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The heir to grow in crisis beyond itself


Ludwig Merckle hat seine Fähigkeiten als Unternehmer erfolgreich 
unter Beweis gestellt. Quelle: dpa

Ludwig Merckle has his skills as an entrepreneur successfully demonstrated. Source: Reuters

STUTTGART. About a year ago Ludwig Merckle stood petrified expression on his father’s coffin at the funeral service in the Protestant church Blaubeuren. Beginning in January 2009 had thrown the entrepreneur Adolf Merckle front of a train. The impending collapse of his business empire with a nested 35 billion euros in sales and 90 000 employees, the Swabian patriarch could no longer endure. Merckle had leveraged its excessive expansion, and thus became the most prominent victims of the financial crisis in Germany.

To the surprise of many of the self-willed patriarch had his eldest son, Louis made the sole heir. Although this 1997 already partially succeeded his father had started, it was never easy for Ludwig Merckle, meet the high demands of the father to become his lifetime. The patriarch trust the current HeidelbergCement CEO Bernd Scheifele more than their own children. Not Louis, but Scheifele should take over two years ago, the leadership of the family holding company. Due to the imbalance of the Merckle kingdom come, but this move never materialized.

At first it looked as though the family lost everything: Under pressure from the banks Ludwig Merckle had to make the operational management of the then family of five billion euros in debt VEM Asset Holding GmbH. The myths were more than 60 creditor banks, the three trustees set up and Restructuring Professionals. The 44-year-old Merckle could only assist you in unwinding, to protect the interests of the family.

A year later, the situation has eased considerably – and Ludwig Merckle has a significant share of mind. He wants to prove that he can save a portion of the Empire: "It is clear that there will be no longer the old Merckle group in this form. My goal is to preserve as much of what has built my father" He recently said in an interview. Even last year, Ludwig Merckle reduced its stake in Germany’s biggest building materials group HeidelbergCement above 79.5 to just under 25 percent. Over two billion flowed into the coffers here. The debt balance by holding VEM he could press to below three billion euros.

Should now come out even the sale of the generic manufacturer Ratiopharm, the nucleus of his father’s corporate art collection, then the family is probably out of the woods. The sale could go in those days or weeks on the stage and import between 2.5 to three billion euros. Tenderers are the Israeli generics giant Teva and the Icelandic company Actavis.

Remains perhaps the Merckle still something left in the till defuse the difficult situation for heavily indebted pharmaceutical wholesaler Phoenix. If necessary, this also pledged to banks or companies would have to be sold. But the proportion HeidelbergCement with a current value on the stock exchange of at least 1.8 billion euros, the family continues to hold. Then there are the groomer’s Company Kaessbohrer with 176 million euros in sales and other smaller holdings.

It looks very much as if Ludwig Merckle can release the shackles of the banks and opened herself to him but still a chance of becoming an entrepreneur. Ludwig had a strong inner drive, say experts on the family. He wanted to prove that it is capable of more than just the son of Adolf Merckle. A graduate in business data with the high forehead and bushy eyebrows, his father comes closer than his siblings, even externally.

Agrees with other family members – especially with his mother, Ruth – he from his steps, though he would not have as his sole heir, they say. The longest distance he has to his brother Philipp, who had been disowned by his father in the fall of 2008 and retired from the family holdings. The two younger siblings Jutta Merckle and Tobias went his own way early on, which is an employee of a technology company in Berlin, the other is social worker and runs a rehabilitation facility for delinquent youth.

For the sole heir of Ludwig Merckle, it is a huge success, if not quite at the end of the family standing there with empty hands. Despite all the prophecies of doom, he seems to create. The old glory and the power of his father’s empire is history – and will remain so.