Czech Republic: Legal battle threatens Pilsner Urquell deal

Karel Svoboda and his association Právovarečné měšťanstvo (Brewing Burghers) are threatening the sale of Czech brewer Plzeňský Prazdroj  (Pilsner Urquell) to Japanese Asahi Group Holdings. The Czech group has appealed to European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager to suspend the sale until details of property and name rights for the iconic brand are resolved.

Svoboda claims, that the company Plzeňský Prazdroj in Pilsen/Czech Republic was not correctly nationalized after the Czechoslovak coup d'état in 1948 when the communists established a one-party state allied with the Soviet Union. "The assessment in December 1948 to determine the extent of nationalization has not been signed by the relevant minister, as required by law, but by a subordinate officer. It is therefore a totally invalid measure. De jure the nationalization has therefore never happened, "says Karel Svoboda.

The Brewing Burghers were originally Pilsen house owners with the right to brew beer.  The organization was headed by a board, which also registered the trade mark Pilsner Bier in 1859 and Pilsner Urquell in 1898. Before the organization was dissolved after the Second World War, the grandfather of Mr. Svoboda was the last chairman of the Pilsen Brewing Burghers.

The efforts to reclaim part of the brewery’s properties have been going on for more than ten years now, but became a new spin, when the Czech Supreme Court recognized the legal personality of Právovárečného měšťanstva in 2013 and the company was entered in the commercial register one year later.

According to Jitka Němečková, spokesperson of Plzensky Prazdroj, “all claims in the past were met and the nature of this activity is purely speculative."

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