Acquisition Denied

German Giants’ Real Estate Rivalry

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Tensions run high between the bosses of real estate companies, Deutsche Wohnen and Vonovia, after Vonovia’s failed takeover bid last year.

  • Facts


    • By mid-2017, Vonovia will manage 358,000 apartments, spread wide over 660 cities.
    • Deutsche Wohnen owns 165,000 apartments in Berlin and Frankfurt.
    • The market value of Deutsche Wohnen is currently €11 billion, while Vonovia’s is €15 billion.
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Townhäuser in Berlin
Real estate rivalry: Townhouses in Berlin are seen as premium property by managers. Source: DPA

Two out of the three executive parking spaces in front of the Berlin headquarters of Germany’s second-biggest landlord, Deutsche Wohnen, stand empty this morning. The third space is occupied by a cement-gray Maserati Quattroporte. The horsepower-heavy sedan belongs to chief executive Michael Zahn. During an interview, he downplays the significance of his car and its 400-horsepower engine: After all, a 7-series BMW isn’t any cheaper.

Somehow Mr. Zahn’s car of choice cannot help but make one think also of his biggest business competitor, Vonovia chief executive Rolf Buch. He is known to roll up to the office in a tuned-up, S-Class Mercedes. It has a 600-horsepower engine.

But Mr. Zahn is quick to point out a further distinction between his car and Mr. Buch’s: “Horsepower isn’t all that significant for me,” he says, explaining why he chose his car. “I love Italian design.”

The rivalry between the two is highly entertaining. Two alpha males, prima donnas who, with their millions of euros in profits, compete passionately – and, in doing so, bungle each other’s plans.

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