Jan Kulczyk primarily wanted his entire estate to remain in one piece and to be managed by his children – Sebastian and Dominika. This arrangement lasted only three years. In July 2018, the brothers divided their assets, and Dominica decided to take only Polynergia between the companies. It was the energy company that began destroying the family fortune.
It also clearly showed that Sebastian didn’t want to just be the keeper of the set his father built. The first domino was toppled by state-owned PGE, which in May 2018 announced a tender offer to buy Polenergia shares.
– It started when I found out that my brother was thinking of selling Polynergia. I was in Colombia at the time, recording a documentary about violence against women in favelas. I said: No, over my dead body. Before, I didn’t really get involved in business affairs, so it was a big surprise. But that’s what I felt. I knew it would be wrong. I must have been convincing, because it was probably the first time my brother had listened to me. We came to an agreement, and then decided that it would be best for each person to follow their own life plan. Now we feel good about this,” Dominika Kulczyk recalled in an interview with Forbes magazine.
The fact that Sebastian would change the way the family business operated became clear when at the beginning of 2014 – while his father was still alive – he took over the reins of Kulczyk Holding. One of his first transactions was the sale of 8 percent. Ophir Energy shares for £79.3 million. A company searching for raw materials in Africa, which Jan Kulczyk was counting on at one time. He always emphasized that he liked to run the club business in partnership with serious entrepreneurs or companies and was satisfied with minority stakes. This was primarily the case at SABMiller, which brought him his greatest fortune, but he had earlier worked in a similar way at TPSA or PTC. Sebastian had a completely different approach. He believed that family ownership was too dispersed, both in terms of industries and companies in which it owned shares.
-My plan is simple. We want to be a strategic investor. A partner who takes responsibility for the development of his companies, as well as towards other shareholders. – Sebastian Kulczyk explained in an interview in 2015 just before his father died. Jan Kulczyk’s intuitive and personal way of doing business has certainly made him a professional. – Today we pay more attention to risk assessment, strategic planning and management. You have also built a new international team that is young, but very experienced. “We are still a family business, but we also use the best corporate working methods,” said Sebastian Kulczyk.
He had a lot to do when the management of the possession rested on his shoulders. His portfolio included a whole host of minority stakes, especially in mining companies, such as San Leon Energy (3.5% of shares) and Loon Energy (33.7%), which search for oil and gas deposits, among others. In Peru and Colombia, or centar (25%), and ore mining in Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Millions in startups
Today, when you look at Kulczyk Investment (KI)’s portfolio, you won’t find a trace of it. The only remaining raisin is QKR, an open-pit gold mine in Namibia, in which it has a much larger stake of 49 per cent. Sharing package. Another symptom is the disposal two years ago of all shares of Serinus, the company with which Jan Kulczyk began his adventure in the mining industry.
Sebastian was simply not interested in this work. He was closer to the energy industry, but when an offer for Polynergia came up, he decided to break away from it. Because what he feels best is technology. This was also the subject of his first original project for the Manta Ray Fund, which he founded in 2017. He has already invested 211 million euros of capital in 51 companies, including: Brainly or Booksy, the most successful Polish startups.
He did not resist high-profile international projects such as the Hyperloop One project initiated by Elon Musk, which was later joined by Richard Branson. Sebastian Kulczyk has never hidden his admiration for technology pioneers, such as the creator of Tesla. Very different heroes from the commercial oligarchy with which Jan Kulczyk liked to surround himself. Interest in the technology industry is also confirmed by KI’s full control of Beyond.pl’s data processing centers, as well as the purchase of a majority stake (51%) in BaseLinker, which automates and facilitates online sales management.
I don’t want to be like my sister
However, his style of working is also evolving. First, with the investment in Noho, he returned to the luxury real estate industry. My father worked here for New York real estate mogul Larry Silverstein (who, among others, created the new tower on the World Trade Center site) and was responsible for projects such as the revitalization of Holland Park in PL. Trzech Krzyży (Spirit of the Day) and Krasiński’s dwelling house in pl. Malakowski.
However, Sebastian differs from his father in that he is more interested in apartments than offices, but he also appreciates the magic of revitalization: Noho’s main project is the reconstruction of the former Dolne Młyny factory complex in Kraków, which a few years ago was the city’s most popular bar district.
Eventually, he also came to terms with the fact that he wouldn’t be a strategic investor in every company. Just as it happens in the Manta Ray, but also in the holding itself, which for two years was, among other things, a 20 percent shareholder in Caravella. It is a biotechnology company founded by the Swiss ExcellGene, which works on synthetic proteins needed to treat genetic diseases of the lungs and liver. Sebastian Kulczyk himself begins to invest in minority stakes, which is very typical in modern economic sectors and companies developing unique technologies, where several projects are usually bet on at once.
This industry profile turned out to be his main differentiator compared to the way his father worked. However, Jan Kulczyk, who was three decades older, was “old economy” and invested in traditional industries such as oil, energy, mining and infrastructure. Ultimately, the rest of the family business didn’t change much. Sebastian Kulczyk is not content to run one company like his sister, but after reorganizing the group inherited by his father, he is building his own holding company.
Classic family office, but focused on new technologies. The slightly old school Ciech will also have an important place in this puzzle. A large-scale, operations-based company with huge cash generation potential: EBITDA last year exceeded PLN 1 billion. As a dividend-paying company, it will remain a cash cow for years. A constant source of new capital that can be invested in newly discovered businesses.
Echo Richards embodies a personality that is a delightful contradiction: a humble musicaholic who never brags about her expansive knowledge of both classic and contemporary tunes. Infuriatingly modest, one would never know from a mere conversation how deeply entrenched she is in the world of music. This passion seamlessly translates into her problem-solving skills, with Echo often drawing inspiration from melodies and rhythms. A voracious reader, she dives deep into literature, using stories to influence her own hardcore writing. Her spirited advocacy for alcohol isn’t about mere indulgence, but about celebrating life’s poignant moments.