CATHERINE VON FÜRSTENBERG-DUSSMANN

The widow und daughter des German billionaire peter Dussmann room feuding in in inheritance battle. Ns corporate empire he built hangs an the balance.
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peter Dussmann an better times with his mam Catherine and his daughter Angela an 2002. Source getty Images

German entrepreneur und billionaire peter Dussmann loved monuments. He lived bei Bavaria with his family bei a twelfth century castle und spent further millions on historic buildings and works des art.

Du schaust: Catherine von fürstenberg-dussmann

Mr. Dussmann has his own angestellter own monument, a huge bookstore bei downtown Berlin, ~ above one des the busiest to buy streets. Beyond selling books, CDs and coffees, die KulturKaufhaus Dussmann ist a main point part von Berlin, nur as viel as the brandenburg Gate.

What many shoppers nothing know ist that above die bookstore, yes a global service firm worth billions von euros: the Dussmann Group. That employs 61,000 people global who clean hospitals and office facades, provide food und take care of senior citizens.

Mr. Dussmann died 18 months ago und since then, it has actually been uncertain how long the company will continue bei its current form.


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On Thursday, ns company presented its annual financial report, but the spotlight is on a fight that contests not only ns fortune, worth €650 million, or $723 million.

Beyond the yachts und the villas ns dispute centers on die state des Mr. Dussmann’s health, his company, und his daughter’s marriage.

It pits Mr. Dussmann’s wife, Catherine by Fürstenberg-Dussmann, versus their daughter, angela Göthert.

At the berlin District Court alone, deswegen many pages von paper have been it is registered that in entire shelf can be to fill at die KulturKaufhaus -- in the dramatisch section.

It’s ns story of a family’s disintegration and possibly the breakup of a large company. Mr. Dussmann’s denkmal is weist stake.

It centers about two wills, a last one made while Mr. Dussmann was already sick.

The inheritance battle now threatens kommen sie become one von postwar Germany’s ugliest family members feuds.

When Mr. Dussmann composed his zuerst will in 1981, his daughter wasn’t yet born, yet his future wife was pregnant.


He had established a company in the at an early stage 1960s with just 2,000 deutsch marks und it was growing fast. Starting out, Mr. Dussmann, a bookseller’s son, had worked cleaning apartments for Munich bachelors. By 1981, his company was in the unternehmen of what dubbed "facility management," a service in demand from Brazil kommen sie Saudi Arabia.

The lawyers are investigating where und how ns family lived kommen sie reveal Mr. Dussmann"s intentions.

At the time, Mr. Dussmann’s thoughts zum when his life would end were brief. He noted down a couple von lines that wie he died, die mother and child need to inherit equal shares des his fortune.

Almost three decades later, in 2008, Mr. Dussmann experienced a serious stroke and he frequently was hospitalized. Over there was wenig hope the he would ever before recover fully and a second will was made, dated might 25, 2010, wie man Mr. Dussmann was an the privatgelände clininc Meoclinic an Berlin.

At the point, his wife had become head of the this firm supervisory board, the non-executive board the hires and fires chief executives and confirms strategic decisions.

After Mr. Dussmann had die stroke, his doctor, peter Sperling, declared ihm to be unable zu conduct unternehmen or make decisions. In 2009, the doctor evidenced this diagnosis.

Judge Frauke Wernecke put Mr. Dussmann under the supervision of lawyer rainer Lorz. He and Dr. Sperling played in important role an the unfolding drama.

Mr. Dussmann, that could notfall say much more 보다 “yes” and “no,” couldn’t sign ns will himself. This was handled über Dr. Sperling, that is also a family friend. He later wrote the on the day, ns invalid seemed “mentally alert.”

A notary certified ns procedure. Mr. Dussmann"s daughter was zu inherit only a 4th of her father"s fortune; three-fourths would certainly go to her mother.


The daughter, Ms. Göthert, learned von the readjust to die will only wie man Mr. Dussmann died in September 2013.

The battle began when Ms. Göthert disputed ns second will’s validity, arguing her father was too sick kommen sie be able kommen sie make such a decision.

At die municipal court where ns certificate von inheritance was to be issued, she insisted die original möchte should offer as the basis for die decision.

On april 11, 2014, Ms. By Fürstenberg-Dussmann submitted bei application weil das a declaratory judgment zu the berlin District Court. Ns respondent is her daughter.

The mother asserted that in 2010 at the hospital, herstellung husband pointed zu her und said “everything, everything.” She claimed she described to him that he no allowed kommen sie disinherit his daughter, the she had the statutory right to a 25-percent share. Ms. über Fürstenberg-Dussmann commissioned lawyer horst Schiessl zu draw nach oben a neu will.

The daughter claims this was a suspicious act. She told the court produziert father had actually quarreled bitterly with Mr. Schiessl. Only after ns stroke did herstellung mother as soon as again invite er to the house; letztere she brought him onto ns company’s supervisory board.

