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Zdeněk Bakala

Zdeněk Bakala is a Czech-born businessman and financier who co-founded BXR, a diversified investment group with a global portfolio of assets.

Born in Opava in the Silesian region of Czechoslovakia in 1961, he determined to leave his communist-ruled homeland after being denied the chance to study at a school of his choosing, and while on a trip to what was then Yugoslavia in 1980 he crossed into Austria, sought asylum and thereafter made his way to America.

He graduated with a degree in economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and then gained an MBA at the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire. In 1989 he took a job at the Drexel Burnham Lambert investment bank in New York, and then moved to Bank of America. In 1990 he joined Credit Suisse First Boston in London, where he was in charge of the Czechoslovakia desk. In 1991 he returned to Czechoslovakia to open the Prague office of CSFB, and was managing director of the bank’s operations in Czechoslovakia and, after 1993, the Czech Republic. In 1994 Mr. Bakala established Patria Finance, the Czech Republic’s first independent full-service investment bank, which in 2001 was acquired by the Belgian bank, KBC. Mr. Bakala remained Chief Executive Officer of Patria until early 2002 and served as its Chairman until May 2002.

As an investment banker with CSFB and Patria, Mr. Bakala played a key role in Czechoslovakia’s privatization programme and the formation of a viable capital market during the country’s transition to an open, free market economy. He advised the Czechoslovak government on the landmark strategic sale of Skoda Auto to Germany’s Volkswagen Group, he was an advisor during the privatization of SPT Telecom, the Czech Republic’s telecommunications provider, and later served on the board of its successor, Česky Telecom. Mr. Bakala advised the Czech government on the creation of Česká rafinérská, a vehicle that grouped together the country’s oil refining assets ahead of investments from Conoco, Agip and Shell. He was actively engaged in the privatization and restructuring of many Czech and Slovak companies, including, for example, Becherovka, the famous Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) drinks producer that was acquired by Pernod Ricard of France, the Slovak white goods maker Tatramat (acquired by Whirlpool) and BAZ Bratislava (acquired by the Volkswagen Group).

While at CSFB, Mr. Bakala launched the first Czechoslovak government bond. Under his leadership Patria Finance developed an asset management business, built a large M&A practice and pioneered the provision of corporate finance products and services to Czech companies during the 1990s, including the first corporate bond. Mr. Bakala was a member of the preparatory committee that worked on the establishment of the Prague Stock Exchange and was a member of the board of the Exchange from day one; from 2005 to 2010 he was a member of its supervisory board.

In 2004 he led what was then Central Europe’s largest ever leveraged buy out when the predecessor to BXR acquired the Karbon Invest group, a Czech mining and resources trading concern centred around OKD, a coal mining company that has its roots in the iron and coal business founded by the Rothschild family in the 19th century. BXR undertook a textbook restructuring of Karbon Invest’s 56 companies to create several stand-alone businesses, including Advanced World Transport, a rail and logistics company, Green Gas International, a clean energy company, RPG Real Estate, which manages one of the largest residential property portfolios in Central Europe, and New World Resources (NWR), Central Europe’s leading hard coal and coke producer. Mr. Bakala and BXR took NWR public in 2008 via an Initial Public Offering on the London, Prague and Warsaw stock exchanges. The flotation of NWR valued the company at approximately £3.5 billion – the largest IPO on the London market that year, and to date the largest transaction of its kind in the Central European region. Mr. Bakala is vice-chairman of NWR plc.

In 2006 Mr. Bakala acquired a majority interest in, and so rescued, the Czech Republic’s highly regarded current affairs and news-analysis weekly magazine, Respekt, and in 2008 he and BXR acquired Economia, the leading publisher of business newspapers and magazines in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Today, BXR is a truly global investment group with holdings in the Americas, Europe and Asia. BXR has interests in coal, iron ore, transport and logistics, financial services, commercial and residential property, green energy, furniture, healthcare, publishing, retail and others. www.bxrgroup.com

Mr. Bakala is a keen cyclist, and in 2011 he concluded the acquisition of a majority shareholding in Omega Pharma Quick Step, an international professional cycle racing team that is based in Belgium.

Mr. Bakala’s philanthropy includes the creation in 2007 and endowment of the Nadace Zdenka Bakaly (Zdenek Bakala Foundation), which provides scholarships to Czech students studying abroad, and has provided support for other educational charities, including the PORG school in Ostrava. In 2010 he and his wife created the Fondation Zdenek et Michaela Bakala, which provides scholarships and supports human rights causes such as the Aspen Institute and the Vaclav Havel Presidential Library.

He is married to Michaela, the former Miss Czechoslovakia 1991, who successfully developed an active major luxury goods and lifestyle group in Central Europe. Zdeněk and Michaela have three children: Anabel, Aron and Aram. From his first marriage Mr. Bakala has a son, Franklyn. Mr. Bakala holds US and Czech citizenship, and lives just outside of Geneva, Switzerland.”