24 November 2023

Daniel Kretinsky, during the 13th meeting of the Union of Media Consulting and Buying Companies, in Paris, September 5, 2019.

Daniel Kretinsky likes fossil fuels, publishing, television, newspapers… And mass distribution, as confirmed by the announcement, Wednesday March 22, of his increase in the capital of the distributor Fnac Darty, of which he now holds more than 25 % of shares. This makes him the largest shareholder of the company. The 47-year-old Czech billionaire (indirect shareholder of World), rich with a fortune estimated at 9.2 billion dollars (8.4 billion euros) by the American magazine Forbes, is an atypical investor: it bets in all directions on contested or struggling companies or sectors, such as Atos IT outsourcing services. In short, he often plays against the cycle. And France, in this regard, is one of its favorite playgrounds.

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Over the years and acquisitions, its assets have been structured, in Europe and particularly in France, around four poles: energy, mass distribution, media and publishing, sectors without synergies between them. “The Czech is on the prowl, attentive to all opportunities, wrote in 2020 Jérôme Lefilliâtre, journalist at Releasein his investigative book Mister K (Threshold, 288 pages). To believe that Kretinsky showed up in France with a specific and planned purpose in mind seems to us a mistake. »

After beginning his career with the J & T bank, this lawyer, a graduate of the University of Prague, changed direction very early on and bet on coal and gas. J & T creates an energy and industrial holding company, EPH, and propels it to its head, in 2009. No doubt he already had the ambition to make EPH a large diversified European group, because it appears as a European convinced. It will become the number one energy company in Central Europe.

Over the years and through acquisitions, its assets have been structured around four divisions with no synergy between them

In France, it really established itself in 2018, with the acquisition of the weekly Marianne and especially the resumption, a few months later, of the French activities of the German energy company Uniper, against the current of the objectives of the Paris agreement of 2015 on the climate. This quickly earned him, to his chagrin, the nickname “coal emperor”. And questions about his group, which then had some 300 companies. At the time, the FinancialTimes presents it as ” one of the dealmakers the most important in Europe ».

Another facet of the character questions: his bulimia for the press. With his presence in the world of the media, the man, who was not 15 during the Czech “velvet revolution” in 1989, wants to be the defender of media pluralism, a pillar of democracy in his eyes. . But the secret agreement entered into with a reference shareholder of the Worldthe investment banker Matthieu Pigasse, to enter the capital, was able to cast doubt on his desire to defend freedom of the press, which implies an ethic of transparency and sincerity.

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