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Austria's 33 richest families worth €120BN    

31 July 2014

This week the Austrian press published a new ranking of the richest Austrians. Many of these come from well known billionaire families or are self made. Some are household names like Porsche, Red Bull and Swarovski. Others represent decades of success by Austrian “Mittelstand” companies – technically brilliant and successful worldwide but largely unknown to the public beyond Austria’s borders. 

The Porsche and Piëch families are the richest family clan in Austria. The clan includes more than 100 people and has assets of €44.8 billion. Ferdinand Karl Piëch, born in 1937 in Vienna and grandson of Porsche founder Ferdinand Porsche, is the chairman of the supervisory board of Volkswagen Group (Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, SEAT, Škoda, Volkswagen, Ducati, MAN, Scania, Neoplan).

Dietrich Mateschitz, the marketing brains behind Red Bull, is worth €7.5 billion. In the 1980s Didi discovered a Thai tea on his travels and turned it into an energy drink with two Thai business partners. Today Red Bull is also known so for its sponsorship of extreme sports (Red Bull X-Fighters, Red Bull Air Race Series, Red Bull Formula One, Red Bull Extreme Diving).

The Flick family has a fortune worth €6.9 billion. The German business man Friedrich Karl Flick married Ingrid Ragger, an Austrian woman 30 years his junior, and moved with her to Carinthia in Southern Austria. After his death in 2006 Ingrid and Karl’s four children (two of them with Ingrid) inherited his fortune.

Johann Graf is worth €5.05 billion. In 1980 he set up Novamatic to manufacture gambling machines with just €3,635. He now also holds a casino license for Vienna and the surrounding area.

Karl Wlaschek has a fortune worth €4.5 billion. Karl is Austrian’s oldest billionaire. He made his money with the supermarket chain Billa. Two years ago the 94 year old married for the fifth time (“I’m good at business, but I’m a fool when comes to women”).

In 1895 Daniel Swarovski started a factory for crystal glass. Today the company is a world leader and is still run by fifth generation family members. Marilyn Monroe wore a Swarovski diamond dress when she sang “Happy Birthday” to John F. Kenndey. Net worth: €4.1 billion.

Frank Stronach started out as a penniless emigrant in Canada, building an empire worth €3.9 billion with his automotive company Magna.

Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler married the German entrepreneur Georg Schaeffler and together they build a concern worth €3.48 billion today. Since Georg’s death Maria- Elisabeth and her son Georg run the group of companies (ball bearding, tyres, etc.). The Schaeffler family is also regularly in the German ranking of the richest families.

Heidi Horten is our second Austrian woman to marry a richer older German man. At the age of 19 Heidi Jelinek, a secretary from Vienna, met 51 year old Helmut Horten whose family made it’s fortune with department stores, in a hotel bar in lakeside Carinthia. After Helmut’s death Heidi inherited everything – now estimated at €3.34 billion.

The Kaufmann family is worth €2.42 billion. The Frantschach paper mill made the Kaufmanns one of Austria’s richest families. In 2004 Andreas Kaufmann one of the beneficiaries bought the camera manufacturer Leica. His day job is as a teacher in a Waldorf School.

Martin Schlaff is an investor with €2.39 billion. Well known as one of Austria’s best networkers with connections around the world, Martin’s success stems from his parent’s import/export company Robert Placzek.

The entrepreneur Karl Kahane, who died in 1993, owned companies like the Montana AG, Bank Gutmann AG, Jungbunzlauer AG and Terranova. He made a name for himself through his work as an advisor to Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky. These days his children Alexander and Patricia manage the family empire valued at €2 billion.

The Mayr-Melnhof family has a fortune worth €1.95 billion. Today Franz Mayr-Melnhof manages the group which owns Austria’s biggest forestry company with a total area of 80,000 acres, the biggest saw mill of Austria and is on the board of directors at MM Carton.

Brothers Helmut and Alwin Lehner started their plastic packaging company in 1955. Sixty years on the Alpla group supplies companies around the world and is managed by Alwin’s son Günter. Estimated value: €1.85 billion.

