Tech

Drillisch, 1 & 1, Strato: Ralph Dommermuth, the mysterious IT king

United Internet boss Ralph Dommermuth.

JOKER / Marcus Gloger / ullstein bild via Getty Images

What Dagobert Duck is to Duckburg, Ralph Dommermuth is to Montabaur: the richest resident of the city. A money box in the Dagobert Duck design sits enthroned on the conference table of the 56-year-old from the Westerwald. Just like his fictional role model, Dommermuth has an amazing talent for making money – and then keeping it. And if the rumors are to be believed, he does not hesitate to do anything to ensure the preservation of his fortune.

In 1963 Dommermuth was born as the son of a real estate agent in the tranquil town of Dernbach, a community that has little to offer besides a motorway triangle and the grave of the Catholic saint Maria Katharina Kasper. He put his child’s commercial talent in the cradle, and so Dommermuth began an apprenticeship at Deutsche Bank after completing his schooling – during which he broke off the Abitur in favor of the higher commercial school. When he completed this in 1983, another ten years would pass before the research center CERN made the World Wide Web freely accessible to the public in 1993, thus setting the final course for the digital age.

At that time, Dommermuth had been in the ones and zeros business for ten years, had been selling computers for a local company since completing his training and founded his first company in 1988: 1 & 1 EDV-Marketing GmbH in Montabaur, less than 5 kilometers from his home town .

However, many years passed before the company was merged into the multi-billion dollar stock corporation United Internet. Years in which the founder Dommermuth united a real conglomerate of companies under his wing.

Early success in the slipstream of Telekom

The business model of the first iteration of 1 & 1 was advertising campaigns for small software companies. The entry into the network operator squad followed a few years later, in 1992, when Dommermuth maneuvered his company in the direction of the then monopoly Telekom. Initially, he sold BTX access for the company – an interactive online service and a forerunner of the Internet. Telekom later took the business into its own hands and founded t-online, a little later Dommermuth also sold the BTX access for the offshoot – and later the Internet.

Since business with BTX and Internet access was going so well, Dommermuth finally completely shifted the focus of his company in 1996 and converted 1 & 1 into a service provider. The IPO followed two years later and with it a lot more money than the Westerlander had ever seen before.

But even though Dommermuth is not averse to sailing and every now and then donates a few hundred thousand euros to charitable causes or the CDU, he used most of the capital to earn even more money.

Ascent to the dotcom Olympus

And so he started taking over businesses large and small. Web portals such as GMX, Mail.com and Web.de were among them. Also hosting providers like Strato and Fasthosts. At the zenith of the Internet boom around the turn of the millennium, 17 companies belonged to 1 & 1 AG and Dommermuth changed the name of his company, from a marketing company to a leading network provider and finally to a holding company, to United Internet He still holds more than 42 percent of the shares.

Despite their enormous success, Dommermuth and his company United Internet were not immune from the crash of the dot-com bubble. The former “Mister Internet” – as the magazine “Stern” once named him – had to sell many of his companies in order to escape ruin. From then on, the holding company concentrated on the pillars of web hosting, online advertising and internet connections.

On the way to the billions, what was once the only internet billionaire in the country was not allowed not to make enemies. He was friends with the former Telekom boss René Obermann for many years, but now also uses the networks of competing network operators for his provider 1 & 1. The “Welt” once wrote that from the circles of Telekom, one of Dommermuth’s largest competing companies, it was said: “When it comes to money, friendship ends with Dommermuth – and earlier than with others”.

Thanks to this focus on the essentials, Dommermuth has made it, according to Forbes, to a private fortune of 3.8 billion US dollars. Money that he not only spends on sailing and sailing sponsorship, but also on the football club of his choice: BVB. Since the current football season, 1 & 1 has been the main sponsor of Borussia Dortmund and Dommermuth without further ado with 5 percent of Borussia Dortmund GmbH & Co. KGaA. In the VIP boxes of the Signal-Iduna-Park you will not see the shy billionaire.

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