Ex-royal family buys Prussian porcelain maker

14th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

15 December 2004 , BERLIN - A member of Germany's former royal family, the Hohenzollerns, has won approval to buy back one of the country's most prestigious and nearly bankrupt luxury companies: Berlin's Royal Porcelain Manufacture KPM. Franz Wilhelm Prince of Prussia, a great-grandson of the last German Kaiser, was given a green light by the Berlin city government to buy KPM - which received its "royal" prefix after being acquired by King Friedrich the Great of Prussia in 1763. The Prince of Prussia, who

15 December 2004

BERLIN - A member of Germany's former royal family, the Hohenzollerns, has won approval to buy back one of the country's most prestigious and nearly bankrupt luxury companies: Berlin's Royal Porcelain Manufacture KPM.

Franz Wilhelm Prince of Prussia, a great-grandson of the last German Kaiser, was given a green light by the Berlin city government to buy KPM - which received its "royal" prefix after being acquired by King Friedrich the Great of Prussia in 1763.

The Prince of Prussia, who is 61, is a businessman based in Madrid.

Media reports say the Prince has offered EUR five million for KPM, or Koenigliche Porzellan-Maufaktur as it is called under its full name.

KPM is Berlin's oldest business enterprise and has been state property since after the Kaiser abdicated in 1918 following Germany's defeat in the First World War.

It has been put up for sale by the city as part of a bid to reduce the German's capital's crushing debt of over EUR 50 billion.

Just like the city of Berlin, KPM is in big financial trouble. Last year it had turnover of EUR 9.6 million but ran up losses of almost EUR 3.2 million.

According the Bild tabloid, the Prince plans to build a hotel on the KPM site and transform the manufacture of fine porcelain into a tourist attraction.

KPM's porcelain is hand-made and its artisan employees are one of the company's main assets - and major costs. Aside from salaries for the 176 workers, the new KPM owner must take over pension responsibilities of up to EUR 20 million.

Royal KPM porcelain, with the trademark blue sceptre of Fredrick the Great on each piece, does not come cheap. Prices begin at EUR 34 for a small blue bowl with gold stars and rise to EUR 16,000 for elaborate porcelain sculptures.

Among KPM's best known designers was Karl-Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841) a Prussian icon who was the architect of some of 19th century Berlin's most famous buildings including the city's central Museum Island. Schinkel's designs are still being used by KPM.
Exports, especially to Japan, Taiwan, Russia and the US are rising and overseas sales are seen as the best way to get the company back into the black, said Elmar Schmitz, KPM's manager.

"The export potential has not been used in the last years" said Schmitz, in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine am Sonntag newspaper.

Thanks mainly to exports, KPM will probably have total turnover of between EUR 10,5 million and EUR 11 million this year, making it the number two porcelain manufacturer behind its German arch-rival Meissen.

There are only six such manufacturers in Germany which produce the "White Gold" as porcelain is nicknamed.

King Friedrich the Great, or the Alte Fritz" (Old Fritz) as he is nicknamed, was a fanatic collector of tobacco boxes and porcelain. He bought the porcelain company from a Berlin businessman 1763 and renamed it KPM.

"We do not only sell porcelain. We sell an emotionally charged product," says Schmitz, who notes that Friedrich the Great made KPM into a court porcelain provider for numerous European royal families.

DPA

Subject: German news

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