Jan Kulczyk: Investor and businessman whose post-Communist dealings made him the richest man in Poland

He started from a trading company set up by his father, building his fortune in the intensive privatisation of state plants after communism

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The Independent Online

Jan Kulczyk was Poland's richest man and the founder and president of investment empire Kulczyk Holding, who made his fortune during Poland's economic transformation. Poland's former president, Lech Walesa, said that Kulczyk was irreplaceable. "It will be hard to organise some things without him."

For years, Kulczyk, a lawyer and manager by education, led lists of the richest Poles and was reputed for his courage and imagination in business decisions. He invested in the energy and natural resources sectors in Europe and in Africa, and also developed the car and infrastructure sectors in Poland.

Poland's edition of Forbes magazine estimated his wealth at 15bn zlotys (around £2.5bn). To many, his success was a symbol of the opportunities offered by Poland's transition from communism to a free market economy. He started from a trading company set up by his father, building his fortune in the intensive privatisation of state plants after communism.

"You cannot write an honest history of Poland's transformations after 1989 without mentioning the role of Jan Kulczyk," said Leszek Balcerowicz, former finance minister and author of Poland's transformation. Critics, though, said Kulczyk made money by acquiring Polish assets at favourable prices then selling them to western investors at a large profit.

He was a generous donor to culture and history. His donation of some 20m zlotys (about £3.4m) helped finish work on the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. He also sponsored grants for gifted young people. He died in Vienna from complications following surgery.

Jan Kulczyk, businessman: born Bydgoszcz, Poland 24 June 1950; married (divorced; one daughter, one son); died Vienna 28 July 2015.

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