Germany: The discreet lives of the super rich | DW Documentary

germany's super rich no other european country has as many billionaires and while their fortunes are growing more and more germans are living under the poverty line set by the organization for economic cooperation and development the oecd the press frequently reports on the country's high income inequality and low social mobility but little is known about the super rich sure money attracts success and success attracts money i do believe that i've experienced myself how you can suddenly connect with people previously out of reach who are germany's super wealthy how do they live and how do they see the country they live in the way wealthy people in germany are talked about bothers me because it's sensationalizing and sycophantic and in no way reflects what wealthy people have done and continue to do for this country it creates this impression of rich people being like scrooge mcduck that they have these money bins in which they wallow in their coins we wanted to get closer to the discrete world of germany's ultra rich of company owners and heirs worth millions we wanted to find out what makes those on top of the world [Music] tick [Music] every year an exclusive event takes place in the schloss hotel kroenberg near frankfurt to which the public is not invited it's the annual hall of fame evening for the business monthly manager magazine hardly any other occasion in germany draws as many wealthy business owners [Music] esteemed presenters dear jury members dear ladies and gentlemen welcome to manager magazine's hall of fame when we first founded the hall of fame in 1992 we wanted to take a stand for excellence and unconditional entrepreneurship and against faint-heartedness and averageness we begin our nominations today with ralph domamut his company united internet is valued at around 11 billion and on our list of germany's richest people he ranks 25th with a personal wealth of 4.5 billion euros collectively the guests at this elegant evening are worth billions of euros this is the face of wealth in germany mainly male and although we're close to the super rich here their world remains somehow out of reach [Music] hamburg home to manager magazine's parent company the spigo group hardly any publication keeps closer tabs on germany's ultra rich every year the magazine's team gathers information on wealthy germans and using the forbes model makes a special edition with a list of germany's 1001 richest people [Music] it's painstaking work how many billionaires are there 180 190 last year it was 136 right no last year it was around 170.

170 okay needs to have around 100 million that doesn't have to be money in the bank most people have it as assets or as property but that's the ballpark we're looking for to be on our list of the richest germans editing chief stephen klusman has been around germany's ultra wealthy for years what does it take to get on the list [Music] i'd say that the top 150 spots on our list will always go to company owners and heirs even if you're a chief physician you'll need to see a whole lot of patience to become a billionaire managers also have a hard time getting that high up here in germany there's a debate about whether the heads of dax companies earn too much but if you compare it to what people in similar posts in the u.s the uk or china earn it's peanuts so that alone can't ever make you one of the truly ultra rich vans creating a list of the wealthiest people is especially difficult in germany though not because there aren't enough of them [Music] he somehow managed to amass this huge empire and fortune in just a few years his wealth is estimated to be around 4 billion he's the least known super rich would you let us interview him at home they prefer to fly under the radar to avoid envy the super rich don't like to out themselves so to speak these home stories yeah you can normally only get interviews inside the homes with second tier ones there you'll always get guys who get a kick out of publicity like mr marshmallow and such getting a good shot of mr marshmeyer is never a problem but the real money keeps itself hidden the super rich try to go unnoticed sometimes they even try to hide there are no photos of several people on our list you won't find a single picture if you go online and google them there hasn't been a photo of the hyman's german is rich's family for decades many stay hidden because they want to live normal lives and think that they won't be able to do so if they're known to be multi-billionaires for months our interview requests were rejected agreed film sheets were cancelled last minute none of the rich wanted to talk to us about money finally we got lucky in the financial hub frankfurt here in a prime location tucked behind the bank towers sits the asset management company 4com manages german business families fortunes [Music] its chairman christian van bechthelzheim provided some insight as to why rich germans are so shy the many wealthy germans are reluctant about stepping out into the public eye because they're afraid they could be seen negatively they ask themselves what do i get from showing myself to the public it doesn't give me it could lead to some crazy person taking note and breaking into my home or kidnapping one of my children and those fears are not unwarranted then there's also the fact that many heirs are inheriting fortunes that are somehow tainted by or related to the third right [Music] the upper tier of rich germans avoids publicity as if it were the plague