The above expression points to the financing side of a concern. We would like here, to have a closer look at the difficulties. For a long time now, Mercedes has had a much rougher time, also through globalisation, than e.g., BMW who has a major shareholder (Quandt) and VW (Audi) who have at least 20 percent state participation. This of course, also lies in the fact that Daimler and Benz belong to the veterans of the German automobile industry, whereas BMW and VW are rather considered to be newcomers.
Very early on, the manufacturers of the more expensive cars caused covetousness. If the cars are liked, the shares are also liked. Those who can afford a car like this, can possibly, also afford to have shares in the company. Indeed, as a rule, the buyer doesn't want to earn money with the car, but definitely with the shares. This is precisely where the snag is. We would like to try and show, how Mercedes has had to battle against the whirlpool of the stock market.
The first prominent example, is Friedrick Karl Flick. Born in 1883, he grew up in sheltered, middle class conditions. The only thing that pointed to his later becoming a multi-millionaire, was his strong love of money. He finished high school and his military service, then after studying business economics he became the authorized officer in a large steelworks.
After advancing to become a director there, the first world war would prove to be a blessing for the production of steel in the town of Siegen. Rare Manganese-ore was used in the production of weapons and was well paid for. In private, Flick had an aggreement with one of the main suppliers of scrap-metal, giving him an addtional income. Thus, during the course of the war, he managed to gather more than the share-majority in the steelworks.
The ownership of a factory which employed 1200 people, provided Flick with financial resources and power on the stock exchange. His younger cousin Kaletsch, was absolutely loyal and was in charge of the financial department. The pair of them benefitted from the, up to 1923, galloping inflation. They dealt basically, with steel companies, exploiting the plight of those who had to sell out during these hard times. Thus the Verienigten Stahlwerke (United Steelworks), in which Flick played an increasingly important role, was born and was almost one hundred times bigger than the Siegener operation. These were of course, no longer simply steelworks. The coal- and ore-mining was a part of it as well. At this point Flick attempted to expand his kingdom to the west. This was a success as far as his influence was concerned, indeed, he was never accepted by the Krupps and the Thyssens. Thus, the most powerful man in the steel industry, came up against the worldwide economic crisis at the end of the 1920s. This is where Flick's special method came into effect, which would carry him through the crisis.
The practise of donating to politics, particularly of course, to the governmental parties, apparently played an important role as far as the establishing, and now also the maintaining of of the Flick company. Even then, in view of the six-million unemployed, these subventions caused a scandal, as they did later, even after his death, without batting an eyelid, the company carried on pumping bribery-money into politics which caused a number of arrests and convictions. This time however, there were no such occurrences.
Even before the assumption of power, the Nazi movement also received an, albeit smaller portion of the budget. They were once again, going to wage war and to do this, they probably needed him. He joined Himmler's circle of friends, which means that he wasn't quite indifferent towards the political goings on. It is said of Flick, that not only did he, together with the Nazis, profit from the forced selling out by the endangered Jewish, but also from the conquests made during the Second World War. Apart from that, he, like most big companies at that time, was accused of using forced labour, and also of maltreating the workers.
In 1947, Friedrich Karl Flick was convicted by the Nuremberg Tribunal to seven years in prison. It may have been one of his talents, that after each knock-out, he could bounce back and carry on. Apart from being imprisoned, he also had to mourn the loss of his second eldest son Rudolf, who died as a soldier in the war. He and his eldest son didn't get on at all. It even came to a court case between father and son. His youngest son, also Friedrich Karl Flick, would in the end, inherit the concern, indeed, he would only be able to manage it with the help of Eberhard von Brauchitsch.
His cousin Konrad Kaletsch made it possible for him to manage the companies affairs from the prison. This concerned a small remaining part, the biggest steelworks in Bavaria, the Maxhütte (Max Steel Mills). Flick was fighting desperately to maintain ownership. Once again, the politics - which he generously supported, came to his aid. They would, for the sum of 20 million DM, act as interim owner of 26 percent of the shares, which Flick would, after successfully doing business, buy back again. In 1950, at the age of 67, Flick would be released from prison and could begin straight away with the establishing of a new concern. Despite the immense expropriations taking place in the east, he held on to, e.g., the Ruhrkohle (coal mining) operations which he would then sell, under pressure from the Allied Forces.
