Richest Czech man among 5 killed in Alaska helicopter crash

Richest Czech man among 5 killed in Alaska helicopter crash

Czech Republic’s richest man, Petr Kellner, is killed in Alaskan helicopter crash: Financier, 56, once linked with buying Chelsea from Roman Abramovich is among five killed in heli-ski tragedy

  • Petr Kellner is a billionaire financier and friend of Chelsea owner Abramovich 
  • He was killed with four others when helicopter crashed on Knik Glacier, Alaska
  • Five passengers included three guests of a luxury ski lodge, Tordrillo Mountain
  • Kellner was described as ‘loyal and frequent’ guest at the luxury holiday retreat  

The Czech Republic’s richest man has been killed with four others in a helicopter crash during a skiing trip in Alaska.

Petr Kellner, 56, a billionaire financier and friend of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, died near Knik Glacier, around 50 miles east of Anchorage on Saturday.

The others killed were Benjamin Larochaix, 50, also of the Czech Republic; Gregory Harms, 52, of Colorado; and two Alaskans, Sean McMannany, 38, of Girdwood, and the pilot, Zachary Russel, 33, of Anchorage. 

All five were discovered dead at the crash site, while a sixth person was rushed to hospital and remains in a serious but stable condition, Alaska State Troopers said.  

The passengers included three guests and two guides from Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, which provides luxurious heli-skiing packages starting at £11,000 per head. 

A contracted helicopter carrying guides and guests from a lodge on a heli-skiing trip in Alaska’s backcountry crashed, killing the pilot and four others, including the Czech Republic’s richest man Petr Kellner (pictured)

The helicopter crashed near Knik Glacier, around 50 miles east of Anchorage. The rescue team arrived to find five occupants dead and a sole survivor, who was taken to a hospital.

The Prime Minister of the Czech Republic today paid tribute to Kellner, an investment titan with a net worth of more than £12 billion ($17 billion).

‘An unbelievable tragedy,’ said minister Andrej Babis, who offered his condolences to the family.

‘I’m terribly sorry about it.’ 

Kellner owned a 98.93% stake in the PPF Group, an international investment company.

The group operates in 25 countries in Europe, Asia and North America with assets amounting to £37 billion (44 billion euros).

Kellner was a former co-owner of Czech football club Slavia Prague and was at one time linked with buying Chelsea Football Club in London. 

Slavia Prague tweeted: ‘Slavia would like to offer its deepest and most sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Kellner.’

Kellner kept a low public profile and rarely talked to the media.

In a statement sent via the Czech CTK agency, PPF Group asked for people to respect the family’s privacy.

It said the funeral will be organised strictly for the family. CTK reported that he had been married twice and had four children.

Kellner was a friend of Abramovich and was linked with buying Chelsea Football Club at one point

Tordrillo Mountain Lodge spokeswoman Mary Ann Pruitt said Kellner and Larochaix ‘were loyal and frequent’ guests at the holiday retreat.

Harms was a pioneering heli-ski guide in Alaska and worked for many years at the lodge, Pruitt said.

‘Greg was one of the most experienced guides in the business,’ she said.

He also founded a heli-ski company that led trips across the world.

McMannany had been a guide for over 10 years, and was with the lodge for the last five, she said.

He was also an avalanche instructor and an experienced mountain guide on Denali, North America’s tallest peak.

Russel was a pilot for Soloy Helicopters, a Wasilla-based company that is contracted by the lodge to provide transportation, Pruitt said.

‘This news is devastating to our staff, the community in which we operate and the families of the deceased,’ a statement released by the lodge said.

The Eurocopter AS50 crashed under unknown circumstances about 50 miles east of Anchorage at 6.35 p.m. Saturday, the Federal Aviation Administration said Sunday. Authorities said the crash site was near Knik Glacier.

The lodge is located about 60 miles northwest of Anchorage, on Judd Lake.

The company website bills itself as the longest operating heli-skiing lodge in Alaska, promising deep powder, pristine runs on some of the best mountain terrain in the world.

‘An unparalleled alpine adventure is only a helicopter ride away,’ the website says. 

The statement from lodge said this was the first time in its 17 years in business ‘we´ve had to face an event of this measure.’

Soloy Helicopters has a fleet of 19 helicopters providing charter services primarily in Alaska.

Kellner was a friend of Abramovich and at one time linked with buying Chelsea Football Club in London

Tordrillo Mountain Lodge hosts guests throughout the year in Alaska, specialising in heli-skiing in the winter

Its website says it provides support to government and industry, specialising in work for seismic oil drilling exploration programs.

Soloy Helicopters did not immediately respond to an email to The Associated Press seeking comment Sunday.

Alaska State Troopers said in a statement Sunday that they received a report of an overdue helicopter and the location of possible crash debris Saturday night.

A rescue team from Alaska Rescue Coordination Center was dispatched to the crash site in the area of Knik Glacier just after 10 p.m., troopers wrote.

The team arrived to find five occupants dead and a sole survivor, who was taken to a hospital.

The Alaska Army National Guard and volunteers from the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group recovered the bodies from the crash site Sunday and turned them over to the state medical examiner.

A temporary flight restriction placed over the glacier has been lifted, troopers said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the case of the crash.

Kellner’s investment firm PPF Group worth £37 billion 

Kellner built PPF into a wide-ranging investment group whose assets amounted to 44 billion euros ($51.8 billion) in mid-2020.

The following is a list of some of the companies in the group.

Home Credit

Consumer lender active in nine markets in eastern Europe and Asia AND one of the first consumer finance groups in China, launching in 2007. Russia is another of its big markets.

The group reported a 584 million euro loss in 2020 due to the pandemic, after a 400 million euro net profit in 2019.

Air Bank

Czech lender with 861,000 clients that is the centrepiece of a PPF offer to take control of bigger bank MONETA Money Bank . PPF announced this month it was boosting its stake in MONETA to 28.36% after a voluntary share offer.

It was also in talks with MONETA to merge Air Bank and other Czech and Slovak financial groups in exchange for MONETA shares that would give PPF a majority stake in its rival.

O2 Czech Republic

Czech telecoms group with nearly 6 million mobile customers which posted a net profit 5.8 billion crowns ($262.3 million) in 2020.

Telenor CEE

Mobile operator Telenor has more than 10 million customers across Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro and posted EBITDA of 466 million euros in 2020.

CETIN

The Czech Republic’s largest data and communications network, split off from O2 Czech Republic in 2015, it has more than 45,000 km of fibre optic cable.

PPF said in February it was considering an initial public offering (IPO) of the group as one of the options.

Central European Media Enterprises

CME is a central and eastern European broadcast group based in Prague which Kellner completed the takeover of in 2020 in a $2.1 billion deal.

Skoda Transportation

PPF holds an 87.8% stake in the Czech public transport vehicle manufacturer.

Czech Toll

Company won a 2018 tender in partnership with Slovak group SkyToll to operate the Czech highway toll system.

Sotio

Biotechnology company focussed on the treatment and therapies for cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Real estate

Assets worth 2.4 billion euros across a number of markets.

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