Are paper billionaires real billionaires?

Super rich without pretension : The life of the billionaires in Germany

How do you recognize German billionaires? On a Rolls-Royce? Ferraris? On a big yacht? The wealth researcher Thomas Druyen once said: "I experience self-promoters mainly among the rich with a fortune in the single-digit million range."

Germany’s billionaires cannot be recognized. Not only because many people very consciously hide. Those who have accumulated their own wealth have often done so right from the start with thrift, discipline and great respect for their work. This basic attitude does not change if the value of the property rises to astronomical heights.

Karl Albrecht, Theo Albrecht, Dieter Schwarz

This does not only apply to entrepreneurs from the very beginning such as the Aldi brothers Karl and Theo Albrecht, who died not long ago, the richest Germans during their lifetime with an estimated fortune of 16 and 17 billion euros. They lived completely isolated, gave no interviews and avoided any public. There are only a few photos of them. Karl even managed to erase his birthday and place of birth from sources. Thrift not only determined her life from the start, it was also the basic philosophy of her business model and her success.

Competitor and Lidl founder Dieter Schwarz - he ranked third in Germany in 2012 with a fortune of twelve billion - is in no way inferior. Since there are no photos of him, he and his wife Franziska can go to a concert in Heilbronn without being recognized. It is said that his suit is off the shelf, he drives the car himself. Before visiting the toilet, he is said to have asked visitors to Lidl's headquarters in Neckarsulm to only use a paper towel. Whether the anecdote is true is not guaranteed, but it would suit him.

Adolf Merckle and Susanne Klatten

Adolf Merckle was the fifth richest German with seven billion euros before he threw himself in front of the train in 2009 because the banks had taken control of his empire. He lived in an inconspicuous family house, drove a 20-year-old Mercedes and always sat in second class on the train. It is said that his appearance was so inconspicuous that one participant in a business meeting discreetly asked another who was this inconspicuous man in the background.

There are heirs who carry on the life's work of former patriarchs in their spirit and are characterized by public restraint and at the same time great entrepreneurship. The fact that the life of the Quandt heiress Susanne Klatten was dragged into public was because she was the victim of a blackmailer with whom she had an affair. She actually shies away from the public. Father Herbert Quandt taught his children a sense of duty and discipline. No interviews, no parties, Susanne Klatten also takes that to heart. She dresses inconspicuously, is largely without make-up and drives her own car - a Mini. In 2012, Susanne Klatten was fifth among the richest Germans with a fortune of nine billion euros. As a major shareholder in BMW, Altana and other corporations, she gradually paved the way for future-oriented investments in the field of super-light materials and wind energy. The story passed down shows how she feels about money: she did an internship at BMW under a pseudonym and met her future husband, one of her employees, there. She is said to have withheld from him who she really is for months and married him when she was sure.

Michael Otto and Dietmar Hopp

Michael Otto, like Susanne Klatten scion of a famous company founder, has also brought the legacy forward. The son of the legendary entrepreneur Werner Otto, who died in Berlin in 2011 at the age of 102, is particularly noticeable to the outside world for his foundations, which are committed to environmental protection and Africa. On vacation he likes to ride through Kyrgyzstan or join a caravan through Mongolia. He is more interested in nature experiences than a vacation in a luxury hotel.

But there are also billionaires in Germany who stand out more. Above all, this includes those who made their fortune in the digital age. Dietmar Hopp is one of them. Everyone who is interested in football knows him. His club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim made it to some fame. Dietmar Hopp got rich because he founded the software company SAP with four friends, including Hasso Plattner. Plattner and Hopp took 12th and 13th place in the list of the richest Germans in 2012.

Hopp already gives the "Bunte" an interview and allows a lot more insight into his thinking and his life. Even as a child he said: “Mom, I'm going to be a millionaire.” He had more money than other children because he worked for farmers and carried sacks of coal. As a student he gave math tutoring and worked in construction. As a student, he drove trucks and sold garage doors. Hopp doesn't own a yacht. He doesn't drive a Ferrari, but a big BMW. And he owns a small private jet. Hopp is particularly noticeable as a patron, just like Hasso Plattner. Hopps Foundation is one of the largest in Europe; it promotes medical research, youth sports and biotechnology, among other things.

Andreas von Bechtolsheim

A completely different IT pioneer is Andreas von Bechtolsheim. The tall 58-year-old is noticeable, but showing off is alien to him, he stays away from public hype. Growing up on Lake Constance, he then sought his fortune in the USA, developing computers and software systems; with Sun Microsystems, which is now part of Oracle, he has always been at the forefront. He was one of the first to get on Google when nobody knew what it was. Nobody knows how many billions Bechtolsheim owns. His clothes usually consist of simple shirts, jeans and sandals when he's not giving a lecture at Stanford. In his clothes he resembles the young American IT billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, who always dresses as if he were a freshman student. Andreas von Bechtolsheim affords himself a little luxury. He loves fast cars and sailing. Most of all, he loves work. There is not much time left for spending money.

His cousin Christian Freiherr von Bechtolsheim manages the billions of billionaires in Munich and Frankfurt am Main. His experience is that you really don't recognize rich people. He once said to the “Spiegel”: “Recognize rich people? No chance."

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