Life is a Contest - Интервью с Алексом Дибелиусом (экс-Маккинзи/Голдман) - СМИ о консалтинговых компаниях

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Автор Тема: Life is a Contest - Интервью с Алексом Дибелиусом (экс-Маккинзи/Голдман)  (Прочитано 11095 раз)

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« : 02 Ноябрь 2015, 23:43:58 »

Вместо интро: у себя на родине чел является легендой и ролевой моделью для яппи. Этот немец, оказавшийся в Маккинзи после универа, двух лет в бундесвере и трех лет работы кардиохирургом, установил рекорд скорости продвижения с нуля до Партнера (<5 лет) и стал самым младшим (на тот момент) Партнером фирмы. После чего ушел в немецкий Голдман, который позже возглавил...  Короче - enjoy!

Life Is A Contest

In an interview with Handelsblatt magazine, Alexander Dibelius, the ex-chief of Goldman Sachs Germany who helped engineer Daimler's takeover of Chrysler, talks about how corporate management has changed from the days when alpha wolves ruled Germany Inc.
Many wonderful rumors exist about Alexander Dibelius: That he never drinks alcohol and doesn’t need much sleep. That he prefers to hike up mountains with bloody feet rather than go home because he has packed the wrong shoes. His ambition is legendary. He dominated the VIP ski races on the fringes of the World Economic Forum in Davos in Switzerland so completely that a company once nominated a former member of the Austrian national ski  team – to put Mr. Dibelius in his place, just once. The man who arrived for the interview at Berlin’s Hotel de Rome appeared far more relaxed. Mr. Dibelius has apparently transformed himself once again – as so often in the past.

Handelsblatt: Mr. Dibelius, your father was a poorly paid musicologist. You yourself are one of the most influential players in German business, and one of the wealthiest. What role has money played in your life?

Alexander Dibelius: A changing role, because with the passing years – if everything goes well – one has a little bit more than at the beginning.

You were a business consultant and investment banker, but began your professional life as a doctor. Was that because it promised money and prestige, or because that’s what someone does who has excellent grades?

I actually consider the Numerus clausus (restricted admission policy) to be a misallocation of intelligence to medical studies. But regardless of that: when I started choosing my subjects, I was looking for a sort of general studies of the natural sciences, something that medicine in fact offers: physics, biology, chemistry … I enjoyed that.

You once acknowledged that your decision wasn’t based primarily on any calling to heal and help.

Is it with any student? Hardly anyone who studies medicine can really know beforehand what that means and what they’re getting in to. Like the majority of medical students, I certainly didn’t have the wish to end up as a new Albert Schweitzer in Lambaréné (in what is now the African nation of Gabon).

But instead?

Chief physician in Starnberg (in Bavaria) … for a certain period of time, that was my romantic goal.

Your worst experience as a doctor?

I don’t want to exaggerate, but when you have to tell a mother and father that their child is dead because the results of a traffic accident couldn’t be overcome through surgery, that puts into perspective much of what is called bad in life.
Was it experiences like that which caused you to change professions?

Definitely not. I’ve stored scenes like that in my mind photographically somehow. But that doesn’t mean the burdens of the job were too much for me.

So what bothered you?

The prospect of a relatively monotonous routine in a hospital for the next 20 years … and under superiors who would have been above me for a long time.

Nevertheless you remained true to the profession for five years.

I made and always still make my five-year plans. After each five-year period, I compare the plan with the actual state of affairs and in some cases look for a change. But I took one thing with me from my involvement with medicine: being confronted with suffering and death leaves its mark. All the strains and the transactions as a manager, banker and investor pale in comparison, even if in these roles we tend to think that the world revolves around us.

Do you as well?

Others will have to be the judge of that.

You then switched to McKinsey (a global management consultant firm). Don’t business consultants in fact consider themselves to be emergency doctors?

Such analogies are as popular as they are absurd. If you have ever stood in an operating room where a struggle is going on to save the life of a patient, that is always a much more immediate moment than, say, the decision to eliminate jobs or to sell a company.

Jobs also mean existences.

