Who is 'Czech Sphinx' and potential new Royal Mail boss Daniel Kretinsky?

Daniel Kretinsky is on the cusp of becoming the new man in charge of the Royal Mail.

The board of its parent company, International Distribution Services (IDS), announced on Wednesday it had agreed to a takeover by Mr Kretinsky's EP Group, which has valued the firm at £5.3bn.

The deal must first be approved by IDS's shareholders and regulators before it can go ahead.

But who is Mr Kretinsky and what is his background?

The 48-year-old is ranked 33rd on The Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated net worth of £6bn - up £2bn since 2023.

Low profile

He is known as the "Czech Sphinx" - a reference to the mysterious mythical creature - reportedly due to his enigmatic nature and reluctance to speak about his investments in public.

Mr Kretinsky is known for keeping a low-profile and rarely gives interviews, but is said to be a keen Anglophile.

Czech journalist Michael Mares once described him to the New York Times as someone whom "you can actually meet downtown, or see driving his [Porsche] Panamera... he lives here, but he's not someone who will be in a paper."

What is his background?

Mr Kretinsky was born into a high-achieving family in the Czech city of Brno. His mother was a top judge, while his father was a doctor of computer science.

After graduating with a degree in political science, he worked as a lawyer before joining investment group J&T Finance Group in 1999.

He quickly rose up its ranks to become a partner in 2003, before making his first significant investment a year later in Czech football team Sparta Prague.

Mr Kretinsky is now the co-owner of his boyhood club and reportedly holds a 40% share.

What are his other investments?

The billionaire made much of his fortune from energy and fossil-fuel investments, but has a variety of business interests in countries spanning his home nation, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, the Netherlands and the UK.

They include Eustream, which moves Russian gas via pipelines running through Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and sportswear retailer Footlocker.

Read more: Many are mystified why a Czech billionaire wants to buy Royal Mail's owner

In 2009 he became heavily involved in the founding of J&T’s energy investment company EPH. He is the current chairman and majority shareholder of the now multi-billion pound company, which is part of a network of linked firms.

In 2018 he snapped up a 49% stake in French Newspaper Le Monde, followed by a 3.05% stake in Sainsbury's two years later - becoming its fourth-largest shareholder.

He later raised his investment in the supermarket chain to nearly 10%.

Mr Kretinsky made another splash into the UK market in 2021 when he bought a 27% stake in West Ham United football club - a deal worth £150m which was first revealed by Sky News.

His EP Group already owns 27.6% of the Royal Mail.

What does he spend his money on?

Mr Kretinsky owns a 15-bedroom house in London's Bishop Avenue - known as billionaire's row - which he bought for £65m in 2015 and once rented to pop star Justin Bieber for a reputed £25,000 a week.

He also spent €21.5m (£18.3m) buying a Parisian townhouse down the road from the Elysee Palace from Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev.

The billionaire also owns a 25% share of the Velaa exclusive private island resort in the Maldives.

He lives near his office in Prague and has been redeveloping a property near Sparta's ground known as Villa Kapsa, which was formerly the Iranian embassy.