It is scarcely a decade since Franz Müntefering, at the time the chairman of the Social Democratic Party, compared financial investors to locusts and prophesied a biblical plague. The pestilence would come, Mr. Münterfering warned, if the world did not act to block the machinations of anonymous funds and private-equity firms.
The catalyst was the handing off of the Sauerland-based faucet maker Grohe from one financial consortium to the next. The owner family had gotten out of the business years before. The case of Grohe became a synonym of the struggle that German mid-sized companies were waging against the greed of financial acrobats from abroad.
Today, nobody gets indignant when Willy Bogner, a fashion entrepreneur from Munich well-known in ski circles, commissions none other than the U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs to find a successor who can also be a financial investor. At least no indignation exists about a potential new owner. That’s because the multi-talented Mr. Bogner, 72, is somewhat late in getting around to regulating his legacy.