Absolutely. And I don’t want to minimize the consequences that result for those who are affected, but only to explain to you why, because of my time as a physician, I can view some decisions with a certain distance. A distance that is helpful and sometimes necessary.

How were you as a young consultant?

That as well can be better judged by my colleagues. But seriously: I came as a complete novice and from another profession into this totally strange world. As a result, I was probably a terribly insecure over-achiever.

So an ambitious son of a bitch.

Friends told me later that I was supposedly quite insufferable. On the other hand, I would have gone under if I hadn’t taken up the fight. I had to learn again and again in life to play by new rules or to redefine the game.

How does one do that?

Basically all of life is a contest. When a high jump is on the agenda but I am only 1.75 meters (5 feet 9 inches) tall, then I have to try to convince the others that long-distance running is much cooler. In the German Armed Forces, I didn’t get respect because of my academic grades but through physical performance. Only someone who plays the game can modify its rules.

It is really true that on a Wednesday you performed your last appendectomy and the following Monday were sent by McKinsey & Co. to a pharmaceutical company to help in its reorganization, something about which you knew absolutely nothing?

I was tasked with analyzing executive departments there and didn’t even know what the term meant. On the other hand, I learned at McKinsey how incredibly important teamwork is in solving problems and how satisfying project work can be.

How important are dress codes?

They’re essential for survival. And I walked in wearing tennis socks and a large checkered jacket from the medical school. But I was quickly informed as to what is acceptable and what is not.

You never felt that to be a disguise?

No, rather as great fun. I’m curious and want to get to know new things: the job, the symbols, the rituals, people and ideas.

So you’re a chameleon.

No. I want to break the codes I come across, to understand things. Even today, I could recite the dress code of the German military by heart – you could gain respect with that there, at least at the time. If I want to change something, I have to understand and first of all accept rules and people.

What do you then want to change?

I don’t immediately call the whole system into question, but I wanted and want to improve it in many areas. My last protest involving clothing, by the way, occurred at my church confirmation, to which I went in jeans. I can’t claim to have changed the world by doing so.

Later at McKinsey, you gained insights into German boardrooms more than has almost anyone else. How have these free territories of the bosses developed? What has changed up there?

Everything. The free territories have become much smaller. Just as in medicine, where the era of demigods has also come to an end. Today CEOs are caught in a net of practical constraints. In the meantime, participatory leadership has come to be crucial. There is enormous pressure to justify conduct, not least of all in the legal sphere. Shareholders, employees, the general public – all want to have a say. Complexity has increased on all levels. It’s no longer enough to simply state that “this is how we’re going to do it.” New times need new bosses. And in recent years, a new generation has come to the fore.
The alpha-wolf has abdicated?

In any case, his talents alone are far from being sufficient. Especially because as a lone warrior without a team, the alpha-wolf can no longer accomplish anything.

Do you feel sorry for today’s CEOs because their conduct is perpetually dictated from outside?

No, because I believe that solutions today are and have to be addressed in a more complex, careful and therefore successful manner.

How much stupidity have you encountered on management boards?

One runs up against all sorts of people. And many of the decisions that are made – regardless of how incomprehensible they seemed at the time – can only be explained after the fact.

That’s what’s called gut feeling.

Or instinct.

Or idiots with intuition?

In comparison with earlier times, today’s top managers can allow themselves far fewer erroneous decisions. The United States is supposedly the land of hire and fire. I can only say: The heads of German management boards today often lose their jobs very quickly.

Has gut feeling receded in favor of education and intellect?


And is that a good thing?

Yes. Things now proceed a little bit more scientifically on the top floors.

Do consultants actually understand a company better, or are they simply able to sell themselves and their recipes more elegantly?

Since the time when I was active at McKinsey, much has changed there. The entire sector has become industrialized. But I remain convinced that problems in companies can often be more effectively addressed when a consultant comes in from outside. But after another five years, I wanted to leave the consulting industry, and so I switched to a small and powerful outfit.

