Tuesday, January 31

Fund owned by secretive ‘Czech sphinx’ buys €43m château near Paris – reports | France

An investment vehicle linked to Daniel Křetínský, a secretive Czech billionaire who owns stakes in Royal Mail, J Sainsbury and West Ham United, has bought a castle near Paris for €43m (£37m), according to filings seen by Bloomberg.

Křetínský’s fund is said to have bought the more than 100-room Château du Marais in the village of Val-Saint-Germain, a town of about 1,400 people about 40km south-west of Paris, and plans to convert it into a luxury hotel and equestrian complex.

The castle, which has been referred to by French media as a “little Versailles”, was previously owned by the Frotier de Bagneux and Pourtalès families for more than a century, according to Le Monde.

Representatives of Křetínský did not respond to requests for comment from the Guardian. His spokesperson told Bloomberg that the purchase is a 50-50 joint investment with Jiří Šmejc, the chief executive of the Czech investment group owned by the billionaire Kellner family. A representative of Křetínský told Le Monde they were unable to comment.

Serge Deloges, the mayor of Val-Saint-Germain, told Bloomberg: “The plan is to completely renovate the interior to create a luxury hotel. This can only be good for the town.”

Křetínský, 46, also owns Sparta Prague football club, and is estimated to be worth about £3bn. His girlfriend is the champion show jumper Anna Kellnerová, 25, the daughter of the late Czech businessman Petr Kellner, who was once the country’s richest person.

Known as the “Czech sphinx” for his low public profile, Křetínský has made a fortune snapping up unloved assets, including aging coal power stations now given a new lease of life by the energy crisis.

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In the US, he bought stakes in the department store Macy’s and the trainer retailer Foot Locker, while in Europe he holds positions in the German retailer turned wholesaler Metro and France’s Le Monde newspaper.

Last week the government said it would launch a national security review into the ownership of Royal Mail, after it emerged that Křetínský, who was already the company’s largest shareholder, had increased his stake.

Royal Mail said it has received a notification from the government that its top shareholder, Vesa Equity Investment, controlled by Křetínský, could increase its stake to more than 25%.

Vesa has confirmed it had set out its intention to take its stake above 25% on 13 July. Vesa held 22% of the company in its most recent disclosure in July.

Křetínský has not commented in detail on his intentions for Royal Mail since he became its largest shareholder in 2020.


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