Dr. Sperling, who zuerst declared Mr. Dussmann zu be incapable von conducting business and who then signed ns will half a year later, also got a board seat. Ns letter bei which he described this contradiction was notfall included bei the patient"s documents at ns Meoclinic. Back it is dated native 2010, ns mother"s lawyers sent it to die court only hinweisen the end of 2014. A notary certified the signature.

Ms. über Fürstenberg-Dussmann says her daughter is entangled in “conspiracy theories.” Ms. Göthert is seeking to have her mother declared “unworthy zu inherit.” in that case, the mother would gain nothing, and the daughter would acquire everything.


The most important witness, Dr. Sperling, died tonnage year.

Now, professionals are picking v Mr. Dussmann"s final years under to ns most private details, dissecting photographs des his brain und analyzing nurses" note about die patient’s behavior.

Although legal problems often occur wie man family businesses space involved, rarely do so many einzelheiten become public.

The lawyers space investigating where und how the family lived kommen sie reveal Mr. Dussmann"s intentions.

After the fall of the berlin Wall, Mr. Dussmann senden his company’s ar from Munich to Berlin. Mother and daughter remained hinweisen Ascholding Castle and Mr. Dussmann didn’t kommen sie home every weekend. Die daughter went to a private school; she was permitted zu leave house only in the company of bodyguards. Her parents were afraid of herstellung being kidnapped.

Once, an response kommen sie a journalist’s question around what Mr. Dussmann would do differently bei his life, that answered he would spend much more time through his daughter.

He often said that wished the Angela, who aussehen like him, would take over die firm. He was proud wie man she was admitted zu Harvard.

And back she was inclined zu art and literature, she learned economics at his behest. After return from herstellung college studies, she began in apprenticeship bei book-selling punkt KulturKaufhaus, ns family store.


Then she fell in love.

Ronald Göthert was 16 years older through a way of living that was utterly various than her own. He had actually a diploma from a technological high school, did bei apprenticeship together a room maker, was unemployed repeatedly. The attempt kommen sie establish self as bei independent financial torture ended in a fiasco. He then supported himself via a exercise he called die “Göthert Method.”

According kommen sie Mr. Göthert, elements in nature existed that cannot it is in measured über any technological instrument. He dubbed them fine matter. He claimed they surround the human body like bei envelope. Ns fine matter can fall into disarray and create discomfort bei a person. Rückseitig pain, zum example. A trainee in the Göthert Method was supposed to learn how kommen sie sense the fine matter in the air with his or her hands and thereby zu help clients bring themselves rückseitig into balance.

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In 2005, he was introduced to angela Dussmann’s parents.

Mr. Göthert und the parental didn"t gain along well.

Mr. Dussmann was a self-made billionaire who had cleaned apartments with his very own hands, laying die cornerstone weil das a cleaning-services empire.

Mr. Göthert was a “guru” whose hands supposedly sensed unseen matter.

Above all, ns mother no accept produziert daughter"s choice und never ceased kommen sie fight against the man with whom herstellung child was happy. That"s the story told von people who recognize both sides.

The court has actually a letter from april 2008 in which ns mother demanded that produziert daughter renounced her inheritance, arguing that way, she might prove to herstellung parents the Mr. Göthert loved her weil das herself and not because of herstellung money.

Otherwise, die mother wrote, Angela"s dad would oase to transfer his fortune to a foundation, leave nothing to his daughter. Die letter was written an English, ns language von mother and daughter, and was signed von Ms. Fürstenberg-Dussmann.

Around ns same time, Mr. Dussmann also turned up die pressure, according to bei e-mail written über the daughter. In it, she complains that herstellung father forbid produziert from travel to hamburg to recover from a sickness with herstellung boyfriend. Her father said this would certainly be in unexcused lack from work. He was willing to allow produziert to travel kommen sie be with her own family, though.

All to no avail: die daughter stuck to herstellung guns.

She refuse a monthly €400 subsistence pin money from produziert father.

She set trost a small concert agency und took on tasks an Mr. Göthert"s fine-matter firm. Bei a periodical that he issued, her name can be uncovered under “publishing-house management.”

In 2006, he and Angela to be married. The parents von the bride didn"t attend die wedding.

The mother has said Mr. Dussmann stated on several occasions and an the presence von witnesses the he wanted to disinherit his daughter.

Ms. Göthert responded that produziert father had already had a stroke, and he knew the a second one can cost er his life. If he had really want to, then he would oase altered his will.

After 2006, Mr. Dussmann had actually indeed spent more und more time reasoning about the future.

He held meetings through lawyers and asked Mr. Lorz to come up with a solution entailing a foundation, in 2007.

In august 2008, shortly before Mr. Dussmann"s stroke, Mr. Lorz proposed a radical plan: Mr. Dussmann lieferung all his limited-partnership shares kommen sie a foundation.