And so your third career began as an investment banker with Goldman Sachs, where you became the man for mergers and acquisitions. Above all, the larger deals. Have you and the American bank restructured Deutschland AG (Germany Inc, a term used to describe the network of cross shareholdings among banks, insurers and industrial companies that has gradually been unwound over the last 20 years).

I’d say that we contributed to its demise. The Deutschland AG network doesn’t exist in that form any more. German companies with a worldwide reputation long ago became globalized, and what happens in the German domestic market is almost irrelevant. The issue will be: How can these companies continue to grow and preserve their valuable German roots and values without at the same time being held back in their development by the parameters of a comparatively small home country with its quite loveable political and cultural peculiarities? Because it they allow themselves to be too misled by that, companies will have to bid farewell entirely to Germany. Sometimes a German suit seems too tightly tailored for the global party.

You helped Daimler to conquer Chrysler. Would you agree that this project made you rich and famous?

I didn’t get rich through it. A certain degree of publicity couldn’t be avoided.

When the DaimlerChrysler deal that executive Jürgen Schrempp celebrated as a “marriage made in heaven” ultimately failed miserably, you had long since moved on. Do you feel a sense of co-responsibility for the disaster?

It affected me. But even today, I remain proud at having co-invented and carried out this transatlantic fusion in all its transactional details at the behest of Daimler, even if it wasn’t my idea strategically. It is of course a shame that it didn’t work out so well in operational terms. Perhaps we should have adopted a more critical stance as bankers in this case. But after the fact, everyone is smarter.

But you certainly won’t ever have rejected a deal simply because you weren’t convinced that it made sense.

 When we had reservations, we always spoke up about them. Even if we weren’t always able to convince others.

Another time, you were tasked with saving (automotive parts manufacturer) Continental from a hostile takeover by (ball-bearing maker) Schaeffler. When that went awry, you offered your services – successfully – to Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler, the owner of the victorious company. Isn’t there something dishonorable about this switching of sides?

No. The contract for Conti had come to an end. And I was ultimately concerned with saving the new group of companies. So I entered into talks with Ms. Schaeffler. Take a look at Schaeffler and Conti today – a genuine success story!

You also once convinced Thomas Middelhoff to sell the real estate of the Karstadt department-store chain to Goldman in order to restructure the company. What sort of relationship do you have with him today?

We telephone occasionally. One can think whatever one wants about him. But he really didn’t deserve what happened to him.

Now, after being sentenced for tax evasion, Mr. Middelhoff is gravely ill, facing prison and virtually bankrupt. What are your feelings about his fate?

I am always deeply affected by the fates of people whom I know and have worked with.

You yourself never studied business economics but were successful at McKinsey. You never trained as a banker yet became head of German operations at what is perhaps the most powerful bank in the world. Was that because or in spite of that?

I simply tried to pursue my path with common sense and a few brain cells. For that, a bank apprenticeship or study of business economics wasn’t necessarily required. Neither of those types of training should be overestimated.

Are self-taught individuals the better managers?

I’m not one. Everything I did I learned under supervision on the job. McKinsey was a sort of business school for me.

What do you look for when you hire young people?

Naturally, they must be smart, genuine and have a top education. But above all I must notice that they are in control of their own destiny and want to change things.

What has your experience been with the sleek graduates of elite universities who surely often land with you?

That is more an issue of generation. I was still a babyboomer. The pushing and shoving there was fairly intense. You had to fight. Today things are reversed. Because of demographic change, young people today can choose which employer to go with. What hasn’t changed is that young people from the top universities, despite their first-class education, are just as uncertain as I once was. That is also the reason why they still think that it can never be wrong to increase their own input. Therefore, many still think they have to work through the night.

Goldman does not exactly seem like a Waldorf kindergarten.

But the young employees often put the pressure on themselves. Today, the younger employees are in a much stronger position, and the companies have to take that into account. That is why I pushed through free weekends at the bank very early on.

But you yourself were such a workaholic.

… and I would have started differently today, because I know that it doesn’t come down to the hours worked, but to the results. But as I said, hindsight is always 20/20.

Is there a Generation Y?

