Michael Tojner, the 51-year-old founder of the industrial group Montana Tech Components based in Vienna, is one of Austria’s most enigmatic investors. He recently experienced a career high point with the successful initial public offering in Frankfurt this month of one of his group’s premier holdings: the German battery maker Varta. But Mr. Tojner began his career with far more humble endeavors: selling ice cream and opening a dance club.
The son of plumber and a teacher, the Austrian entrepreneur founded the Swiss-based Montana Tech Components in 2006. Last year, the group, which, in addition to Varta, possesses aerospace and industrial companies, generated sales of €763.4 million, or $900 million. In the first half of this year alone, the group’s earnings before interest and tax rose about 70 percent over the same period of the previous year to some €44 million. In Vienna, some have taken to calling Mr. Tojner “Mr. 300 Percent,” because he reportedly always aims to triple his investments.
Mr. Tojner has built his growing empire from scratch. In his own telling, the taste for investing was sparked when he moved to Vienna in the 1980s as a college student with little money and a thick provincial accent. Determined to do well for himself among many more wealthy classmates, he made his first million in Austrian schillings while still a university student – opening four ice scream stands on well-trafficked squares, and employing more than 20 students in the process. Next, he opened a dance club called Mekka. And shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain, while working on his doctorate degree, he founded a mail-order company that shipped electric hand mixers to Hungary.
None of these businesses lasted particularly long, but greater success came later with the founding of the online betting site Bwin – an idea Mr. Tojner says he came up with one night while talking with friends in the sauna during a trip the Alps. He put €3 million into the business and came away with ten times that amount. With that capital, he founded Montana Tech Components.