J&T was founded as a brokerage in 1994 by former schoolmates Patrik Tkáč and Ivan Jakabovič. From the beginning, they had relatively easy access to capital and contacts, as Tkáč’s father Jozef was head of the IRB state bank.
“He certainly played a key role,” said Tkáč. “Wherever Jakabovič and I went, they thought that old Tkáč was behind it. His name opened doors for us, not just at other banks but at IRB itself. It allowed us to borrow enough money to do some large transactions.”
One of the first large operations J&T performed was to take over the Creditanstalt investment fund, which had stakes in 19 Slovak firms and 44 Czech firms worth a nominal Sk579 million. Following the 1996 purchase, Creditanstalt was merged with a joint-stock company, allowing J&T to duck the country’s stiff laws governing the management of investment funds.
The same year, J&T also gained control of Drôtovňa Hlohovec. The firm later issued Sk500 million in bonds that were used to raise the basic capital of daughter firm Dro-Fin, which was controlled by Tkáč and Jakabovič. The operation led to a conflict with Penta Group, which took control of Drôtovňa in 1998.
“It was then that I had my first brutal argument with Patrik Tkáč,” said Penta partner Jaroslav Haščák. “It was more of a misunderstanding than an argument,” responded Tkáč.
Under the following two Dzurinda governments, J&T expanded to the Czech Republic and Russia, and diversified in Slovakia into banking, real estate, tourism and media.
“From 1993-98 we spun money and earned our first Sk500 million, which we used to buy a bank,” said Tkáč. “But the jump we took between then and now didn’t happen in Slovakia – it happened on the Czech energy market and on the Russian capital market, where we made huge profits trading shares.”
During these years, J&T also cooperated with Penta and Istrokapitál, on major deals involving shares in the VSŽ steel mill, the Restitution and Investment Fund, and others.
The group has reinvested much of the money it earned in the Czech Republic and Russia in Slovakia, into acquisitions such as the SES Tlmače power engineering company and real estate projects in Bratislava and the High Tatras.
In 2006, the latest year for which figures are available, J&T had almost €470 million in equity, earned over €85 million in profit, and employed over 10,000 employees in its various companies. These figures would put it in the top 10 largest Slovak companies.