Irons In the Fire: Czech Billionaire Reportedly Honing In on Major Stake In West Ham

West Ham Stadium

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A billionaire known as the ‘Czech Sphinx’ is reportedly just days away from securing a huge stake in West Ham United.

Daniel Kretinsky, who is already a major shareholder in the Royal Mail and supermarket chain Sainsburys, apparently wants to purchase as much as 27% of the London club – before potentially pursuing a full takeover.

If the deal is ratified and the 46-year-old passes due diligence tests, the move could be completed in as quickly as a week’s time, according to Sky News. There would also be an option in the paperwork for Kretinsky to be able to complete a full ownership takeover within a specified period of time.

It comes just a matter of weeks since Newcastle United’s takeover was completed, with the Magpies almost overnight becoming the richest club on the planet thanks to the riches of the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund.

While Kretinsky can’t compete on the level financially, Forbes have valued his worth at an estimated $4 billion (£2.9 billion) – placing him 75th on the list of the world’s richest business people.

And according to the same sources quoted in the Sky News report, the amount he will fork out for his roughly quarter-stake in West Ham would value the club at around the £650 million mark.

It has long been rumoured that there are cashflow issues behind the scenes at the Hammers, with joint owners David Gold and David Sullivan reportedly happy to sell a stake in the club to the right bidder.

Indeed, as long ago as 2012 Gold admitted that he wanted to step aside for a ‘sugar daddy’ to take over.

Who is Daniel Kretinsky?

The self-made billionaire has business interests both in his home country and in England.

A fully qualified lawyer, Kretinsky’s first involvement in football came in 2004 when he took over as chairman of the Czech outfit Sparta Prague. He has since invested heavily in the club and holds a reported 40% stake in them.

As part of the J&T investment group, the 46-year-old has participated in a number of big deals and oversaw the foundation of Energeticky a Prumyslovy Holding – thankfully also known as EPH, who are one of the most prominent energy companies in the Czech Republic.

He has a hand on the media in his home country too having acquired the Czech News Center, and in 2018 he went international when purchasing a 49% stake in French newspaper Le Monde.

In 2020, Kretinsky moved into UK business investing, picking up a major share of Royal Mail and Sainsburys as well as pumping a sizable sum into Foot Locker – his holding company, Vesa Investment Equity, is now the biggest single shareholder in the footwear retailer.

West Ham fans might also like to know that Kretinsky is able to make tough decisions. He is currently dating the daughter of his business partner, the 24-year-old Olympic showjumper Anna Kellnerova. Imagine having to explain that over a coffee and a croissant in the meeting room!