The magazine BILANZ just published a list of the 500 wealthiest people in Germany. The list offers some interesting points of contrast between wealth creation in Germany and the United States. Here are the top ten richest families in Germany (click on the chart to enlarge):
What stands out from this list is that most of the wealth represented here is from enterprises that were started during the immediate postwar Wirtschaftswunder era in Germany. Three of the wealthiest Germans (including Susanne Klatten) belong to the Quandt family dynasty, whose wealth dates to the Nazi period (see my review of Die Quandts). The richest family, the Schaefflers (worth approx. US$ 30 billion), built their business on ball bearings companies (INA and FAG Kugelfischer) and dramatically enhanced the company with the 2008 acquisition of Continental Tire.
In contrast, the billionaires on Forbes list of weathiest Americans made their fortunes for the most part from enterprises that were started much later. Microsoft, Oracle, and Bloomberg didn't even exist 40 years ago.
|Net Worth||Change||Change %||Age||Residence||Source|
|$72 B||58||Medina, Washington||Microsoft|
|$58.5 B||84||Omaha, Nebraska||Berkshire Hathaway|
|$41 B||70||Woodside, California||Oracle|
|$36 B||78||Wichita, Kansas||diversified|
|$36 B||74||New York, New York||diversified|
Christy Walton & family
|$35.4 B||59||Jackson, Wyoming||Wal-Mart|
|$33.8 B||66||Bentonville, Arkansas||Wal-Mart|
|$33.5 B||64||Fort Worth, Texas||Wal-Mart|
S. Robson Walton
|$33.3 B||70||Bentonville, Arkansas||Wal-Mart|
|$31 B||72||New York, New York||Bloomberg LP|
Extending the list to the Top 20 weathiest Americans is even more revealing, since it includes Jeff Bezos, Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg. Amazon, Google and Facebook were started less than 20 years ago.
What is the significance of the comparison? With respect to wealth creation, Germany is far less dynamic than the United States. The German entrepreneurial spirit seems to have stalled after the immediate postwar era, while American entrepreuners have built hugely successful enterprises embracing and commercializing technology breakthroughs (esp. the Internet).