Yes. And we must all learn to work with it. This generation can also simply afford to make demands for a work-life balance.

Does that also change you?


Because you are really a chameleon, or because you would truly like to set other priorities for yourself than you did before?

At 55, sometimes experience helps in areas where you once would have had to study a textbook at night. So I work considerably more efficiently. That does not mean that you become lax.

Why did you leave Goldman Sachs this spring after 22 years?

Believe it or not, the reason was very simple: I did not want to end up as the Luis Trenker of local investment banking. (Luis Trenker was a South Tyrolean mountaineer and filmmaker who kept on working well into his 80s).

So your departure was entirely voluntary?

One hundred percent. I actually already wanted to leave in 2012, after 20 years at Goldman and the end of one of these five-year-phases, but there were certain changes in my private life at the time.

You mean the divorce battle with your first wife.

I think this part of my private life has been covered enough in the public.

This war of the roses quickly ran into the millions.

You will not hear anything from me about amounts of money.

A lot of dirty laundry was aired there. For example, it became known that you own an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands that was named after the mafia family on TV, the Sopranos. Do you consider a name like that to be funny?

No. But do you seriously think that I would name a company that if I were up to something sinister with it? I am truly not that dumb. That was a shelf company that my advisers set up. But these issues kept me very busy for a long time.

Of all things a number cruncher such as yourself…


A fighter, warrior and also networker…

Yes, yes, yes.

… can’t master the scant amount of private life left over after all the work.

I think everyone is familiar with personal disappointments. I neither would like to nor can say more about that.

But exactly these personal defeats make you more sympathetic to some people than you think.

Until then I had only once experienced such an intense feeling of defeat. That was in 1984 and I had broken my leg in a fall. The physical pain at the time was not that bad, but what hurt was the realization that I am vulnerable. That influenced the wider outlook on life.

Vulnerability is not a defect.

Of course not. But you are always to some extent a prisoner of the image the rest of the world has of you. You surely have a false image of me, of the Dibelius in the fast lane, the man of ambition who works around the clock…

… or the banker who flew to the Arab world on the weekends, because people there also worked on Sundays? Who after a crash on the Autobahn started hitchhiking so he could reach a client on time? You are not those things?

Oh, those ancient stories! These days, if anything I wonder how many of the clichés illustrate a kernel of truth about me.

What do you mean: Why are rumors and accusations drawn to you like moths are drawn to the light?

Because it’s easy to remember my not entirely normal résumé. And I surely did not avoid some confrontations even though it would have been better to step back. But I repeat myself: hindsight is 20/20.

That almost sounds self-critical.

I always was, and still am today.

Have you since married your new partner, Laila Maria Witt?

The civil registry office wedding already happened. When your magazine appears we will also have had the church wedding. Maybe I placed too little value on such symbolism before.

Is there at least a prenuptial agreement this time?

No comment. That is private.

How far does the romantic in you go, if you see yourself as one?

Yes, I am a romantic… and he sometimes goes far.

On the other hand, you say odd sentences such as: “Emotionality has a morphological correlate.” How does that fit together?

That only means that emotion arises through structures and processes in the brain. That does not mean that I deny it is a substantial influencing factor. This may now sound silly, but the people who truly know me, will certainly confirm that I also have feelings.

That is true, there are those.

You as journalists only see the surface, the successes, the preconceptions. But I have also been unsuccessful in many ways, I have invested a lot of time in projects that never amounted to anything. But morally, I am happy with myself.

Ms. Witt…

… who now is Mrs. Dibelius…

… is an actress 23 years your junior, who is on the afternoon soap opera
“Forbidden Love”…

… which people like to reduce her to since our relationship. She also does a lot of theater and produces television dramas for public authorities. But “Forbidden Love” naturally sounds juicier in connection with our relationship and is therefore richer journalistically.

She probably brings a large dose of normalcy into the Dibelius cosmos.

Absolutely… and the children bring the rest.

You set yourself tough standards in your early life. How do you stop yourself applying the same strict performance measures on your daughter you have with your new wife.

