KATHARINA Liebherr is part of one of Europe’s most respected and successful business dynasties.
With a fortune believed to be around £3billion, the Liebherr family business is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of construction machinery.
It all started 65 years ago with one man, Hans Liebherr.
Not much is publicly known about Katharina, the daughter of the man who rescued Saints from oblivion in July 2009, Markus.
Markus himself was one of five children.
The great success of Hans Liebherr’s first mobile, easy-to-assemble and affordable tower crane was the foundation on which the company flourished.
His management style was legendary and his success was built on his belief in frugality and delegation of responsibility.
In 1980, he told the media that owing money to other people was gambling.
Liebherr was also aware that his enterprise could have grown faster with the help of bank loans, but adhered strictly to his maxim that money could only be spent after it was earned.
Does that principle still apply with regards to Katharina Liebherr’s business style?
In the early 1970s, Hans moved his residence from Germany to Switzerland in order to avoid the hefty German inheritance tax and he soon transferred stock ownership in his enterprise to his children, including Markus.
The company was split in two parts: a German holding company for all business activities in Germany and another holding company based in Switzerland for all the other subsidiaries.
In 1983, the company’s headquarters were also moved to Switzerland after the establishment of the new Swiss-based management holding company Liebherr-International AG.
Hans Jr, Markus, and Hubert received equal shares in the German holding company, while Willi and Isolde Liebherr were co-owners of the Swiss holding company.
When Hans senior died aged 78 in 1993, the second Liebherr generation took full control over management of the family enterprise.
Hans Jr took over responsibility for the crane and concrete mixing business, Willi for earth moving equipment and Isolde for the refrigerator production.
Markus, however, changed his life plans and gave most of his shares in the company back to his brothers and sister.
In 1994, Markus founded the Mali International Group based in Fribourg, Switzerland.
Katharina has previously worked as president of the Mali-Motan group for companies that came under the umbrella of the Mali Group.
Both Nicola Cortese and Katharina Liebherr resigned from the company last autumn.
Katharina Liebherr inherited Saints when Markus passed away in August 2010.
At the time the Mali Group published a statement saying Katharina “will continue to carry out his (Markus’) vision.”
Over the years the Liebherr family business has grown into what is today a group of companies, employing a workforce of almost 40,000 in over 100 companies on all continents.
The Liebherr Group expected to have a turner of around £9 billion in 2013.