Zur Übersicht Jürgen E.
Read in English
»Based on many confidential papers.« »The book
is often quite entertaining.
It is interspersed with soap opera-like intrigues
Biography »A world champion of advertising
Jürgen E Schrempp by Jürgen Grässlin«
»A world champion of advertising
Jürgen E Schrempp by Jürgen Grässlin«
»For the first time Daimler-Benz's top
manager has entrusted his views to a biographer.« Sounds great. But unfortunately this
publicity claim for Jürgen Grässlins biography of Jürgen Schrempp may not be
entirely true - at least, according to Daimler-Benz.
These words might give the impression that Grässlin has written an authorised biography.
»This is wrong,« says the companys press office. Moreover, it adds, Grässlin
never said that he wanted to use information he got from Schrempp when he was still boss
of the Daimler aerospace subsidiary, Dasa, for a biography.
Grässlin, who carried out more than 100 interviews with many of Schrempps friends
and enemies and whose biography is based on many confidential papers from Daimler-Benz,
still claims in his book that all quotations by Schrempp have been authorised by the man
himself. He even writes: »Schrempps acceptance of this book project has been
courageous - and this should encourage others, Iike him, to show real guts.«This is true
enough. Even the »Rambo in Nadelstreifen« (Rambo in pin-stripes), as Schrempp is
nicknamed, must have had some doubts about talking openly to Grässlin, who is after all a
spokesman for an association of shareholders who are critical of Daimler-Benz. However,
the former teacher, who was born (Iike Schrempp) in the southwest German city of Freiburg,
actually reveals a positive attitude towards Daimler-Benzs chairman.
»Schrempp is no God and he does not claim
to be a god. He does not need such excessiveness, because his great human qualities and
professional skills are well-known,« Grässlin writes. And it is easy to see why. Even
normally critical shareholders have no reason attack Schrempp at the moment. At the end of
July Schrempp presented what were record half-year figures for Daimler-Benz. Since January
the companys share price has risen by 45 per cent.The book is often quite
entertaining. It is interspersed with soap opera-like intrigues, especially to do with
Schrempps well known fights against his former mentor, his predecessor Edzard
Reuter, and his former »friend« Helmut Werner who, in 1995, also had ambitions to become
Daimlers number one. Grässlin also covers the less-known periods in Schrempps
career, in particular his time in South Africa and in America between 1974 and 1987.
In Pretoria Schrempp worked in the customer
service of the Daimler subsidiary, United Car and Diesel Distribution (UCDD), which was
later integrated with Mercedes of Benz of South Africa (MBSA). He rose to the office of
chairman before leaving the company to become vice-chairman and later boss of Dasa. Then
between 1982 and 1984 he was president of Euclid, an American Daimler subsidiary which
produced heavy trucks. Schrempp tasted controversy in South Africa. »Especially from the
ethical point of view, it is correct to maintain the business in this country,« Schrempp
argued in the mid-1980s when many American, British and French companies left South
Africa. Daimler-Benz stayed. »Change through trade,« was Schrempps motto. Today
Schrempp maintains that the changes in South Africa have only been possible because some
western companies shared his attitude. This is, to say the least, a debatable point, and
Grässlin certainly disagrees with it, but one of Schrempps great skills is
presenting potentially weak arguments so persuasively that he wins people over.
Grässlins book suggests that this skill is the crucial success factor in
Schrempps career, rather than an ability to get the figures moving in the right
According to Grässlin, the figures during
Schrempps chairmanship at MBSA were in fact »extremely bad« and his presidency at
Euclid came to an end in total disaster when the company had to be sold. Backed by Edzard
Reuter and, in return, backing his concept of an »integrated technology company«
Schrempp was responsible for losses of almost DM6 billion ($3.37bn) during his last three
years as boss of Daimlers aerospace company. »A great part of Schrempps
career is defined by the fact that the board was mainly focused Schrempps capability
to integrate rather than on his economic failures,« Grässlin states. Later he adds: »It
is typical of Schrempp that he emerges victorious from situations in which others would be
seen as failures.«
»The key to this is his inimitable way of
presenting a situation to others so that they think one could not have acted differently
and that they would have done the same had they been in his place.« This way he managed,
for example, to present the embarrassing sale of Euclid as a big deal and a triumph.
»Schrempp is a winner, a world champion in advertising - particularly for himself,«
writes Grässlin. Schrempp is so persuasive, Grässlin argues, because of his finely honed
ability to say the right thing to the right audience. When he gives a speech to bankers
and business people, he emphasises profit and shareholder value. When he gives a speech to
union members, he stresses the social responsibility of a large company such as
Such behaviour annoys some observers.
»Rambo wants to get a new image,« claimed Stefan Baron, the editor-in-chief of
Wirtschaftswoche. »Schrempp now wants to be regarded as a reformer, not as a
revolutionary. Consent instead of dispute, rounded instead of angular,« he wrote, noting
that Schrempp had replaced his trademark angular glasses for a less severe, round pair.
Grässlin corrects him. In fact, he points out, the round glasses were merely a substitute
pair while the angular ones were being repaired.
One cannot help but feel that Grässlin
sometimes tends to overestimate Schrempps power. If Schrempp has to deal with
independent personalities such as the lawyer, Martine Dornier-Tiefenthaler, the »great
communicator« loses. Backed by the former Deutsche Bank boss and head of Daimlers
supervisory board, Hilmar Kopper, Schrempp succeeded in getting the Dornier aircraft
family heir voted off Mercedes supervisory board. But he lost the public relations
war that followed. A few days after he sent Dornier-Tiefenthaler a harsh letter he had to
read in the Stuttgarter Zeitung a stinging article in which the lawyer cut the pin-striped
Rambo down to size.
Jürgen E Schrempp
by Jürgen Grässlin
Droemer, DM 39.80
THE EUROPEAN, 10 16 August