Wheel Shame

White Knight On Two Wheels Declares Defeat

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany’s largest bicycle maker is facing its second bankruptcy within three years. That’s despite restructuring, management and investment from Heinrich von Nathusius, a former steel industry manager who is credited with saving other former Communist-era companies.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Despite the second insolvency, Mifa’s future is not that grim. The company moved into a new €17 million factory in December 2016 and has €42 million in its order books.
    • Mifa started life as an east German bicycle manufacturer and is based in Saxony Anhalt. Mr. von Nathusius was called in to help in 2014 when Mifa faced bankruptcy.
    • State administrators asked Mr. von Nathusius to help and helped the bicycle firm financially. The state subsidized the construction with €2.85 million.
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    Audio

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Fahrradhersteller Mifa
Riding into the future: The Mifa works in action. Source: DPA.

Heinrich von Nathusius was given a bicycle by friends as a 50th birthday present. On the frame was an inscription: A new start in the east. After all, the former steel industry manager from the West had just bought the ailing driveshaft factory, Ifa, in Haldensleben, near Magdeburg in the former East Germany.

It would become apparent 20 years later that this bicycle was fateful. In 2015, Mr. von Nathusius and his family bought the bankrupt bicycle manufacturer Mifa in Sangerhausen in the eastern state of Saxony Anhalt; Mifa is an abbreviation of the German, Mitteldeutsche Fahrradwerke, or Middle German Bicycle Works.

Mr. von Nathusius had already made a name for himself in Germany as a sanitizer of former East German firms, many of which were in disrepair and lagging behind their western competitors. But his attempts to rescue this traditional eastern German bicycle brand resulted in failure.

Mr. von Nathusius has had to transfer management of the firm to a restructuring specialist, who this week initiated insolvency proceedings.

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