Is Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínský buying into West Ham just for the football?

Daniel Křetínský

Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínský is in advanced talks to buy a 27 percent stake in the London-based English Premier League club West Ham United. There are also rumours based on sources close to the Czech businessman that he may aim to eventually buy a majority stake in the club. But is the Czech billionaire really in it just for the football? And what kind of an owner would he be?

To find out, I spoke to football pundit Jiří Hošek, who was the former Czech Radio correspondent in Britain and host of a Premier League podcast. He says he is sceptical about Křetínský eventually purchasing a majority stake in West Ham United.

“I am not sceptical concerning the content and the intention. However, I am rather sceptical about the financial scale.

“The media in the UK are talking about 600-700 million pounds, which would not be equivalent to the 27 percent minority stake in the shares of West Ham, but rather a majority holding. Admittedly, Daniel Křetínský is the fourth richest Czech. But making such an acquisition would eat up a very large share of the overall money that he has at his disposal.

“That said, there are certainly gains to be had through this transition. What I can confirm though, is that this whole thing is not a rumour. It is really happening. It is an operation that has probably been ongoing for several months.”

Yes, it should be noted that Mr. Křetínský also has major stakes in the UK companies Royal Mail and J Sainsbury. Do you think Křetínský’s purchase of West Ham could be a precursor for his further economic activities in Britain aside from football?

Adam Hložek | Photo: Tadeáš Bednarz,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

“I fully agree. We have to realise that Křetínský’s economic empire – EPH – does most of its business abroad, whether it is in Germany, France or Britain. It would make sense for Mr Křetinský to move his main headquarters from Prague to London for example. It would also help him to make his mark on the British scene, in order to do further business there.”

If we move back to the football, there were reports that Křetinský wants to set up a partnership between West Ham United and Sparta Prague, the Czech football club that he already owns. I understand that for some West Ham fans this could be a welcome opportunity to sign Czech striker Adam Hložek, who is a Sparta player?

“That’s very true. West Ham is already enjoying the services of three Czech players – Vladimír Coufal, Tomáš Souček and Alex Král. Adam Hložek is very much on the horizon for West Ham.

“Speaking about the possibility of close collaboration between West Ham and Sparta Prague, or, to be more precise, the possibility of both of these clubs having the same owner, I have to say that there is one major obstacle. Namely, the rule of UEFA that you cannot have two clubs in UEFA competitions in the same year while having the same owner.

“Therefore, if West Ham was to qualify for next year’s Europa League and Sparta Prague qualifies for the Conference League, Mr Křetinský would have to decide which club is going to participate in the UEFA competition. Most likely, and this should make Sparta fans very nervous, he would go for West Ham. That would just ban Sparta Prague from taking part in this competition.”

That perhaps also sheds some further doubt on whether Mr Křetínský will purchase the majority stake in West Ham?


West Ham | Photo: Jiří Malina,  Czech Radio

If I was a West Ham or general Premier League fan who has only heard of Daniel Křetinský from the recent headlines, what should I know about him? What kind of an owner of Sparta Prague has he been?

“He is a very passionate owner. I think that getting involved in football matters to him at the club level more than would be desirable. There are some very dramatic stories being told behind the curtains about his involvement in choosing the line-up, the coaches and discussing the team’s tactics.

“West Ham fans should be very relaxed about the reputation of Daniel Křetinský, if we are talking about this in comparison with the recent acquisition of Newcastle United by the Saudi Royal Fund. There is a very transparent record of Mr Křetínský’s fortune, so we can say that he is not one of these dodgy Central and Eastern European tycoons whose sources of money we can’t track.

“This is perhaps an optimistic note for West Ham United fans.”

So, if I understand you correctly, there would be money for the club but West Ham manager David Moyes would perhaps have to face some enthusiastic attempts at intervention in his tactics. Is that the case?

“That’s the case. There is a fantastic story that has been circulating in Czech football for quite some time.

“Sparta Prague was apparently seriously considering hiring Jindřich Trpišovský, the manager of Sparta’s Prague rivals Slavia. Mr Trpišovský had a lengthy meeting with the Sparta Prague owner in his office in downtown Prague. Mr Křetinský was simply not convinced that coach Trpišovský had sufficiently explained how his full backs, while they were attacking, would return to their defensive positions quick enough. That was allegedly the main reason why the contract fell through.

“So this is the way in which Mr Křetinský is involved in running the club, something that is not very common in the Premier League.”