In view of the lack of investment funds in the mid 1950s, 250 million DM was an immense sum of money. Flick left the steel branch and invested in other fields, among others, also 42 percent in Daimler Benz. After the war, Daimler was almost without competition, in fact they were pretty close to swallowing BMW. At that time, Audi was not held by VW but by Mercedes. One had the feeling that the group was growing without limits and could chose the direction in which they would develop. And Flick was there, growing with them. However, as opposed to, e.g., Quandt at BMW, Flick saw this as an investment. His influence was probably more reduced than increased. He probably didn't have the time either, because his empire, apart from still being in steel, was now also touching on the paper industry and the field of chemicals.
He was once again someone, indeed, partly through his enormous pre-war fortune and the profits made during the war. He carried on financing politics, which would turn out to be useful again. The system had now been refined. Instead of a connection between a party and a company, there was now the SV (Civic Association), which functioned as a money collection point. Flick passed away in 1972 as probably the richest man in Germany. His attitude as far as the past was concerned, hadn't changed. His youngest son Friedrich Karl, would take over the company management together with Eberhard von Brauchitsch.
The money-distribution-procedure carried on unchallenged. In addition to the monies from the Civic Association there were now also donations to individual politicians. In 1975 the Flick KG (Limited Parnership) wanted to part with 29 of the 39 percent package of Daimler shares, this money was to be invested in other factories. In the meantime the shares were worth two billion, indeed, half was to be transferred to the dept. of revenue. This, perhaps understandably, was to be avoided at all costs and once again, the system of bribing politicians proved helpful. The Minister for Economic Affairs can give an exemption, indeed, only if the money is reinvested in a worthy cause. This was probably not the case for about half the sum. The Minister for Economic Affairs, Friderichs, gave them his blessing anyway. His successor, Lambsdorf, took up where Friderichs left off.
Indeed, this time they never got away unscathed. One would almost like to have been there, when in 1981, the attorney generals office searched the Flick-offices right up to von Brauchitsch. Apparently the justice dept. in Germany was able to regain their independence from politics. In 1987, von Brauchitsch was sentenced to two years imprisonment on parole. The courts confirmed the suspicion that Friderichs had accepted cash payments from Flick. Both he and Count Lambsdorf were finally 'only' convicted of tax evasion. Flick apparently knew nothing at all and was not convicted, he sold the concern to the Deutsche Bank in 1987 for 5 billion DM.
So, there was quite a storm around Daimler-Benz, the German economic miracle. What then, do we learn from this? Mercedes can obviously pay for their investments from their own earnings and still make high profits. The sale of the Flick shares showed, that at least this shareholder was not convinced that the concern could show a similar growth in the future. For a certain period, after 1975, this proved to be an error, the concern remained highly profitable. After all, Flick still hung on to 10 percent of the shares.
Daimler was hit twofold, because as early as 1974, Quandt sold 14 percent to Kuwait. One year later the Flick KG exploited the deal very cleverly by treatening to sell their complete 39 percent to Iran. This is where the Deutsche Bank came onto the scene, they were afraid that the majority share of Daimler would find itself in foreign hands. They were responsible for limiting Flick's sale to 'only' 29 percent. The tax exemption that followed later was probably part and parcel of this deal.
Don't believe for a minute, that thereby the problems were solved. Since, what does the Deutsche Bank want with 29 percent of the Mercedes shares? First of all, they were only sold, when the bank knew what they were going to do with the money, after all, you won't find 2 Billion in the sundries cash-desk. Apart from that, the interest alone would starve them out. Indeed they also couldn't sink it into the stock-market. The fewer the people who could access this, the more it's value would shrink. What would happen if the bank had to bear the difference between the sale and the proceeds? 10/12