Georg Stumpf ran a successful construction company building the ORF TV Centre on the Küniglberg near Vienna. His son Georg junior was no less successful; he was responsible for Vienna’s 202 meter high Millenium Tower. Since selling the Millenium Tower in 2003 Georg junior mainly invests funds worth €1.85 billion.

As a student Helmut Sohmen met Anna Pui Hing Pao, whose father owned a shipping company. After their marriage Helmut started working for his father-in-law in Hongkong. After a number of successful acquisitions Helmut now runs the shipping empire Bergesen World Wide Group. Helmut Sohmen assets are set at €1.82 billion.

Reinold Geiger is a real self-made billionaire who’s assets are worth €1.78 billion. After studying engineering Reinold made his money with the Paris-based AMS packing company. After selling AMS he bought struggling cosmetics company L’Occitane in 1994, which today is a huge international consumer success story.

Brothers Georg and Dimitri Pappas started out in the 1960s with a Mercedes car dealership and later built up the Alpine construction business. Alpine was sold in 2006 to the Spanish FCC group. Today Georg’s children Alexander and Catharina manage the family empire (€1.74 billion).

Gaston Glock started making guns in his garage in 1963. In 1980 he made his first Glock pistol – the Glock 17. Major success came with the sale of 20,000 pieces to the Austrian army. Other military clients soon followed. The company has a sales volume of about €120 mill. per year and is worth €1.55 billion. Gaston Glock’s divorce was the most expensive in Austrian history.

Melinda Esterházy is the widow of Paul V. Fürst (Prince) Esterházy, a descendant of the Hungarian aristocratic Esterházy family. In the 1990s Melinda began a process to invest her €1.45 billion in assets in various foundations.

In 1994 Wolfang Leitner took up a management role with equipment manufacturer Andritz. Today he owns 29% of the thriving company and has a fortune worth €1.36 billion.

After studying in Harvard, Thomas Prinzhorn joined the family paper manufacturing business and helped make it a huge success. He also made a name for himself as an FPÖ politician. His assets are worth €1.25 billion.

Dr. Paul Schwarzkopf started producing wire for the lightbulbs in 1921. During the Second World War he lost his company to the Nazis because he was Jewish and had to flee. Today the Plansee group (worth €1.25 billion) is once again in family hands and in the third generation ran by Michael Schwarzkopf.

The Greiner Group specialises in synthetic materials. After 115 years the company is still 100% family owned and worth €1.23 billion.

The Haselsteiner family owns the construction business Strabag AG, which is worth €1.2 billion. The son-in-law of the original owners, Hans Peter Haselsteiner, was head of the company for 40 years before retiring in 2013.

The family company Rauch produces juices, the most popular of which are marketed under the brand Happy Day. The Rauch family’s fortune is put at €1.2 billion.

Gerald Schweighofer made his parents wood producing business a huge success when he started expanding to Eastern Europe in the 1970s. Today his empire is valued at €1.15 billion.

Bettina Breitender is the daughter of “garage-king” Johann Breitender and manages a real estate corporation. In 2003 the family sold the shopping centre Doanuzentrum (Danube Centre) and has assets today worth €1.13 billion.

Georg Kapsch, head of the Federation of Austrian Industry, runs the family company, which is well known for its Intelligent Transport Systems (including tolling) and GSM-R Systems (Global System for Mobile Railway Comms). The Kapsch family has assets worth €1.085 billion.

In 1914 the lingerie company Palmers was founded. After 90 years as family business, the company was sold ten years ago. These days the family’s fortune is estimated at €1.05 billion and Christian Palmers manages the property portfolio.

Upon his death, Hans Duisik left his “Shopping City Süd” to his family - son-in-law Maurizio Tott, his second wife Helga Dujsik and her nephew Christian Höfer. It was sold in 2007 and the fortunate relatives now have assets worth €1.05 billion.

The Egger brothers own a brewery, a chipboard factory and the Radlberger soft drinks company. Their assets are worth €1.05 billion.

In 1892 the Doppelmayr family started building cable cars and ski lifts. The Olympic Games in Sotschi brought in contracts worth hundreds of millions of Euro. These days the company is worth €1.02 billion, operates globally and is still owned and run by the family.

Sources: This article is based on excellent research carried out and published by Austria Trend Magazin and widely reported in the Austrian media including Die Presse.