Kretinsky insists the West Ham takeover is low on the priority list

  • Czech billionaire Kretinsky poised to complete £3.5 billion purchase of Royal Mail
  • The 48-year-old is West Ham’s second largest shareholder after David Sullivan
  • CHRIS SUTTON: Fans are fed up with VAR… but it’s here to stay – Listen to the It’s All Kicking Off podcast



Firstly, the Royal Mail. Next, Westham? Sources close to Daniel Kretinsky spoke on Thursday about a reluctance to expand his English empire by buying one of the Premier League’s most iconic clubs, although tellingly each answer was accompanied by an asterisk.

The caveat was that it wasn’t nicknamed the “Czech Sphinx” for nothing. Kretinsky earned that nickname because of his enigmatic nature; an inscrutability that has helped make this former lawyer the 48-year-old billionaire he is today. Never say never, in other words.

But as he approaches his landmark £3.5bn takeover of Royal Mail, aides have insisted that a Kretinsky-led takeover of West Ham is low on his list of priorities. One joke even says we’re more likely to lick the back of a Mark Noble stamp. .

That will undoubtedly disappoint those hoping he can be the tycoon with pockets deep enough to take them to the next level. The Roman Abramovich to their Chelsea, if that’s not too crude a comparison for a businessman whose investment in the Eustream pipeline recently led to a Daily Telegraph headline that read: ‘How Russian gas is fueling a bid for Royal Mail.’

Kretinsky spent around £160 million to secure 27 percent of West Ham in November 2021, making him the club’s second-largest shareholder behind David Sullivan’s 38.8 percent.

Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky is closing in on purchasing Royal Mail for £3.5 billion
Kretinsky is West Ham’s second largest shareholder after David Sullivan (pictured)

Since then, Kretinsky has not tried to increase his stakes. Not even in October 2023, when David Gold’s daughter Vanessa informed her fellow investors that she was putting some of her shares up for sale – an opportunity that offered him a potential path to majority ownership.

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Sources added on Thursday that Sullivan is unwilling to give up even a fraction of his percentage, with the 75-year-old expecting no change in the current ownership distribution in the short term.

Kretinsky is not involved in football decisions at West Ham as that would be against UEFA rules due to his involvement with youth club Sparta Prague. Jiri Svarc and Pavel Horkey – his right-hand men at the Premier League club – report to him instead. When the decision was made to sign David Moyes, sources insist Kretinsky had no say at all.

We know he likes listening to Pink Floyd and U2. We know he will read anything written by Milan Kundera or Josef Skvoerecky. What is not known, however, is exactly how many games he has attended in his spare time this season.

A West Ham director estimated on Thursday that he has seen him at the London Stadium six times, spending most of his time crisscrossing Europe by private jet in search of the next deal.

SHAREHOLDER DISTRIBUTION OF WEST HAM:

David Sullivan 38.8%

Gold family 25.1%

WHU LLC/J Albert Smith 8.0%

Other investors 1.1%

1890s holdings as/Daniel Kretinsky 27.0%

Kretinsky released his brutal program for the party in Prague in June 2023. He was never going to miss the Europa Conference League win over Fiorentina at the home of Slavia Prague, his beloved Sparta’s fierce rivals.

He was particularly pleased that the team included two Czechs, Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal, having already developed an affinity with West Ham in 1990 when Ludek Miklosko – the man from the Moscow area, as the favorite chant of the fans reads – the one that first arrived in English football.

Sparta have been described as Kretinsky’s ‘first love’ and sources say affinity is a key reason why an all-out takeover of West Ham is unlikely to happen. Kretinsky believes that an owner must have a concrete bond with his club. The word ‘guilty’ is used as he explains how he would feel if he took over the English giants, while still considering himself an outsider.

That belief may be at odds with the fact that he is about to own an entity so quintessentially British that the red boxes adorn our street corners, but Kretinsky sees football as distinct from his other business activities because of the emotions involved accompany it.

Kretinsky is not involved in football decisions at West Ham, as that would be against UEFA rules, due to his involvement with youth club Sparta Prague

You have to earn the right to elevate yourself to a majority stake, he insists, even as the Premier League swims in with overseas owners elsewhere.

Minority ownership is where he feels most comfortable at West Ham. At least for now, because when it comes to the ‘Czech Sphinx’, you never know.

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