125th anniversary of Rheinmetall – the years 2000to 2014
High noon with Wyatt Earp
February 2001 – following the change at the top of the Executive Board in 2000 and the concentration on a strategy of clear lines pronounced by the new CEO Klaus Eberhardt, it seemed that things had calmed down at Rheinmetall – but this was not the case as an American called Guy Wyser-Pratt suddenly appeared on the scene, stating he had acquired around 7% of Rheinmetall stock. Wyser-Pratt claimed that by buying minority shareholdings he raised the value of companies by shaking shareholders into action and forcing managements to adopt strategies that suited his plan.
In the case of Rheinmetall, he demanded the exclusive concentration on defence activities. However, his project failed. Not only had group’s executive board already launched its extensive divestment program, commencing with the sale of the Jagenberg group, but CEO Eberhardt also refused to concentrate on one corporate business line only. In the end, Röchling bought Wyser-Pratt’s shares in November 2001. Nonetheless, “Wyatt Earp” as he was often referred to behind closed doors, left his mark on the group, although this is difficult to prove: over the period of one year, the value of ordinary Rheinmetall shares rose by 110% and that of preference shares by around 72%.
A dual approach to modernity - The link between the Kö-Bogen and entrepreneur city
New York, London, Seoul, San Francisco, Berlin – these capitals and many other cities in the world take pride in architectural masterpieces by the star architect Daniel Libeskind. Düsseldorf joined this elite group in October 2013: Daniel Libeskind designed the Kö-Bogen that was officially inaugurated at the northern end of the Königsallee last autumn. The distinct building complex consisting of Travertine and glass accommodates modern offices, shops and restaurants. In an area covering 15,000 m², the fashion specialist Breuninger offers an extraordinary shopping experience including the biggest shoe shop in North-Rhine Westphalia. The Sansibar from the North Sea Island of Sylt opened its first restaurant on the mainland here.
The Düsseldorf Rheinbahn trams still pick up passengers where the new Libeskind construction stands – with the opening of the new Wehrhahn line, these will partly be underground in future. So the Jan-Willem-Platz offered space for innovation. A look at the city’s history shows that the novelty isn’t as new as it seems. The Kö-Bogen of the 21st century has reinvented the city’s architecture of the 19th century when an arc-shaped road joined the Hofgarten gardens of Düsseldorf with the shopping avenue Königsallee. This explains the term Kö-Bogen (Kö arc). The curved line of the Libeskind architecture reflects the combination of city and countryside with green diagonal façade sections.
While the star architect has combined the past and present of the city in his Kö-Bogen, another architectural tour de force combines life and work in a similarly interesting manner: the “Unternehmerstadt” (entrepreneur city) in the immediate vicinity of the Rheinmetall headquarters.
The buildings erected in Düsseldorf-Deren-dorf since 2006 constitute no less than a future model of urban life, developed by Rheinmetall Immobilien GmbH. A modern municipal world for businesses and private use has grown on the former production site of Rheinmetall amidst existing urban -structures, distinguished by outstanding architecture meeting high ecological standards. Inhabitants of the “Unternehmerstadt” welcome the extensive offer of services making their lives even better. A nice home and short distances leave more time for the really important things in life.
The “Unternehmerstadt” and Kö-Bogen – two urban developments that have taken shape in Düsseldorf.
Safe landing expected
In March 2004, the European Space Agency ESA launched the space probe Rosetta on an Ariane 5 launcher from the space station Kourou.
The probe is to land on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and place the “Lander” there. Discovered in 1969, the comet probably joined the orbit of Jupiter in the 19th century. Scientists hope that the very first landing of a space probe on this comet will provide information about the evolution and structure of the comet, and ultimately also deliver some information about other planets like the Earth.
But why feature this history of a journey back to the Big Bang in the Rheinmetall magazine celebrating the group’s 125th anniversary? Well, Rosetta can only use (and leave) its scientific instruments on the comet if it makes a perfect landing at estimated temperatures of minus 270°C. And this is where Rheinmetall comes into it since the landing wouldn’t be possible without propellant powder from Nitrochemie. After all, the gravitation of the planet is not strong enough to simply position the probe there – it would bounce back like a rubber ball. To overcome this problem, a harpoon system has been developed – powered by a gas generator with propellant powder from Nitrochemie.
After several years of controlled travel through space, contact with the probe was broken off in 2011 in order to save energy. After a space journey lasting ten years – including a communication break of 31 months – the eagerly expected signal from the Rosetta spacecraft was received on January 20, 2014. Rosetta has entered into the orbit of the comet and can now tackle the next tasks. We will know whether the landing has succeeded in November 2014 which is when the “Lander” is due to touch down on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It will be interesting to see whether this part of the mission is just as successful as the signal received on 20th January this year.
A break with civil tradition
In January 2013, Armin Papperger was appointed CEO of Rheinmetall AG, replacing the former incumbent Klaus Eberhardt. This may have seemed a perfectly ordinary event, but did actually constitute a break with a tradition that had been upheld since the year 1956. Indeed, since the family Röchling had taken “control” of the Rheinmetall group, it had always tried to uphold a strong focus on the group’s civil activities, as reflected by the appointment of previous chairmen of the executive board. Neither Otto Paul Caesar (1956 – 1971), nor Dr. Hans-Ludwig Hockel (1971 – 1985), Dr. Hans U. Brauner (1985 – 2000), or Klaus Eberhardt (2000 – 2012) were defence experts but had earned their merits in companies like Bruderus, Hanomag, Bosch and Temic Telefunken. Armin Papperger is also the first CEO since 1889 to come from Rheinmetall’s own ranks. Although this is another breach with tradition, continuity is certain: like all CEOs preceding him over the last 125 years, Armin -Papperger will bring the Rheinmetall group forward.
“Das Profil”, the Rheinmetall magazine
In its 99th year of existence, Rheinmetall decided to distribute a company magazine called “Das Profil”. Since then, 118 issues have been published. The magazine has existed longer than any other Rheinmetall publication like the “Rheinmetall-Borsig-Werkzeitschrift” (1937 – 1943), the “Rheinmetall Informationen” (1974 – 1981) and the “Rheinmetall Report” (1982 – 1988). “Das Profil” and its English equivalent have always been the PR anchor of the group, combining the papers of former entities like the “Rheinmetall Report”, “Jagenberg Informationen” and “Pierburg aktuell”. Employees at sites in Germany and German-speaking foreign subsidiaries are informed about developments in all areas of the group. With the introduction of the international Newsline edition in 1990, people working at foreign subsidiaries have likewise been offered the chance to read about Rheinmetall activities in the English language newspaper. The layout and content of the paper have changed several times over the years; the most important change was in 2004 when the paper went online with Profil online and News-line online offering frequent updates, sometimes daily, on Rheinmetall.