Dealing with the responsibility and jealousy from inheriting wealth is a misunderstood burden, according to Susanne Klatten and Stefan Quandt, the billionaire siblings who together own almost half of BMW AG.
“Many believe that we are permanently sitting around on a yacht in the Mediterranean,” Klatten told Manager Magazin in a rare interview with her younger brother published Thursday. “The role as a guardian of wealth also has personal sides that aren’t so nice.”
Klatten -- whose father Herbert Quandt helped rescue BMW in the late 1950s -- is Germany’s second-richest person with a fortune valued at US$18.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. She has also built up holdings in chemicals company Altana AG and carbon producer SGL Carbon SE.
Quandt, who owns stakes in logistics company Logwin and homeopathic medicine company Heel, has a net worth of US$15.5 billion. Both he and his sister have seats on BMW’s supervisory board.
“For both of us, it’s certainly not the money that drives us,” said Quandt. “Above all, it is the responsibility of securing jobs in Germany.”
The two heirs say they’re comfortable with their roles, but initially struggled with taking on high-level positions at young ages. Quandt, who was 30 when he was given his first board seat, said he might have wanted to work a few years as a “simple” product manager somewhere or study architecture.
“My starting point was never: So, now I come and show everyone how it’s done,” said Quandt, who questions the rationale of inheritance tax. “Instead, it was a constant questioning, associated with self-doubt.”
Klatten, who gained notoriety in 1978 when police foiled a plot to kidnap her and her mother Johanna, said that wealth redistribution doesn’t work and that a fair society allows people to pursue opportunities according to their abilities.
“Our potential stems from the role of being an heir and developing that,” she said. “We work hard on that every day.”