Germany: Family dynasty sells century-old industry for $9.6 billion – Financial Post

By | May 2, 2023

In the last century, the Viessmanns built one of the world’s greatest fortunes with an industrial empire that began in a small workshop in the German state of Bavaria.

Carrier Global Corp. agreed this week to buy the heating and cooling unit of the Viessmanns’ namesake company in a cash-and-stock deal. The transaction will increase the family’s wealth to $14 billion, more than double what it was a year ago, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The move breaks with a business empire that dates back to 1917, when Johann Viessmann founded his workshop after working as a laborer and blacksmith.

His financial situation and fortune changed a decade later. A gardener asked for a better way to heat the more delicate plants in his greenhouse, which led Johann to invent and patent a steel boiler. This became the driving force behind the family business for decades.

Martin Viessmann, 69, and his son, Maximilian, who turns 34 this year, have been running the company for the past few years with non-family executives. Maximilian became the sole managing director in July. He worked at the Boston Consulting Group before joining the firm as chief digital officer.

The duo propelled the Allendorf, Germany-based company into newer technologies such as heat pumps, electricity storage and digital services, providing protection against the crisis that hit its traditional businesses.

“We have a very broad position,” Maximiliano said Wednesday in an interview with local reporters. “We have been very concerned about how the market will develop in the long term.”

Mittelstand: The base of Germany’s industrial “talent”.

Viessmann is one of the so-called Mittelstand companies that form the basis of Germany’s industrial talent. Mostly medium-sized businesses, often family-owned, provide more than half of the country’s jobs and output.

These companies have helped make Germany the richest country in Europe, and few of them have sold much of their business.

Messer, the industrial gas producer controlled by the family of the same name for more than a century, was in talks to sell a stake to Singaporean wealth fund GIC Pte and EQT AB, sources with knowledge of the discussions said earlier this month. anus.

“Many non-German companies are regularly ‘hunting’ Mittelstand companies, but many of them refuse to sell,” said Jeffrey Fear, professor of international business history at the University of Glasgow. One of the strengths of these companies is the motto “a global perspective with local roots”.

The world’s wealthiest families often create offshore companies to diversify their wealth after a major liquidity event, and the Viessmanns have already created the means to do something similar.

Holding company

They set up a family holding company in 2020 that now runs a venture capital division, originally founded in 2017, and a real estate unit. He also oversees the family’s foundation, which recently donated money to help support Ukrainian families.

Its venture arm, VC/O, has allocated money to funds with investments in deep-tech businesses and energy startups. Viessmann Real Estate was created as part of the 2020 restructuring.

If the transaction with Carrier is completed, the family will receive approximately €9.6 billion before taxes. The Viessmanns plan to donate most of the cash proceeds to charities and their namesake business, a company spokesman said.

They are also set to take ownership of an estimated $2.7 billion stake in Carrier’s public offering, placing them among its largest shareholders. The company’s shares have returned more than 240% since it was spun off from United Technologies Corp. in 2020.

The deal is expected to be completed by the end of the year, though German regulators are reviewing it to protect green-tech jobs. Maximilian Viessmann will join Carrier’s board of directors if the sale is completed.

The German industrial company has announced plans to invest €1 billion in green solutions, suggesting the Viessmanns are not done building their empire, even as they relinquish control of the business that made them rich.

“Being a family business is not a job, but a profession,” Maximiliano said in an interview in 2021. “I have only borrowed the responsibility of the business from the next generations.”

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