Over the past 20 years, Jiří Šmejc has been one of the most prominent entrepreneurs and managers in Central Europe. His name is closely associated with the sweeping development of Home Credit Group and with the creation of EMMA Group.
Jiří Šmejc, born in 1971, comes from the Czech town of Karlovy Vary, where he attended a high school focused on mathematics and physics. He went on to study mathematical economics at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics at Charles University in Prague. During his studies he founded a society called BUNK, which focused on software development for hotels and restaurants. Shortly thereafter, he also founded a company specialising in the implementation of information systems in the hotel business called PUPP Consulting, in which Hotel Pupp, the most famous hotel in Karlovy Vary, also held a stake. For two years, Jiří Šmejc worked as the company’s CEO. Subsequently, he founded the company Middle Europe Finance (MEF), which he also led as CEO. This company was focused on the consolidation of the fragmented ownership of shares after the Czech Republic’s coupon privatization. During the three years when Jiří Šmejc led the company and its associated MEF Holding, these entities controlled a portfolio of a wide range of industrial enterprises in the Czech Republic and gained great respect in financial circles.
In 1999, Jiří Šmejc entered the television channel NOVA and at the same time became CEO of its service organization, Česká Produkční 2000. Simultaneously, he also worked as an executive director of broadcasting company CET 21. During this time, Jiří Šmejc contributed significantly to the executive management of the entire TV NOVA Group and played a key role in TV NOVA’s transformation into the most successful and most profitable TV channel in Central Europe. When Petr Kellner’s PPF Group also acquired a stake in TV NOVA in 2002, both businessmen agreed on buying out the other shareholders. At the end of this transaction, Jiří Šmejc controlled a 34% stake in TV Nova Group.
PPF & Home Credit
In 2005, Jiří Šmejc and Petr Kellner concluded an agreement on the sale of TV NOVA to American company CME for approximately one billion USD and then both gentlemen decided to combine all of their assets. Jiří Šmejc thus became a co-owner of PPF Group, in which he held a 5% stake. Later that year, he moved to Moscow, where he took charge of the Russian subsidiary of Home Credit Group and subsequently of all of PPF Group’s activities in the Russian Federation. In the following years, Jiří Šmejc transformed Home Credit and Finance Bank, originally focused solely on consumer loans at points of sale, into one of the largest retail banks in Russia. In 2012, Jiří Šmejc and Petr Kellner agreed on the division of their joint property. By mutual agreement, however, Jiří Šmejc led Home Credit as CEO until 2018, after which he left this position to become the company's Chairman.
In 2012, Jiří Šmejc founded his own investment group, EMMA, which he wholly owned from the beginning and remains the majority shareholder of to this day. In the first year of its existence, EMMA Group managed to put together an international consortium of investors that won a tender for the privatization of a 33% stake in the Greek state monopoly gaming corporation OPAP. Jiří Šmejc then led the strategic decision-making during the major restructuring that OPAP has since gone through. Throughout this process, the cooperation with Karel Komárek's KKCG Group, which had already owned the Czech national lottery company Sazka, played an important role. This resulted in the agreement of both businessmen on creating a joint gaming holding, SAZKA Group, in which EMMA Group acquired a 25% stake. The holding subsequently expanded its portfolio of gaming companies to include assets from Greece (OPAP), the Czech Republic (Sazka), Austria (Casinos Austria), Italy (LOTTOITALIA), and Croatia (SuperSport), thereby becoming one of the largest players on the European gaming market.
At the turn of 2019, Jiří Šmejc and Karel Komárek came to an agreement on dividing their assets in SAZKA Group. EMMA Group thus retained stakes in the Croatian lottery company SuperSport, as well as financial compensation on the order of several hundred million Euro for the other assets. EMMA Capital gradually increased its share in SuperSport up to 100% and in 2022 it successfully concluded negotiations with Entain plc, a leading global sports betting and gaming group, for the sale of a 75% stake in SuperSport. The two parties also contributed their shares to a newly established joint venture, Entain CEE, in which they hold shares in a corresponding ratio, i.e. 75:25.
EMMA Capital's investments into the energy sector also proved exceptionally successful. Two initial acquisitions in smaller Romanian companies in 2013 were followed by further purchases of other companies, as a result of which EMMA Capital today owns four companies focused on natural gas distribution in Romania, two on the sale and distribution of electric energy in Moldova, and four renewable energy companies in both of these countries.
In recent years EMMA Capital, under Jiří Šmejc’s leadership, has focused mainly on markets in the European Union, but is also present in other markets in Europe and Asia. It has mainly invested into retail and customer-facing companies, playing an active role in their management, development and possible restructuring. Therefore, EMMA Capital’s present portfolio is spread across sectors such as financial technology, consumer finance, gas and electricity distribution, e-commerce, gaming, insurance, pharmaceuticals and healthcare.
CEO of PPF Group
In June 2022, fifteen months after the founder and owner of PPF Group Petr Kellner tragically passed away, Jiří Šmejc was appointed as the CEO of the Group. He described Renáta Kellnerová’s offer to take over PPF’s top managerial position as unique from both a professional and personal perspective.
In addition to his business activities, Jiří Šmejc also founded Velaa Private Island hotel resort in the Maldives and owns three quarters of it. Velaa is considered one of the most beautiful tropical resorts in the world. Jiří Šmejc is also very actively involved in the Sirius foundation, which strives to help children who are less fortunate. Jiří Šmejc, the founder of this foundation, not only finances its projects, which primarily strive for systemic change rather than one-time assistance, but also personally runs Sirius as the Chairman of the Board.
Overall, the business history of Jiří Šmejc is quite unique. He started from scratch - without entry capital, without assets acquired in the Czech coupon privatization and, indeed, without experience. Yet, step by step, he has managed to elevate himself to a widely-recognized entrepreneur, manager and a reliable business partner.