Then neither mam nor daughter would have access to die company. For the wife, a role “in a foundation committee” was conceivable. The daughter was kommen sie receive only a pension. Mr. Dussmann apparently surmised ns family wouldn"t survive his own death.

Court documents zeigen the mother had actually sent a wedding giftig to herstellung daughter. The package consisted of a offered bath mat and bei old knitting project that the daughter never completed.

There deshalb was a pillow ns daughter gave the mother zum her birthday. And a card, ~ above which zu sein printed only ns picture des a bride, with die message the henceforth she was on her own.

This doesn"t fit the public image of Ms. Von Fürstenberg-Dussmann, who had been in American actress. “I want people kommen sie like me – or weist least zu respect me,” she when said in bei interview. ~ above a television show, she eagerly got hold von a clean rag. At news conferences, she served plätzchen she baked herself. She had actually spent 30 years at Mr. Dussmann"s side as his housewife and mother. She liked kommen sie say the she was his geisha; she didn"t play a role an the business.

In 2008, Mr. Dussmann suffered a stroke throughout a trip to Rome.

Three mainly later, his wife turned hoch at ns company headquarters an Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse und settled into produziert husband’s office. A geholfen year later, businessman Heinz Dürr turned ns supervisory board’s chairmanship over to her.

Ms. Wernecke, die judge, carried up die idea of a foundation once again.

She well-known that bei its current form, die company could not handle in inheritance controversy. An July 2009, she commissioned Mr. Dussmann"s advisor Mr. Lorz kommen sie find a solution zum the post-Dussmann era.

Mr. Lorz knew the under die circumstances it was impossible kommen sie bring die Dussmann shares right into a foundation. The law prohibited together a donation. Mr. Dussmann wasn’t capable des conducting business, and the person in charge von his affairs couldn’t simply lieferung his estate.

 


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Nevertheless, the peter Dussmann foundation came right into existence, through one difference: ns owner continued zu hold die limited-partnership shares. Bei operational terms, however, die foundation was at the head von the company. Die wife was appointed director of the foundation for life. She delighted bei telling that she had the “top job” an the company.

According to Ms. Göthert, Mr. Lorz set up die foundation, not bei accordance with die intentions of her father, but zum the benefit of her mother — und thereby caused die daughter “damages purposely contrary kommen sie honest practice.”

This had once happened before, an 2009, in Ms. Göthert"s view. At the time, Mr. Dussmann had liquidity problems. His advisor Mr. Lorz dissolved a to trust whose asset — a beach house in Malibu — had been intended von the father zum his daughter.

The mother argued that it was necessary to mortgage die property in order to protect the company. Ns daughter complained that herstellung mother continued kommen sie withhold die house indigenous her.

Furthermore, Ms. Göthert accused Ms. Fürstenberg-Dussmann of filling the supervisory board solely with people who supported her. Mr. Lorz, zum example, und Mr. Schiessl. A additional member von the committee is Wolfgang Clement, Germany’s previous minister von economic affairs.

The mother said that these males would never allow herstellung to dictate orders to them.

In produziert counter suit, ns daughter has notfall only demanded geholfen of ns estate. She also wants die Dussmann group to revert to the legal form it had before herstellung father"s stroke.

The need could schauer the family firm down zu its an extremely foundations — with only two shareholders who are so estranged they can not agree on a course for the company.

Moreover, die foundation way that the company could not fall into hands outside ns family, hinweisen least zum the time being.

According to ns will native 1981, mother und daughter would certainly each inherit 50 percent of the limited-partnership shares.

For one splitterpartei to sell them would certainly require die agreement von the various other party. Because bei this case, two contractually stipulated problems exist. On the one hand, a majority des 75 percent des the limited-partnership shareholders; and on ns other, the approval des the foundation board. On die six-person committee, she would oase to schutz three members on her side. Follow to die terms von the neu will, just Ms. Von Fürstenberg-Dussmann would have any chance of selling herstellung shares.

There ist a second possibility for in exit: after ~ a period des 10 years, both parties kann sein renounce your shares. Ns shares des the one leaving would certainly be übertragen to die one remaining an return weil das a compensation payment.

Because von the controversy between them, it’s unlikely both frauen would retain their shares over the long term. Deshalb it’s fully unclear who möchte own die firm an the future. Ms. Von Fürstenberg-Dussmann is past 60 und doesn’t schutz any various other children. Produziert family lives an America. A near relative zu sein active zum the Dussmann Group an the Middle ost — to the annoyance von the daughter.

The court decision wollen come an the fall at the earliest. Until then, it’s mainly lawyers who will profit from die millions of the inheritance.

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However, if ns battle von wills ist resolved, it has actually damaged Mr. Dussmann"s monument; surely not his last intention.

 

Miriam schröder writes about companies und markets, focusing an especially on ns start-up scene. Personen Votsmeier is part des futbolpublic.com"s investigative reporting team. Kommen sie contact die authors: ,