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Thursday, 16 March, 2000, 13:43 GMT
Pulling the strings at BMW
BMW museum in Munich
The BMW museum - without the Quandt family, there would be no company history
Not much happens at BWM Group without the consent of the Quandt family.

They are the descendants of the man who turned the firm into an automotive powerhouse, and own nearly 50% of the company.

And it is the Quandts who have ensured BMW's independence. As Rover's losses accumulated, there was increasing speculation that BMW could become a takeover target itself.
The BMW story
1916: BMW founded as aircraft engine factory
1923: First BMW motorcycle
1928: BMW buys its first car factory
1929: BMW's first car, the Dixi
1959: BMW up for sale, shareholder revolt saves firm
1972: Launch of 5-Series
1994: Rover becomes part of BMW group
The Quandts refused to sell out. However it is believed they urged BMW's management to stem the losses at its UK operations.

As the Rover split-up was announced, a Quandt spokesman said there were no grounds for speculation that the family's stake was for sale.

Four generations

The Quandts are multi-billionaires, although it is difficult to put an exact figure on their wealth.

They do not give interviews and are very publicity shy. Pictures of family members are hard to come by.

The family has been closely involved in BMW's affairs for four generations, playing a decisive role in picking its chief executives and holding two seats on the company's supervisory board.

The current board members are drawn from the fourth generation of Quandts: Stefan, 33, and his sister Susanne Klatten, 37, joined the board in May 1997.

They are thought to have been instrumental in the removal of Bernd Pischetsrieder and Wolfgang Reitzle, the two BMW executives who were sacked a year ago when the firm tried the first time to give Rover a new direction.

Family tradition
BMW car outside Rover factory
The Quandt family backed the Rover acquisition, but six years of losses were too much to bear
Emil Quandt is the man who laid the foundations. He married the daughter of a rich textile manufacturer and took charge of the company in 1883. It was his son GŁnther, though, who was the driving force behind the Quandt conglomerate.

When he died in 1954, the Quandt group was a sprawling empire of cross-ownerships and holding companies involving about 200 firms.

By then the family owned much of battery manufacturer Varta, several industrial machinery makers, a string of textile and chemical companies.

It also owned about 10% of car company Daimler-Benz and about 30% of BMW.

But BMW was an ailing company. By 1959, its management suggested selling the whole concern to rival Daimler Benz.

Herbert Quandt, one of GŁnther Quandt's sons, was close to agreeing such a deal, but changed his mind at the last minute.

He increased his share in BMW and was instrumental in turning the company around.

In the years following GŁnther Quandt's death, the family empire was split several times as company holdings were disentangled and distributed among the heirs of his sons Harald, who died in a plane crash in 1967, and Herbert, who died in 1982.

BMW is currently controlled by Herbert Quandt's third wife, Johanna and her two children Susanne and Stefan.

In 1995 they transferred their shares from personal ownership to three company holdings, a move which made it more difficult to sell the shares on the stock market. The family said this was a demonstration of its commitment to BMW.

Thomas Gauly, a spokesman for the family, insists that the Quandts do not own BMW to make a quick buck. They hope for value creation in the long run.

And they do not just look at the financial bottom line. According to Mr Gauly, the Quandt family wants a firm to treat its employees well, and behave in a socially responsible manner.

For Rover employees, this may sound hollow. But ultimately, it is BMW that is close to the heart of the Quandts, not Rover.

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See also:

16 Mar 00 | Business
BMW's 'English Patient'
16 Mar 00 | Business
The Rover Group
16 Mar 00 | Business
BMW set to sell Rover
16 Mar 00 | Business
Rover's troubles
15 Mar 00 | Business
Rover's options
15 Mar 00 | Business
Nice cars, shame about the name
15 Mar 00 | Business
The Rover breakdown
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