Chuka Umunna advises Czech tycoon accused of Royal Mail plot

Ex-Labour MP and former critic of privatisation risks claims of hypocrisy over advisory role with Daniel Křetínský

The MP turned banker, Chuka Umunna, is advising a Czech tycoon who was accused by union leaders of planning a secret takeover of Royal Mail.

The former Labour MP is one of a team of bankers working on Daniel Křetínský’s British business interests, many of which are held within Vesa Equity Investment, including a 23% stake in Royal Mail’s parent company, International Distributions Services (IDS).

Postal workers have held a wave of strikes over the Christmas period, amid souring relations between Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union (CWU).

Daniel Křetínský.
Daniel Křetínský. Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

The Czech billionaire also holds a 10% share in supermarket Sainsbury’s via Vesa, and is a part-owner of West Ham United football club.

Umunna joined investment bank JP Morgan in 2021 to lead its European environmental, social and governance (ESG) work. His advisory role, first reported by the Telegraph, risks accusations of hypocrisy for the former Labour politician who was previously a fierce critic of the privatisation of Royal Mail.

In 2014, Umunna told the then business secretary, Vince Cable, that the privatisation had “disgracefully shortchanged to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds”. He added: “Those [Cable] once referred to as spivs and gamblers are laughing all the way to the bank.”

Umunna also stated in a blog aimed at constituents that he would pursue an “appropriate degree of price control” for Royal Mail products and services if Labour were in government.

He did not respond to a request for comment.

In September, Royal Mail denied suggestions by Dave Ward, head of the CWU, that it was in talks regarding a private equity takeover by Vesa. That followed a letter from Ward to then business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng suggesting that Royal Mail owner IDS was in talks with Vesa regarding a “potential takeover bid”.

Křetínský, who also leads one of the biggest energy business groups in Europe, has been dubbed the “Czech sphinx” by Polish media due to his guarded approach in business and the media. The billionaire also owns UK power stations.

Vesa did not respond to a request for comment.

His investment outfit’s stake in Royal Mail was the subject of a national security investigation by the business department, which concluded in October. The decision to take no action allows Vesa to increase its current stake in Royal Mail above 25%.

JP Morgan declined to comment on its work for Vesa or on Umunna’s team’s advisory role.

FGS Global, part of the WPP group which absorbed PR company Finsbury and whose co-chairman Roland Rudd has also been linked with the Labour party, is also understood to be advising on Křetínský business interests.

Křetínský’s links to Russia have been subject to intense scrutiny since the country’s violent invasion of Ukraine. Křetínský’s EP Infrastructure (EPIF) business owns a 49% holding in Eustream, which operates a system piping Russian gas to central and eastern Europe via Slovakia.

FGS declined to comment.


Anna Isaac

The GuardianTramp

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