but what are they so afraid of i asked a number of my friends whether they'd like to be interviewed for this film and each one said no they'd say someone else can do that better than me i can't do it right and i might come across wrong they think they'd have much more to lose than to gain after a lot of back and forth with this press team one ultra rich german did agree to meet us michael otto is the chairman of the supervisory board of the otto group and one of the 10 richest germans we asked him why germans are reluctant to show off their wealth [Music] any worry doing so would lead to envy in the u.s achievement and wealth are seen in a highly positive way but here they carry a bitter aftertaste where does his fortune come from or how did he get his wealth [Music] [Music] poor his mother ran a small drugstore in post-war hanover her son had bigger plans in 1972 the idea of opening the first self-service drug store in germany came to him today he's a multi-billionaire why was he happy to step into the spotlight in the early years it was just about getting the name out there so when i was invited to a talk show on a small regional channel i liked going because i thought free publicity for my company but then two or three years ago i started to understand that this slightly flabby balding man whose teeth aren't perfect was hungry for recognition himself back then i thought i was stepping into the limelight to promote the company but everyone rationalizes their motives and i did too within 40 years crosman became the most profitable drugstore chain in europe with stores in six countries in 2018 a total of 56 000 people were working on the chain rossmann is active in other business areas as well and he speculates on the stock market the largest is valuated between 80 and 100 million depending on the stock rate so it's a fair sum there are also shares in different industries would be boring with 55 000 employees you're not really a medium enterprise anymore you're in another league we're back at manager magazine in hamburg where photos with a special issue are being selected the list of the richest germans includes a notably high number of company owners from the so-called medium-sized businesses it's a german peculiarity and it's not the only one the cover story for this current issue is that last year money rained down on germany's super rich up here we have the shepherds the matriarch and her son who now owns eighty percent mom has kept only twenty the shepherds have been at the top of our list for many many years i'd have to check exactly how much they're worth but around 20 billion give or take a bit down here we have ms head of the henkel clan she's the first and so far only woman chairman of the supervisory board of one of the 30 dax companies germany's economy is still extremely male dominated what's interesting is if you compare our list here with a list of the ultra rich in the us we have a lot of old money old companies that have been around for decades in the us you have all those lads from facebook google snapchat and so forth that have bubbled up to the top of the list we don't have that type of thing and here with other countries germans are very reticent about showing their wealth very few germans sail around in boats like this usually that's americans russians chinese and so on here you don't really show your money you might have various houses villas and such but there's likely to be a volkswagen parked out front it seems the average ultra wealthy german is rarely conspicuous unlike in the us athletes actors and tv personalities rarely make it onto the german list even though we put a great deal of love and sweat into estimating these fortunes they're probably much bigger especially if we're talking about urban real estate where prices have exploded over the past 10 years a lot of people have doubled their property assets so if you started with 5 billion in that market you're likely to have 10 or 15 billion today money makes money but while rich german's fortunes have exploded since the financial crisis due to the increase in value of real estate stocks and assets those with average incomes have had to swallow losses even liberal economics institutes are concerned about social inequality in germany how do the super rich see this disparity the uber shift in that item the headline in the newspaper reads the rich are getting richer and richer which is true the rich are getting richer yes it's true but it's also false there are 20 million citizens in germany who have assets worth between 100 000 and 1 million so millions of people are getting richer now the rich are getting richer even faster because one factor is probably that they can dedicate much more time to increasing their wealth of the left party would likely say split up your wealth but my response is i also do things for the world which i live in i don't just take i'm not a socialist though i can only do things because i have things michael otto is one of the rich his wealth has increased he successfully transitioned his mail order business into a digital enterprise over 20 companies now belong to the otto group we wanted to know how otto sees the debate about rich and poor do the rich understand the worries of the poor when people talk about those on top who don't understand those at the bottom i wouldn't say that applies to me this is because i was not born rich i came to hamburg as a refugee from west prussia and my father had to start from scratch that's why i absolutely do understand people living in poverty