Petr Kellner dead at 56 – Roman Abramovich’s billionaire pal killed in helicopter crash with five others in Alaska

CZECH billionaire Petr Kellner has been killed in a helicopter crash during a ski trip in Alaska.

Alaska State Troopers said five people including Kellner, 56, were killed and one injured when the Airbus AS350 B3 helicopter they were flying in came down near Knik Glacier northeast of Anchorage.

Kellner and his group had been on a heli-skiing trip — which involves off-trail, downhill skiing, or snowboarding reached only by helicopter — instead of using a ski lift.

His company PPF said in a statement: "We announce with the deepest grief that, in a helicopter accident in Alaska mountains on Saturday, March 27, the founder and majority owner of the PPF group, Mr Petr Kellner, died tragically."

The National Transportation Safety Board are investigating

Kellner was a towering business figure of the Czech post-communist era, with his wealth estimated at £12.6billion ($17.5 bn), according to Forbes.

He was a close friend of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis offered his condolences to the family.

'UNBELIEVABLE TRAGEDY'

He tweeted: "Unbelievable tragedy. I am very sorry."

Kellner’s roots go back to the 1990s when he set up PPF as an investment company with partners to take part in the country’s scheme to privatise hundreds of state-owned companies.

 In the mid-1990s, PPF took a stake in former national insurer Ceska Pojistovna, a springboard for further growth.

PPF is the main owner of consumer lender Home Credit, which has grown in China and elsewhere in Southeast Asia as well as a group of telecommunications firms in central and eastern Europe including O2 Czech Republic.

His death came at a time when PPF was acquiring a stake in Czech bank MONETA Money Bank and proposing to merge it with his Air Bank and the Czech and Slovak assets of Home Credit. PPF’s telecomunications infrastructure firm Cetin has also said it was considering a public offering and other options.

PPF completed the acquisition of Central European Media Enterprises, a group of television stations in central and eastern Europe, last year.

Kellner had avoided public attention but was known to be a keen skier. PPF published a picture of him snowboarding in one of its annual reports.

More to follow…

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