Jan Kulczyk, Poland’s richest man, who made his fortune during its economic transformations, died on Tuesday in Vienna, where he had undergone surgery. He was 65. His death was confirmed by his company, Kulczyk Holding.
For years, Mr. Kulczyk, a lawyer and manager by education, led lists of the richest Poles. He invested in the energy and natural resources sectors in Europe and Africa, and developed the car and infrastructure sectors in Poland.
Poland’s edition of Forbes Magazine estimated his wealth at $4 billion. To many, his success was a symbol of the opportunities offered by Poland’s transition from a communist to a free-market economy. He started with a trading company set up by his father, and built his fortune taking part in the intensive privatization 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 program.
Critics, though, said Mr. Kulczyk made money by acquiring Polish assets at favorable prices and selling them to Western investors at a large profit.
Mr. Kulczyk’s donation of $5.3 million helped finish work on the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. Divorced, he is survived by a son, Sebastian, and a daughter, Dominika.