Chairman Warns Mohn Family in Battle for Bertelsmann

18 February 2003

The executive management and the controlling shareholders of German-headquartered media mammoth Bertelsmann are at loggerheads as the two sides struggle for control of the group.

Chairman Gerd Schulte-Hillen deepened the crisis at the weekend by warning members of the Mohn family (which controls 75% of the firm’s voting rights) to keep their noses out of everyday operational matters.

The Mohns have traditionally taken a back seat in day-to-day management of the group, but some executives fear they are now looking to exert their power.

The family’s dissatisfaction with the way Bertelsmann has been run was made public last week when patriarch Reinhard Mohn, criticised the “vanity” of the group’s past managers in a newspaper interview.

Schulte-Hillen, however, does not believe life under the Mohns would be any better. “Should the family increase its influence,” he warned, “the risk of misguided decisions will not decrease.”

His comments could scupper attempts to defuse the row by ceo Gunter Thielen and Liz Mohn. The latter, appointed sole representative of the dynasty’s Bertelsmann assets by husband Reinhard last week, told a TV interviewer she was “neither secretly nor officially the ruler of Bertelsmann. I will not preoccupy myself with the operating business.”

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff