The life of Petr Kellner is the story of an extraordinary entrepreneurial success in post-communist Europe. In his 32 years of business, the founder of PPF built the largest private investment group in Central and Eastern Europe. Today PPF Group operates in 25 countries in several industries, including financial services, telecommunications, engineering and biotechnology. Petr Kellner was also an active philanthropist who initiated the formation many non-profit projects, especially in the field of education and support for the arts. He grew up in Liberec, has always been proud of the Czech Republic, and has felt at home in the Czech Republic all his life. The development and success of Czech talent around the world was one of his primary business motives. He avoided public attention and was very careful about the privacy and protection of his family.
Petr Kellner graduated from the Secondary School of Economics (now the Academy of Commerce) in Liberec and then from the University of Economics and Business (VŠE) in Prague during the communist era. Following his university studies, one of his early jobs was production assistant at the Barrandov Film Studio. As he would later admit - like many other Czechs and Slovaks - he thought of emigrating at the time but never went into exile. Thanks to the Velvet Revolution in 1989, and taking advantage of the regime and societal change, he embarked on his entrepreneurial career in 1990. At first, he worked as a sales representative, but he soon seized the opportunity offered by the emerging transformation of the Czechoslovak economy and started his own company.
In September 1991, Petr Kellner launched the First Privatization Fund Management company (Správa prvního privatizačního fondu in Czech) which later became known under its Czech acronym PPF. The fund participated in the voucher privatization scheme for state-owned Czechoslovak companies. PPF was able to bid in the first round of the process thanks to a loan and capital injection from Czech glass maker Sklo Union. Petr Kellner later repaid the loan and bought out other shareholders to become PPF’s majority owner with a more than 90% stake. PPF became one of the ten most prominent investment funds in voucher privatization, as measured by asset value, with interests in various sectors. Unlike many other Czech privatization players at the time, PPF used its company portfolio as the basis for PPF Group's long-term development.
As early as the 1990s, Petr Kellner began to fulfill his long-term vision of building an international company with roots in the Czech Republic. His diligence and dogged perseverance, strategic thinking, willingness to take risks and ability to come up with new and novel ideas have been the driving force behind PPF throughout its history. Petr Kellner drove all of PPF's major transactions and business decisions. Key milestones include, among others, Czechoslovak privatization (1992), Russian privatization (1993), assuming the management, and then transformation, of insurer Ceska Pojistovna (2000), and the beginning of its expansion into global consumer finance under the Home Credit brand (2005). Later PPF cooperated closely with Generali (2007). It then entered the European telecommunications sector (2014) and invested in the commercial television broadcasting business in Central and South-Eastern Europe (2020). PPF has been an equal partner in several transactions with major global players, including Assicurazioni Generali of Italy, Telefónica of Spain, Telenor of Norway, and Time Warner and AT&T of the United States.
Since PPF's inception, Petr Kellner personally managed the entire Group's strategic development and its day-to-day operations. He surrounded himself with close associates, who formed the basis of a successful and loyal PPF team. Under his leadership, the Group successfully managed the impact of several financial and economic crises (both in the Czech Republic and abroad) and was able to use them to expand further. He was also the first Czech entrepreneur since Tomas Bata to become one of the world's biggest players: he first entered the Forbes magazine list of the world's wealthiest people in 2006.
In the Czech Republic, Petr Kellner was one of the biggest, but at the same time inconspicuous, philanthropists and patrons. He did not boast about his charitable work. With his wife Renata, Petr Kellner founded the Educa Foundation in 2002 and The Kellner Family Foundation in 2009 (the two foundations later merged). He was behind the Open Gate Grammar School and Primary School in Babice near Prague. The collection of photographs by Czech and Slovak artists curated and held by PPF Art - a unit of PPF Group - is one of the largest in the Czech Republic and is respected by photography experts worldwide.
Petr Kellner believed in liberal democracy, the free market, and capitalism. He was always opposed to excessive regulation and to any restrictions on personal freedoms. He loved his family, his work, and adrenaline sports. Unfortunately, one of those sports, snowboarding, was his undoing when he tragically died in a helicopter crash in Alaska on 28 March 2021. He was 57 years old.