today on the other hand i'd also say that if germany is getting more and more millionaires meaning people with small or medium-sized businesses because generally the millionaires in question did build a business they now run then i think that's great because they're the people creating jobs for me that's what should matter in this debate we should focus on that and not rich versus poor i'm right ensuring that the wealth of rich families can increase despite current zero interest rates is the mission of christian von best health science company each day he and his employees send out investment opportunities from banks and other entities given exclusively to his wealthy clients this is a way to present an offer to just a handful of valued clients and folks [Music] is it fair that rich germans are able to increase their wealth while the rest of the population gets left behind i think it's difficult to apply terms like equity and fairness to the distribution of wealth i would say that here in germany we're better off than ever before and people here live in above-average circumstances nonetheless we have to make sure the gap between rich and poor doesn't get too wide because we don't want social conflicts like in the us or latin america to happen here is a so-called multi-family office family officers take care of the needs of very wealthy families managing and increasing their assets it only makes sense to use family offices if your wealth is upward of 30 million euros who can afford such a thing this is clutters and well a family office like ours obviously can't discuss its clients we have well-known german business families that's our typical client profile someone who is or was a company owner thinks differently to someone who has spent their life as an employee or they are families who have had money for a long time so wealth is so to speak in their genes and then there are families who have just come into their wealth who are still pumping with entrepreneurial energy [Music] plenty of this entrepreneurial energy his company is mcfit europe's largest fitness studio chain [Music] its headquarters are in an old baking factory in berlin reiner schaller started off small but today his wealth is valued at 250 million euros [Music] i was born near bomback and grew up in a small village normally in villages you do the sports available and when i was around 1516 my role models were arnold schwarzenegger and stallone that's how i came to the fitness world schaller went from secondary school to complete a salesman apprenticeship and became the manager of three supermarkets then he decided to start something new when i was 25 i decided to switch to the fitness industry my idea was to open a gym where anyone could train no matter his or her income that was the initial idea and i had big goals i wanted to be number one in europe but that's all i had i didn't have financing uh okanggild it was 1997 when shala opened his first fitness studio in wurzburg close to his home village he made use of some unusual methods [Music] was a i opened my first fitness studio there under the slogan now also in wurzburg which people saw through as a marketing gag because customers came to me and asked where else we had studios so i gave it some thought and came up with the next marketing gag on soon also that did the job and also put me on track to going from wurzburg to erlangen and then it grew from there ten years later reiner schaller reached his goal he's number one in europe and still expanding mcfit now owns 10 fitness companies as well as its own model agency meanwhile chana is getting ready to open fitness studios in the us getting to be number one is much easier than staying number one i think if you want to be successful you need to be a bit of an alpha animal inside the investor would probably pick a brand and say okay that could work i like it although it's probably two steps too far for many but if someone doesn't want to get involved with us because of it i'm convinced that you have an easier time if you've fought your way to the top and to success clients feel it and so do partners i think that's our situation which is why i can also imagine that someone who inherits something or takes over or even has to take over a company in the second or third generation will have a much tougher time but there are plenty of heirs in germany huge fortunes and thousands of companies have been passed from one generation to the next they are heirs who don't want to and others who shouldn't take over their parents businesses succession is hugely important among germany's richest michael otto inherited the mail order company from his father and successfully managed it it will be harder for my children though because now the otto group has 123 companies in over 30 countries i know every single company either because i was involved when it was founded or because i led the takeover negotiation but my children don't yet know the many companies otto's children have opted against direct succession i think it's important to give your children the option without pressuring them so you don't force them into a role i think that mistake is made often and i'd say it's bad for both the children and the company so now we have one point of sale are you a bit tired yes it's been an exhausting couple of days in 10 minutes i'll be fine again it was just bam bam bam bam boom boom boom deer crossman also spent a lot of time considering who his successor would be it's now decided raul rossmann the younger of his two sons will take over as