Who are the wealthiest people in Germany? Two magazines – Manager Magazine, which is owned by the Spiegel publishing house, and Bilanz Magazine, owned by Die Welt newspaper, have both published rich lists.
The way they compile these lists, and the way they decide what to include and what to leave out, speaks volumes about Germany’s attitudes to wealth and to privacy.
Both lists are inspired by Forbes magazine in the United States that since 1987 publishes a list of the world’s richest people – “The World’s Billionaires List.”
Kerry A. Dolan and Luisa Kroll, who compile the ranking, said on the Forbes website that they calculate net worth by valuing “individuals’ assets – including stakes in public and private companies, real estate, yachts, art and cash” – and they take into account estimates of debt.
“In Germany such lists are not very popular, so if families are featured on such lists, they prefer the wealth to be distributed on many members.”
In Germany, editors focus more on family wealth than individuals, partly to acknowledge the role inheritance plays in assessing someone’s wealth but also to appease several wealthy individuals who do not want their personal finances to be made public.
“In Germany such lists are not very popular,” said one of the editors at Manager Magazine who helps compile the list, but asked not to be named. “So if families are featured on such lists, they prefer the wealth to be distributed on many members of the family, instead of one individual. And we respect that.”
When researching a list, he said that his team is focusing on operating assets only, including stakes in companies, equities and other active entrepreneurial assets.
“This information is all publicly available in commercial registers and on the equity market,” he said. “We don’t include what villas these people own in different places.”
The two magazines share close ties. Bilanz’s editor-in-chief Klaus Boldt and publisher Arno Balzer both worked at Manager Magazine, and created a wealth list in 2000. At the time, they modeled their work on the methodology and research Bilanz used in Switzerland to create Switzerland’s 300 wealthiest people list.
Some 13 years later, they both came to work for Bilanz’ German edition and launched a similar version of their list again.
Manager Magazine named the Quandt family, the main shareholders of luxury car maker BMW, as the wealthiest individuals, with a net worth of €31 billion ($39 billion).
Bilanz Magazine gave the title to Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler and her son Georg Schaeffler. It claims they are worth €21.5 billion through their engineering business the Schaeffler Group, engines and train parts, and their 46 percent stake in the tire and auto parts company, Continental.
Manager Magazine, however calculates that Schaefflers are worth just €17.6 billion euros, €4 billion less than Bilanz magazine’s ranking, and so come in at number three on their list.
The two magazines used similar methodologies, but the valuations depend on the share price at time of publication.
Bilanz editor in chief Klaus Boldt said the market cap of Continental was €15 billion at its deadline. When Manager Magazine went to print a month later, Continental’s value had fallen to €12.5 billion.
The magazines differ slightly in how they group together family members to determine their wealth.
“We combined Stefan and his mother Johanna Quandt as well as his sister Susanne Klatten, together, because they have 80 to 85 percent invested into the same company,” said Steffen Klusmann, editor in chief of Manager Magazine.
Franziska Scheven is writing for Handelsblatt Global Edition in Berlin and Kai-Hinrich Renner is based in Düsseldorf covering media for Handelsblatt since 2013. To contact the authors: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com