Czech Republic's richest man allows a rare interview

21-03-2002

The richest man in the Czech Republic says the time for cashing in on the country's 12-year transition to capitalism may have passed.

In a rare interview, 38-year-old financier Petr Kellner was quoted in Monday's Mlada fronta Dnes newspaper as saying there was no recipe for becoming a multi-millionaire.

Kellner's personal wealth is said to be around 15 billion Czech crowns (nearly half a million USD) - 75,000 times what the average Czech earns in a year. He was ranked by the media as the country's richest man in 2000 and 2001.

Kellner started making his fortune by selling office equipment in 1990, the first year of capitalism after nearly 50 years of communist rule.

"The past decade was a definite opportunity that perhaps will never repeat itself," Kellner said. "I was able to find capable people, judge risks and make short-term sacrifices for long-term projects."

Since the mid-1990s, Kellner has been the main stockholder and director of a private investment group, PPF. In addition to managing funds worth about 130 billion CZK, PPF controls the country's largest insurance firm, Ceska pojistovna.

In the early 1990s, Kellner was reportedly involved in the Russian cement business and some of his Czech business associates have been accused of ties to organized crime.

Monday's report was reportedly Kellner's first formal newspaper interview since he spoke with a Pravo reporter in 1996.

Mlada fronta Dnes said for security reasons it conducted the interview by email. Kellner lives reclusively in a villa in Vrane nad Vltavou, south of Prague.