manager of the drugstore chain well do we actually sell much yarn it's not exactly part of a drugstore's range the trend sort of over it was big in 2016 already fading in 2017 and it's been stagnating in 2018 but it's not the worst product we have and it still brings in some revenue rail's father had to show him the appeal of being in charge when the boys got more engaged i thought oh now we can't look as if the drugstore business is only about making money so i showed them how we're all so active in social issues in africa and so forth i've always showed my sons that what we do isn't just about making money it's also about being responsible for others as a child i wanted to become a film director that was always my dream it still is today might be thinking no i don't want him to be a director i want him in the company so i said well go ahead and become a director but being a director of such a big company is also exciting i did manipulate him a bit [Music] i'm often asked whether i feel competitive toward my father and sure he built up this big company that i'll only take over but it's really difficult to keep something going these days the founding period has its own challenges and just having the idea of founding a self-service drug store was hugely innovative but the fight to survive has gotten tougher and that's the one i'm in everyone in my family wants to be good at sports my father and i battle each other in tennis we all compete with one another and that's also shaped our view of life or mine at least despite their competitiveness the rosman family reached a harmonious agreement with regard to succession i normally prefer playing doubles that's much more appropriate for men my age i'm starting to worry a bit about you you worry about me well with your inheritance i wouldn't worry i'd be looking forward to it selecting airs and successes is usually not quite as amicable as at the horseman's christian van bechterszeim has seen many inheritance disputes in rich families it's his job to preserve the family's assets and protect it from all sorts of dangers and for merchants maintaining a family fortune over several generations is incredibly difficult because it's under threat from being divvied up through inheritance from wealth disputes from expropriation from wars or simply from stupidity most families will have one or all of these happen to them only a handful of families have managed to stay more or less afloat over centuries but those right on top have been switched out again and again speaks from personal experience his own family's history dates back 900 years i have a horribly long name at least on my birth certificate there's my six given names christian lotan ludwig hugo wilhelm and maria as a good catholic followed by barron von mauchenheim gnant bechteltheim but at work i'm normally called mister von bechtel's heim and at social events baron or lord baron baron von bechtelsheim is an indirect successor of the figures the richest family in german history [Music] when does wealth begin for you if you're asking me at what point i consider someone to be truly rich i would say over a hundred seconds i am definitely not rich i was kidding but i'm comfortable and our family is comfortable and i'm certainly not complaining when you have a family history as long as mine your family has seen everything near bankruptcy years overflowing with money and years when a lot was lost he takes us to the hunting lodge of the baytorsheim family in turingan [Music] it looked like the lodge had been lost forever during the division of germany the house was built in 1892 as a hunting lodge for my great great grand uncles it's been in the family ever since except for a short interval it was expropriated in 1952 and then restituted in 1992.

And since then i've owned it the family's hunting lodge survived expropriation and socialism without much damage today from beitharsheim also owns hundreds of hectares of forest nearby and regularly invites business acquaintances for hunts [Music] a recurring topic in the special issues of the manager magazine are the super wealthy's networks there are larger and smaller networks and there are a lot of them and most even we journalists don't know about in high society there are certain typical hobbies horse racing hockey a bit of tennis though that's almost old school they'll meet in the boxes at major football stadiums because of course they're all football fans football is huge a lot of networking happens there that's like their marketplace they mingle and meet there more than at so-called parties for the rich [Music] [Applause] party [Music] we always have a lot of employees here we have a lot of friends in the box because jim fifa is here today germany's most famous criminologist sometimes someone from politics comes by christian wolf and bettina are part of my close circle of friends so there's always lots going on here [Applause] in berlin reiner schaller is opening a new club a new branch of his fitness empire shallow also has become a member in the network of important people from the sports business and entertainment industries sure money attracts success and success attracts money i do believe that i've experienced myself how you can suddenly connect with people previously out of reach i am in a different position [Applause] here [Applause] ah [Applause] dear crossman is ready to leave his box he wants to celebrate the victory with his friend the billionaire and hearing aid company owner martin kint kint is also co-owner and president of hanover 96.

