How Zdenek Bakala Became a Billionaire, From Rags to Riches

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Zdenek Bakala is one of the richest men in the world, at only 53 years old. He has a net worth of $1 billion and has residences in Switzerland, Geneva, and the United States. But it wasn't all champagnes and roses for this Czech fellow. He wasn't born from a wealthy family, yet he was able to make it big into the world despite of a troubled past. Find out how that came to be.

Dark Country, Dark Past

Not a lot of people know what went on in Zdenek Bakala's childhood, but what we do know is that he was born in Opava, and that he grew up in Brno, where he spent his life dreaming of a better life for himself. He was convinced that the communism enshrouding his beloved country will only keep him from becoming who he was supposed to be, and he had a relentless faith that someday he would be able to get out to follow his destiny.

Escape to Freedom

And followed his destiny, he did, but it wasn't an easy task. Before he left Czechoslovakia, he had a job laying bricks in his hometown. The moment he got the chance, he cautiously crossed over the border with his life savings, a $50 bill tucked between 2 slices of bread, to search for a better future.

He risked his life, his everything just to be able to escape Czechoslovakia. Zdenek then traveled to the United States to seek for higher education. He was only 19 years old at that time.

From Dish-Washing To Bigger Things 

Armed with only determination and his new found freedom, he took a job as a dishwasher in one of the casinos in Lake Tahoe. After a while, he enrolled himself at the University of California to obtain a bachelor's degree in economics. After graduating, he went on to earn his MBA from the Tuck School of Business in Dartmouth College. 

Going Home

Right after school, he went to New York to work for JP Morgan, and then another firm in Wall Street after that. After that, he accepted a job offered to him by Credit Suisse First Boston to help set up their branch in Czechoslovakia. Looking back, Bakala considered this to be the turning point of his career as it then paved the way to him advising the Czech Republic government on various high-stake transactions. His U.S. Education couldn't have helped him at a better time as the countries in the Soviet Bloc were transitioning to a more market-friendly economy.

He introduced the country to investment banking in 2001, and raised a capital to start up Patria Finance, Bakala's first entrepreneurial venture.  It was Czech Republic's 1st private investment banking group. He sold it in 2001, for a multimillion dollar deal.

Zdenek Bakala then proceeded to co-found RPG Industries, a private equity company with a fellow Tuck grad, Peter Kadas. They acquired the black-coal mining conglomerates in the Czech Republic for $510 million. They spinned off subsidiaries and streamlined operations, and made 1/3 of the assets of the New World Resources public in 2008. It set off records in the London and Prague stock exchanges immediately after that. 

Bakala Today

Now that he's a self-made billionaire, he has now retired from enjoying the occasional night life, to spending time with his children. 

Nothing pleases him more, though he still keeps a close eye on all his businesses around the world.  This just proves that nothing, not poverty, not communism, can keep a persevering man down. 

Lessons From The Life of Zdenek Bakala

  • Never underestimate the value of a good education.
  • Count your blessings, you'll never know how deprived some people are in other places in the world.
  • Don't let poverty and bad politics stop you from becoming who you are. Make your dreams your destiny. 

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"If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton

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