MP-turned-banker Chuka Umunna advises a Czech tycoon accused by union leaders of planning a secret takeover of Royal Mail.
The former Labor MP is part of a team of bankers working on Daniel Křetínský’s UK business interests, many of which are held within Vesa Equity Investment, including a 23% stake in Royal Mail parent International Distributions Services (IDS).
Postal workers staged a wave of strikes over the Christmas period, amid souring relations between Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union (CWU).
The Czech billionaire also owns a 10% stake in supermarket Sainsbury’s through Vesa and is co-owner of football club West Ham United.
Umunna joined investment bank JP Morgan in 2021 to lead its European environmental, social and governance (ESG) work. His role as an adviser, first reported by the Telegraph, risks accusing the former Labor politician who was previously a fierce critic of the privatization of the Royal Mail of hypocrisy.
In 2014, Umunna told then business secretary Vince Cable that privatization had “scandalously defrauded hundreds of millions of pounds”. He added: “Those [Cable] formerly called spivs and players are laughing all the way to the bank.
Umunna also said in a voter blog that he would pursue an “appropriate degree of price control” for Royal Mail products and services if Labor were in government.
He did not respond to a request for comment.
In September, Royal Mail denied suggestions by CWU chief Dave Ward that he was in talks over a Vesa takeover. This followed a letter from Ward to then Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng suggesting that Royal Mail owner IDS was in talks with Vesa over a “potential takeover bid”.
Křetínský, who also heads one of Europe’s largest energy business groups, has been dubbed the “Czech sphinx” by Polish media due to his cautious approach to business and the media. The billionaire also owns power stations in the UK.
Vesa did not respond to a request for comment.
His investment group’s stake in Royal Mail was the subject of a national security investigation by the Business Department, which ended in October. The decision to do nothing allows Vesa to increase its current stake in Royal Mail above 25%.
JP Morgan declined to comment on its work for Vesa or the Umunna team’s advisory role.
FGS Global, which is part of the WPP group that absorbed PR firm Finsbury and whose co-chairman Roland Rudd has also been linked to Labour, is also believed to advise Křetínský’s business interests.
Křetínský’s ties to Russia have come under scrutiny since the country’s violent invasion of Ukraine. Křetínský’s EP Infrastructure (EPIF) business has a 49% stake in Eustream, which operates a system for transporting Russian gas to Central and Eastern Europe via Slovakia.
FGS declined to comment.