An Interview with Radmila Kuzicova, CEO Asental Group
Asental Group CEO Radmila Kuzicova was interviewed by the Czech daily newspaper MF Dnes – Moravskoslezský. Radmila Kuzicova spoke to MF Dnes about the unique challenges female business leaders face, Asental’s Barbora project in Karviná, and what its like to work for Zdenek Bakala.
Radmila Kuzicova has been the CEO of Asental Group since July 2016. She graduated from the University of Economics in Bratislava. Radmila Kuzicova has been in the real estate sector since the mid-nineties. She managed CEE Property Development Portfolio 2 and held senior positions at the Erste Group.
Unique challenges faced by female business leaders
MF Dnes: When did you come to work for Asental?
Radmila Kuzicova: I came in mid-2016 from Prague, but Ostrava wasn’t new to me.
MF Dnes: What was it like to come to Ostrava to a company which has roots in the mining environment where a certain kind of machismo persists to this day?
Radmila Kuzicova: I come from the Valassko region, so it wasn’t that big a difference for me in regards to the environment. I was really looking forward to being in Ostrava. Shortly after university, I commuted here for work.
MF Dnes: Was [Ostrava] different after so many years?
Radmila Kuzicova: As far as I’ve noticed, yes. Ostrava in the 90s, how to say it…I remember it quite differently. It was a grey depressing city. All I can remember is the pollution.
MF Dnes: How did the employees react to you joining the company? Who is this woman that has come to lecture us? Or did they accept you normally?
Radmila Kuzicova: In our company, 70% of the people are women, so they accepted me quite normally, there was no drama involved. Of course, they were a bit reserved towards me as a newcomer, but that’s the case everywhere and it’s natural.
Radmila Kuzicova on Working for Zdenek Bakala
MF Dnes: How do outsiders perceive you as a representative of a company owned by Zdenek Bakala, which can be a stigma in this region after what happened with OKD?
Radmila Kuzicova: I always act as myself in the company, that’s the main thing. That is what people should judge me by.
MF Dnes: Have you ever encountered an attitude like “she’s the one from that Bakala?”
Radmila Kuzicova: No, I’ve never encountered this attitude in person. We’re a real estate development company. We face legislative issues – the construction approval proceedings take a very long time, but that’s what everyone in our industry faces.
MF Dnes: So, you’ve never encountered personal objections towards your company?
Radmila Kuzicova: I don’t feel any. There are people you don’t like on a personal level, but that can always happen.
MF Dnes: When OKD became insolvent, did it impact your company’s plans? There were some court cases and so on.
Radmila Kuzicova: We’re probably talking about Barbora zone, where there was a court case due to charges pressed by OKD insolvency administrator. Yes, that definitely influenced us, the case took over 2 years until recently. But we made use of the time differently, we were preparing what we could. Every potential buyer asked how the case would influence Barbora. We believed everything would end well, so we invested in approval proceedings like nothing was happening. The decision was made and the estate remained ours.
Asental Barbora Project
MF Dnes: Would Barbora zone have been operating for a long time now without this challenge?
Radmila Kuzicova: There were several issues. For example, we didn’t have a zoning permit for terrain adjustments. The permit was issued just this year.
MF Dnes: You had a deal with the regional office that if you prepare the zone to be in a certain agreed upon state, the office would buy it. that didn’t happen. I´m asking whether it could have been managed in time without the court cases.
Radmila Kuzicova: I can’t say whether it would have been managed in time or not, I really don’t know. But the insolvency didn’t influence the preparation of the zone itself. The charges, where the insolvency administrator believed that the exchange of estates with OKD was wrong, didn’t slow it down. The zoning permits were essential. There we faced several issues: the office in Karvina issued them at first, then there were appeals of several subjects. A decision was made that the office in Karvina can’t issue the permit, then there was a search for an office that could decide and be unbiased, it was a very long process. This disproportionately prolonged the preparations. We received the permit needed just this August, after 4 years.
MF Dnes: In these cases, there are often discussions about obstructions made by opponents of construction. Did it happen in this case as well?
Radmila Kuzicova: Most of the objections were objections due to bias. The mayor of Karvina was accused of being biased for saying that building the zone would benefit the region. I don’t know if we can talk about obstructions in this case, others have to decide that. All that matters is that we secured all of the permits this August.
This interview was originally published on 1 October 2019 in the daily regional newspaper MF Dnes -Moravskoslezský by Darek Štalmach and has been translated from Czech to English. The article also appeared online in Czech at Idnes.cz.