At Faber-Castell, the ninth generation takes over – the economy

The photo is meant to demonstrate the new unit. Four apparently happy young people, three women and a man in the middle. The daughters of the second marriage and the son of the first marriage of Anton-Wolfgang Graf von Faber-Castell. He died in January 2016 at the age of 74, after four decades leading the family and their feather dynasty. He leaves his succession unregulated and so a struggle for power begins among the bereaved in the company founded in 1761. But now everything should be settled peacefully. At least the photo should give that impression. Faber-Castell AG spread it, combined with the message: the ninth generation of the family takes over.

Is it really a peace treaty, or just a fragile dungeon, imposed by bad business during the pandemic?

At least the claims have been staked for the time being. Charles von Faber-Castell, 41, will become a member of the Supervisory Board of Faber-Castell AG with immediate effect. His mother-in-law, Mary, 69, who also holds the vice-presidency, continues to serve on it. Since the death of the company’s patriarch five and a half years ago, the widow has appeared to the outside world as the space reserved for her young daughters. Among them, the eldest, Katharina von Faber-Castell, 33, now joins the board of directors of AW Faber-Castell Unternehmensverwaltung GmbH, the sole shareholder of the AG. She has headed the Corporate Development division since 2018. Her two sisters, the 25-year-old twins Victoria and Sarah, do not exercise any executive function in the structure of the company, but like Charles and Katharina von Faber-Castell they wish to shape “jointly and actively ‘the future of the company, as it is officially called. “In a cooperation of trust and in an open dialogue between the group of shareholders, the supervisory bodies, the board of directors and all the staff.”

What sounds good is a laborious and hard-won compromise. It took time and an outside advisor to focus the family on a common property strategy and balance individual interests. Had that not been successful, sooner or later Faber-Castell would have threatened fragmentation in the worst-case scenario. The different interests were already quite complicated and involved difficult and time-consuming coordination processes for the leaders of the company. Apparently, after Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell’s death, American Mary von Faber-Castell and her daughters prevented her stepson and brother Charles from making the leap to the top of the company. Instead, Widow Mary first joined the board herself.

The ninth generation must initiate reforms

But now everyone involved has agreed to keep Faber-Castell as a family business, according to the post. As a “group of active shareholders”, the four boys want to actively shape the business “in a family model”. In other words: You are not satisfied with the roles of sponsors, you want to determine yourself and get involved. Their father had given them four equal parts of the company during their lifetime. Faber-Castell produces more than two billion pens a year, employs 6,500 people (at peak hours it was 8,000) and manages 10,000 hectares of forest in Brazil, from which the wood comes for the production of pencils. .

Operationally, Stefan Leitz has been running the company as CEO since March 2020. He came from the Hamburg can manufacturer Kühne in Stein near Nuremberg, where Faber-Castell AG resides right next to the family castle. Since then, as the second non-family boss in the company’s long history, Leitz has not only had to deal with difficult owners, but also a certain backlog of reforms in the company and the consequences of the pandemic. Sales have been declining for years. Faber-Castell closed the 2019/20 financial year with a turnover of 555 million euros; for the 2020/21 financial year ended at the end of March, turnover should have been well below half a billion euros. In 2016/17, it was 667 million euros. Faber-Castell does not provide any information on the income situation.

The fall in sales is, on the one hand, a consequence of the pandemic that Faber-Castell is feeling in particular in its largest sales market, Latin America, but also in certain parts of Asia. Naturally, when schools and universities are closed for months, fewer writing tools are purchased. The cosmetic pencil business is also bad. The devaluation of national currencies in major selling countries like Brazil, Peru and Indonesia is also causing great difficulties for Faber-Castell. In the United States, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, however, business has gone smoothly, according to a spokesperson. Online commerce has grown, and the company’s division, which specializes in artists and hobbyists, even saw an increase of around 30%. A strong social media presence should boost sales. Faber-Castell has recently been featured on the relevant channels. A corporate gift to themselves on the occasion of their 260th anniversary.

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