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Selection procedure for the head of ČD: Three names in the final. Who will lead the national carrier?

Selection procedure for the head of ČD: Three names in the final. Who will lead the national carrier?
photo: Archives/Selection procedure for the head of ČD: Three names in the final. Who will lead the national carrier?
23 / 03 / 2022

The selection of the new head of Czech Railways has gathered pace. According to Seznam Zprávy, three candidates have advanced to the second round. Those are Michal Krapinec, the current head of ČD Telematika, Bogdan Heczko, a manager with ties to former ČD and ČDC boss Bazala and billionaire René Holeček, and Michal Sládek, the former CFO of OKD. Who are these candidates, and what connections are hidden in the background?

Michal Krapinec

Michal Krapinec, whom Seznam Zprávy describes as the most likely winner of the tender for the new ČD boss, is the current chairman and board member of ČD Telematika, a subsidiary of ČD. Why can we talk about strategic importance? ČD Telematika is a company that owns crucial communication infrastructure. It consists mainly of fiber optic cables. This infrastructure is important for the functioning of the Czech Republic, and its use goes far beyond the interests of ČD.

Czech Railways previously held a majority stake in the company, although PPF owned over 29%. It changed in the summer of 2021 when ČD became the owner of the entire company. According to information from the register of contracts, PPF was to sell its stake to ČD for CZK 847 million. The fact that seven years before this transaction, ČD had the opportunity to buy this share for CZK 198 million, i.e. at a price four times cheaper, is especially remarkable. At that time, the transaction failed for unknown reasons. It is important to note that the sale of 29% of ČD Telematics to PPF Czech Railways took place at a time when Krapinec was already sitting on the company's board. The national carrier became the sole owner of ČD Telematika, but it cost the state a lot of money. The question is what role was played in this deal by the intense relations between Krapince and PPF, which logically arose when PPF was a shareholder in ČD Telematika.

In addition, RAILTARGET's confidential sources inform us that the BIS, which monitors events around ČD Telematika, has also dealt with these property shifts. In this context, in the opinion of an independent security expert, the question is whether Krapinec would be able to defend his security clearance, which is one of the conditions of the selection process for the new CEO of ČD.

Krapinec's rather unusual hobby, his penchant for gambling, might be a source of embarrassment. It is well-known that he is into card games, specifically poker. In February this year, he even took part in a prestigious poker tournament for a whopping EUR 160,000! 

Bogdan Heczko

According to Heczko's statement for E15, he applied for the CEO of ČD tender because his name was in demand. However, he didn't specify who demanded it. Nevertheless, based on his CV, we can assume that Josef Bazala, the former head of ČD A ČD Cargo, or billionaire René Holeček (we wrote about him here) may be pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Heczko would be no newcomer to ČD. Previously, he served as CFO of ČD Cargo, where he was also a Board of Directors member. Bazala himself introduced him to the freight carrier. Then Transport Minister Řebíček (ODS) even identified Heczko as one of Bazala's closest collaborators.

Heczko served in ČD Cargo management for three years even though he had an apparent conflict of interest. It did not go unnoticed by the media, which repeatedly pointed out his links to billionaire René Holeček, a key player in Čechofracht (later AWT Čechofracht). At that time, it was in a very close business relationship with ČD Cargo, from which it leased wagons for its transport.

One of the original Třinec Ironworks privatizers, Holeček, also had friendly relations with Bazala. They also had a business relationship that eventually broke the Bazala's neck (read here). Heczko's close connection to René Holeček is confirmed by their joint business, ITeuro, which dealt with enterprise information systems. For many years, Heczko also held managerial positions in Česká zbrojovka, which belongs to Holeček (read here).

Michal Sládek

In the past, Sládek worked for several companies, and his position as OKD CFO, where he was nominated by the Ministry of Finance as its representative, is certainly worth mentioning. However, he lasted only 17 months in this position. According to his Linkedin profile, he currently works for Match-Marker Ventures, which deals with modern technology and IT.

According to behind-the-scenes information from RAILTARGET, the ČD Board of Directors will meet this Thursday at 2 pm. Therefore, our editorial office contacted the ČD press department to inquire about the agenda. However, the silence surrounding the tender for the new head of ČD is still ongoing. ČD spokesperson Vanda Rajnochová responded to the editorial inquiry with the following statement only: "After the selection process for the Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of ČD is completed, the ČD Supervisory Board will announce the name of the winning candidate at a press conference. An invitation will be sent to you in due course." The topic of the board of directors of the national carrier meeting could be the name of the new head of ČD. It is also uncertain whether the name will be made public this Thursday. An invitation to such an important press conference would have to be sent to journalists no later than today.

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