Zdenek Bakala:  The man who built multi-billion dollar empire after fleeing Czechoslovakia with only $50

Bakala was born on February 7, 1961, in Opava, Czechoslovakia. In the then-Communist country of Czechoslovakia, Bakala started earning by laying bricks. He later emigrated to the US as it was impossible to fulfill his dream of higher studies in the communist regime.While fleeing Czechoslovakia, Bakala stuffed a sandwich with a $50 bill hidden inside into a small backpack.

Zdenek Bakala is a Czech-born entrepreneur and investor with a net worth valued at $1.9 billion. The Czech businessman has come a long way after he emigrated to Lake Tahoe, Nevada, United States, at the age of 19 with just a $50 bill hidden in a sandwich. 61-year-old Bakala actively participates in philanthropic activities via the Bakala Foundation and is a stakeholder in energy, mining, financial businesses, media companies, and magazine publishing houses.

Bakala was born on February 7, 1961, in Opava, Czechoslovakia. In the then-Communist country of Czechoslovakia, Bakala started earning by laying bricks. He later emigrated to the US as it was impossible to fulfill his dream of higher studies in the communist regime.While fleeing Czechoslovakia, Bakala stuffed a sandwich with a $50 bill hidden inside into a small backpack. After reaching US, he worked in restaurants to earn a livelihood before getting proper jobs and embarked on his professional career soon after. He somehow managed to complete his education majoring in Economics from University of California, Berkeley and an MBA from Dartmouth College.

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He started his career at an investment bank in New York named Drexel Burnham Lambert in the year 1989 and then moved to Bank of America. Later he ended up back in the Czech Republic and founded the first private investment banking group in Czech and built up stakes in mining. He had extended several pieces of advice to the government of the Czech Republic on numerous transactions such as the sale of national automobile company Skoda to Volkswagen. His first start-up was named Patria Finance, which he later sold to Belgian banking group KBC in 2001. He also set up a private equity fund, RPG Industries to invest in the energy and coal mining sectors and became the owner of several coal mines.

After the massive profits from the mining industry, Bakala also invested in media houses and has been building one of the best newsrooms in Central and Eastern Europe. He was one of the founders of a global investment group BXR. He still remains active as an investor in various projects worldwide.

He now lives with his wife Michaela Bakala and four children in Switzerland. Michaela Bakala is also an entrepreneur and manager, but most of all, a mother and philanthropist. She takes interest in philanthropic activities by the family and works for the Bakala Foundation alongside his husband. Like Zdenek , the development of the democratic society, women's role in society, and education are the causes closest to her heart.

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Along with involvement in the public service sector, he wishes to foster free and independent journalism. He is also working for human rights through his Bakala Foundation which provides scholarships at leading universities abroad to talented Czech students. His passion and interest in the education systems remain firm. He has supported several educational institutions and organizations for numerous projects. He is also a member of the Board of Overseers at his alma mater, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.
 

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