His box is located on the other end of the exclusive vip area i told you we'd win today i told him that if we didn't win he'd pay 10 million that was the bet right i never said that yeah here we have it two halfway decent man networks are important for business but do the rich also have political clout can political influence be bought in germany the best way available for rich or super-rich people in germany to exert influence is the number of employees working in their companies someone who owns a company with a hundred thousand employees or let's say less maybe 15 000 employees can go to business associations and say but that will cost me or an even better argument is that will cost you 2 000 jobs in that area but there are no super rich people who regularly call out the ministers or ms merkel and say what needs to happen next which tax laws they'd like and so on that's not how things work here in germany [Music] [Music] the deadline for the special issue is approaching the heart of it is the ranking of the 1001 richest germans what do the rich think of this ranking is a ranking synth those rankings are for entertainment they're scraped together sometimes using stock market quotations but they aren't reliable in any real ways i don't think much of these rankings and i didn't want to be included because it creates this impression of rich people being like scrooge mcduck that they have these money bins in which they wallow in the fact that i'm at the top of the rankings including of the wealthiest germans does make me feel proud i'll read manager magazine every now and then one of these is that rhinoceros now wants to open the world's largest fitness center in north rhine westphalia let me ride the mirai is japanese and means the future we think it's a perfect fit for the whole concept and vision because what we want to create here is truly unique and has never been done before our goal is to become the world's fitness center fitness center schaller thinks he's found the perfect location to realize his vision in oberhausen he's rented an old factory complex at the moment the space is still being used to make steel parts but before long thousands of customers will be exercising here the emergency exits path will be here and the office is on top shallow experienced his most traumatic experience to date in the area in 2010 21 people died and 54 were injured in a stampede at the love parade in duisburg shulla had been the parade's organizer the cause of the panic has still not been conclusively determined how does an entrepreneur in the fast lane deal with that kind of tragedy an event like that will haunt you always for the rest of your life i've got a moral responsibility i was the organizer if i could turn back time i would do it immediately with the scale of what happened but you can't make it undone you have to try to deal with what happened has also seen setbacks and crises in the 90s we expanded dramatically into the czech republic hungary and poland i was also speculating on the stock markets a little too much and neglecting the company then in 1996 we suddenly had a loss of 12 million deutsche marks the banks don't joke around if you're highly indebted and then you come in with huge losses that was critical and then i had a heart attack in 96.

But everyone knows that life can get tough and things got very tough back then so i dialed back a bit including stock speculation i sold them all and thought the only thing on my table now is pulling the husband drugstore business through and up it was the right move to focus on one thing and not do so many different things emerged from that crisis stronger than ever he started speculating again but so he assures us only with his private wealth i don't have a laptop i normally do this via ntv text 254.

Here it says gas problem is it 375. i could already sell those now i bought 250 000 of those so 250 000 times 20 cents that would give me 50 000 euros profit but i won't sell i think it's gonna rise to four euros sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't but i enjoy it that's why i don't play the lottery because i find that boring can a large fortune also be a burden [Music] i'd say that for most people although they wouldn't voluntarily give away their money for example they'll move to switzerland or somewhere to save on taxes and give up their entire circle of friends and basically become a slave to their fortune in my opinion that's absurd considering the conditions we currently have in germany conditions in germany are currently more favorable than ever for the rich they pay significantly less tax than they did 25 years ago only a minority still feels compelled to immigrate abroad article 14 of the german constitution states property entails obligations its use shall also serve the public good do the rich in germany live up to this responsibility [Music] i think it is important if you're successful if you're lucky enough to have reached a certain level of prosperity and wealth to give something back to society for me that's a given michelle otto is one of germany's biggest donors his money helps fund the environmental cultural and social sectors like most rich people he prefers to decide himself what he spends his money on rather than leave that to the state otto like many wealthy germans donated millions for the construction of the ed philharmonie in hamburg in germany wealthy people like to donate and this makes important contributions to society and public life but generally they're against the proposal of redistributing wealth by a higher taxes for the rich the deutschen film and foreign if german businesses would yield to all the demands of let's say ms wagenknecht to the left party then millions of people would be happy and things would be good for a while because millions of people would have more money i know but a true redistribution of wealth has never led to more social justice in the long term not in any of the political systems that tried it it led to the impoverishment of these countries christians home sees higher taxes on the rich as dangerous i don't think much about this so-called rich tax for two reasons firstly the terminology alone is stigmatizing and we in germany should avoid that and secondly the rich tax wouldn't do any good on the contrary it would cut into the backbone of the german economy because the typical german rich person is a medium-sized business owner they make up the backbone of the german economy and if we want to destroy that we have no one to blame but ourselves the special issue is ready things have basically stayed the same the rich have a few billion more the richest one percent of germans now has personal wealth worth a quarter of the country's assets while a quarter of adults have no wealth or are in debt for this report we never really got access to the world of the wealthiest germans they prefer to fly silently under the radar away from the public eye until the next award ceremony [Music] [Music] [Music] you

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