Klaus-Michael Kühne: the man who delivers the Moderna vaccine

Klaus-Michael Kühne

Axel Heimken / picture alliance via Getty Images

Kuehne and Nagel is one of the largest logistics companies in the world and has so many orders that one of them shouldn’t matter too much. But the one that the company announced last Thursday has a slightly different quality: Kuehne and Nagel supplies the world, with the exception of parts of America, with the vaccine from Moderna – and also provides a great deal of hope.

It was not long ago that Klaus-Michael Kühne prophesied gloomy times for the world. The corona crisis was bringing a wave of deglobalization, said the company’s manager last April, and that would have hit him hard as a logistician. After all, Kuehne und Nagel claims to be a service provider for more than 400,000 companies at 1,400 locations worldwide. So the contract for the delivery of the vaccine from Moderna seems like an irony of fate. But who is the man with decades of company experience who has apparently got it wrong in this matter?

Kühne was born on June 2, 1937 in Hamburg and is still a passionate Hanseatic man. After graduating from school, he began training at the Münchmeyer & Co. bank, although he actually wanted to study business administration or law. After completing his apprenticeship, he worked for various shipping companies, freight forwarders and ship brokers.

At the age of 21, he joined his grandfather August’s company, which he founded together with Friedrich Gottlieb Nagel in 1890. Five years after joining the company, the grandson rose to become a liable partner and partner. At the age of 29, his father Alfred made him chairman of the board of the stock corporation, which was founded in the same year – too early, as he later admitted to himself. A year later, father and son relocated the company to Schindellegi in Switzerland. Switzerland is known for its low tax rates.

the moved man

However, Kühne is often attached to his home country, has a German passport and votes in Germany.

Kühne is also always good for a surprise: In 2009, the entrepreneur bought a good 26 percent of Hapag Lloyd and now holds a good third of the shares in Hapag Lloyd in order to save the Hamburg shipping company from being taken over by the Asians, as he once did in the Wirtschaftswoche itself emphasized. “I think it would be desirable for a leading economic nation like Germany to sail the world’s oceans with ships under its own flag,” he once said in an interview with the “Handelsblatt” – although this is only wise from a business perspective, because logisticians prefer ships to Rent as needed.

Kühne invests his money where he thinks it makes sense. Hapag Lloyd was one of those things, but its favorite football club, Hamburger SV, has also received regular donations from the 83-year-old for a long time. For example, by securing 33 percent of the transfer rights to players like Dennis Aogo or Marcell Jansen in 2010. Two years later he resigned it in exchange for the rights to top player Rafael van der Vaart.

A hamburger through and through

It was Kühne who gave the Hamburg Volksparkstadion its name, which cost him a good 16 million euros. Since 2017, he has owned a good 20.57 percent of the shares in the club and in the same year announced that he had made 25 million euros available to the club for salaries and transfer fees. It was apparently the last donation for Hamburger SV – but he still does not let his city down.

Because he also contributed a good five million euros to the construction of the Elbphilharmonie. His wife Christine, whom he married at the age of 52, and who enjoys going to the opera and concerts, could also be a motivation for this. The couple are also sponsors of the foundation of the same name with one million euros.

He even jokes that he even has his own little Elbphilharmonie, because the construction of his luxury hotel “The Fontenay” in Hamburg was about as long as that of the concert hall. A night costs between 500 and 9,000 euros, but the rooms are 50 square meters, the infinity pool 20 meters long, the driveway seven meters wide, and the furnishings and architecture are exquisite.

Billions for research

But Corona also hit this hotel hard. When the pandemic hit Germany, the “Welt” revealed that he was skeptical of the “Bazooka” of SPD Finance Minister Olaf Scholz. After all, there is no real concept of recovering all the expenses. However, he did not seem averse to state aid for his hotel. He has registered short-time work for 90 percent of the hotel employees and 83,000 of the Kuehne und Nagel employees; At least for those in Germany, in America there is no such instrument.

Kühne has no heirs. There has been speculation about who will succeed him for a long time. The company capital is likely to flow into the foundation named after the family at some point. The Kühne Foundation, whose spin-off is a private university for future logisticians, supports children’s and orphanages as well as other charitable projects and promotes research on the transport industry and logistics. With an estimated fortune of 19.29 billion euros, Kühne is now 74th among the richest people in the world.

This is how countries around the world are preparing for the distribution of corona vaccines


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