPF Group/Reuters

The Czech Republic's richest man was a towering figure in the country's post-communist era

Petr Kellner, the Czech Republic’s richest man, was one of five people killed when their helicopter crashed on a skiing trip in Alaska.

Kellner, 56, was among the passengers and pilot killed on Saturday, March 27, in the crash near Knik Glacier northeast of Anchorage, Alaska State Troopers said.

One survivor was taken to hospital, they said, adding the group had been on a heli-ski tour.

Kellner avoided public attention but was known to be a keen skier. A picture of him snowboarding was published in one of the annual reports of his investment group, PPF.

The company in a statement expressed “deepest grief” at the death of its founder. He is survived by his wife Renata and four children.

Kellner was a towering figure in the Czech Republic’s post-communist era, amassing wealth estimated at $17.5 billion according to Forbes. He started out selling copy machines as the country opened up following the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

He set up PPF with partners to take part in the country’s privatization of hundreds of state-owned companies.

The group expanded into finance, telecommunications, manufacturing, media, and biotech, amassing assets of 44 billion euros ($51.8 billion) by mid-2020.

PPF is the main owner of a group of telecoms firms in central and eastern Europe including O2 Czech Republic.

It also owns Home Credit, an early entrant into the Chinese consumer lending market, starting lending there as the first fully foreign-owned firm in 2010.

Czech President Milos Zeman has sough warm relations with China, and Kellner took part in Zeman’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in China in 2014.

“The president held Petr Kellner in high esteem for his business success and is immensely sorry for his tragic death,” Zeman’s spokesman said.

PPF is currently acquiring a stake in MONETA Money Bank and has proposed merging it with its Air Bank and parts of Home Credit.

Moneta shares were down 2.7% in morning trade. –