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Thursday, 16 June 2011

Comments

Mike,

there's a timeline / timetable at Leitz Geosystems at http://www.leica-geosystems.com/en/our-company-history_834.htm - found that via the German Wikipedia page about Leitz and their history: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leitz_%28Optik%29

HTH,
and cheers,
Wolfgang

Thorsten Overgaard has a great source list with more information on Leitz and the company's verious mergers.

http://www.overgaard.dk/leica_history.html

I don't know why they sold it, but as for your question about the timing: if I was selling a company, I would certainly do it while it is doing well. Then you can sell for a good price and you don't have to worry anymore. Actually, right now Leica is probably looking really good again. The M9 has been flying off the shelves, they can't produce enough lenses, and from what I hear, their cine lenses are phenomenal.

You probably found this: http://www.overgaard.dk/leica_history.html

Leica-oriented, but may be helpful.

Mike.

See here for all details from the end of Ernst Leitz as a separate company in 1986 through to the formation of Leica Camera AG in 1996.

http://www.wild-heerbrugg.com/History.htm

Do remenber that Leica cameras were always a small part of the Leitz business.

Best regards,

Colin Martin.

Off topic (?) but so fascinating : Ernst Leitz II and the rescue of his jews workers :

http://keppler.popphoto.com/blog/2006/06/from_leitz_subl.html

http://www.aish.com/ho/p/49082441.html

While it's not very transparent, the links above give you the basics. The key date is 1986, when Leica GmbH was founded.

Before then, however, Wild had bought portions of the company, including 25% held by the family. In Germany, the progression from small, family-held company to moderately large, public-held company is a classic challenge for advisors and the like, as these companies tend to have reached a point where family management simply doesn't work any more (because the family members don't want to do the job, or simply don't have the expertise needed), but a transition to professional management almost invariably requires a transition to a different corporate structure.

Leitz was an AG, Aktiengesellschaft, or stock company. Such a company is independent and is only answerable directly to the owners, rather than a board of management or external partners. Leica is a GmbH, Gesellschaft mit beschrankte Haftung, or the equivalent of a LLC or other limited companies. The GmbH must behave according to the wishes of all capital partners involved, including external investors, which reduces some of the management risks (i.e. in an AG, as an external investor you can tell them they have to do something, but they don't have to; in a GmbH, they have to).

I agree with Bernd: the time to sell off your shares in such a company is when that company is doing great. Otherwise you get a LOT less money, and that's not the point.

Basically, I read this as being a classic family withdrawal from the company because it outgrew them. There are companies where this doesn't happen - Rolex is one, for instance - but here the company already had external investors, the family had already given up a chunk of ownership, and the three brothers were probably not unthrilled by the idea of retiring early.

Mike,
Along the same lines I have been searching for a biography on Ernst Leitz or Oscar Barnack In English.Do you know of any such?
I know how you love a good book; any help would be greatly appreciated.

Hi Mike, thanks for the fascinating brain work-out! (like Robert Capa naming himself after his hero Frank Capra!)

These might help:
http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/history2/48/Leica-Microsystems-Holdings-GmbH.html financial difficulties apparently
Grandson http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-wiki.en/index.php/Knut_K%C3%BChn-Leitz sold family shares

It appears the last surviving son of Ernst Leitz II died in 1992 (although one of the links says the last protagonist died in 1987), after which info came out about "The Leica Freedom Train" ;

http://www.suite101.com/content/leitz-family-historian-rabbi-frank-dabba-smith-a161165
http://www.phsc.ca/gilbert.html

some useful links here;
http://www.nemeng.com/leica/005eb.shtml

Some more company info here;
http://www.answers.com/topic/leica-camera-ag

Delve deeply enough you can even find a 1946 British Intelligence report on the IIIc;
http://www.dantestella.com/technical/britishintel.html

All-in-all a fascinating couple of hours.

hope this helps/is interesting. phil

You missed your chance to have a post called "Leitz Out" ... sorry, couldn't resist.

Mike
Several members of the Leica Historical Society of America are well versed and can be contacted through the LHSA website
Mark Layne

I don't know whether I'm pointing out the obvious here, but couldn't you, in your capacity as an editor/journalist/writer, ask Leica about their history? Maybe something interesting will come from that.

The only fact not contained in the above links is that Hermes bought 31% of Leica Shares in 2000 - "Hermès Focuses on Leica with a £10m Bid James Mackintosh. The Financial Times (London, England),Tuesday, November 21, 2000; pg. 31"

These shares were acquired by ACM Projektentwicklung GmbH on 27 December 2006 (Leica investor announcement) making ACM the biggest share holder with 75% of the voting rights.

Erwin Puts has significant coverage of the corporate history in his Leica Compendium, which was recently published in a limited edition. The discussion runs to almost 100 pages and covers people and relationships with companies such as Zeiss plus global photographic industry context. I realize the original request was for a link, but this would be my first reference for answering the question. The suggestion to ask Leica is also a good one as in my experience they regard preserving the company's history as one of their assets.

-Z-

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