Czech Republic’s richest man dies in Alaska helicopter crash

Petr Kellner

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Billionaire Petr Kellner among five killed including guests, pilot and guides, with one survivor

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

The 56-year-old was among the passengers and pilot killed on Saturday in the crash near Knik glacier north-east of Anchorage, Alaska state troopers said. One survivor was taken to hospital, they said, adding the group had been on a heliski tour.

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

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

Kellner was a towering business figure of the Czech post-communist era, with his wealth estimated at $17.5bn (£12.6bn), according to Forbes. He started out selling photocopying machines as the country opened up after the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

He set up PPF with partners to take part in the country’s privatisation of hundreds of state-owned companies. The group expanded into finance, telecommunications, manufacturing, media and biotech, amassing assets of €44bn 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, which started lending there as the first fully foreign-owned firm in 2010. The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, has sought warm relations with China, and Kellner took part in Zeman’s meeting with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, in China 2014.

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

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