I do not set any measures at all, least of all for children. And if so, then only the measure of loving support and assistance.

How has your daughter changed you? Has she made you more mellow?

A Formula One driver does not drive slower just because he is a father. But I of course try to spend as much time with her as possible.

You reportedly recently bought the estate of an old clinic on the edge of Berlin for more than €9 million, in which you surely would like to reside after long renovation work is completed. Couldn’t you have chosen something smaller?

If I were you I wouldn’t believe all numbers that you read in the newspaper.

In the meantime you are starting your fourth career… as a partner in the private equity firm CVC. Why there, of all places?

I also could have gone to the U.S. But after more than 20 years in very American shaped investment banking world, I find a company with European roots quite refreshing. CVC also allows me to concentrate on my role as an investor, finding interesting companies and then actively working with them over a timeframe of four to six years. I find that exciting.

What goals do you have as an investor?

I want to invest more money in Germany, but not just there. This is on the basis of CVC’s excellent performance in the past. In doing so we are counting on small, entrepreneurial, partner-like organizations with excellent employees. The partners of CVC believe that I fit in, and they made me an offer. Steve Koltes…

… one of the founders of CVC…

… I have known him for more than 20 years.

There are executives who strive for big jobs in big corporations. Why doesn’t that apply to you?

A guerrilla troop has always been more fun for me than the entire Prussian army: one on one, quick decisions, short paths. That is much more efficient.

At CVC would you rather be a commander than a mercenary, rather be an entrepreneur than a service provider?

You know, ultimately that is surely also a decision of the personal cycle of life. I worked for more than 30 years as a service provider. Then, in the last third of a professional career, the role as a principal can be a timely change and a rounding off.

Companies now are fairly expensive.

We know that prices rise and fall again. In this regard, the developments in China definitely seem to have had their impact. I have experienced such lucky macro-timing before: When Goldman had to postpone going public because of the crisis in Russia, and I unexpectedly still became a member of a private partnership.

Doctors, consultants, bankers, investors – in which of your four professions so far do incompetents attract the least attention?

Without expertise you will not survive in any of these areas in the long run. But for some management consultants the saying “you can always bullshit your way through” surely applies.

When you began there were no smartphones, there was no Internet, no Generation Y. Today the future is being negotiated by companies that did not exist then: Facebook, Google, Amazon… Do you have the feeling that you are still fully up to date?

Don’t worry about me! I do think that I am still doing OK intellectually. And also because “digital native” should be seen regardless of age. More than 15 years ago all of us in the Neuer Markt (the market for technology stocks which soared during the Internet boom of the late 1990s) were confronted with technological change and its effects on the economy, both good and the bad.

What is actually still driving you?

One is on the Earth to make one’s contribution with the power one has.

That sounds very aloof.

But that’s the way it is. The Protestant work ethic still plays a significant role for us Germans. I simply have a bad conscience if I do not do anything all day. And honestly everyone needs to have a meaningful task.

You could still do something truly meaningful with all of your expertise and your contacts.

And you are qualifying again. For me, the entrepreneur or banker in a collaborative social system makes just as valuable a contribution to society as the photographer, the journalist, the doctor, the cleaning lady or the volunteer at the refugee home. Just because one job is closer or more directly confronted with misery and poverty does not automatically make it more ethically or morally valuable.


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« Ответ #1 : 02 Ноябрь 2015, 23:52:25 »

Это не тот самый, кого хватил инфаркт в 35?

Шучу. Знаю реальный пример инвестбанкира (знакомый знакомого), который умер в 32 от инфаркта. Тоже очень быстро рос и все дела.

С тех пор к таким взлетам отношусь настороженно. Все-таки нам рассказывают одну сторону медали. Чем человек за это платит, нам никогда не рассказывают.

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« Ответ #2 : 23 Ноябрь 2015, 13:44:06 »

Этот пассажир сделал "мегауспешное" слияние Daimler Chrysler?  :)))

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« Ответ #3 : 23 Ноябрь 2015, 14:37:17 »

Этот пассажир сделал "мегауспешное" слияние Daimler Chrysler?  :)))


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