MIM Hamburg: In the beginning there was Carl Baguhn
The history of Marine- und Industrie-Montage GmbH and Karl-Friedrich Buck
One person played a special role in the transfer of company management from the Baguhn family to the new proprietor Karl-Friedrich Buck and that person was Walter Grewe. The second son of Ludwig Grewe, Carl Baguhn's friend from shared times at St. Pauli, had, as already mentioned, started work at CBH in 1935, after his father, who evidently must have been concerned about finding an upright path in life for his son, had acted as an intermediary.
Although Walter Grewe had made a promising start to working life prior to his first job with CBH, having chosen and completed an apprenticeship as an electromechanical engineer, the global economic crisis put a stop to a career in that profession right from the start. Grewe, like millions of others, joined the ranks of the unemployed. So he tried his hand as a taxi driver. He also waited at tables in his father's business and even performed there as a pianist. He at least displayed a multiplicity of talents – but such diversity was not really enough to satisfy his father. For that reason, father asked his friend Carl Baguhn to take on the young Buck – who had been born on 10 January 1907.
At the age of 28 – a similar age to that of Henry Baguhn – Grewe first set out on 1 December 1935 as a driver in his new career. But not for long: Baguhn recognised his organisational talents and transferred him to the office under the wings of master craftsmen Ahrens and Exß. Grewe learned. And he had the good fortune not to be called up to serve in the military when war broke out. However, the deficit of only being in possession of an apprenticeship diploma as a specialist qualification although he was being entrusted with increasingly more responsible duties became obvious.
Baguhn therefore exploited the virtual shutdown forced upon his business by the Allied aerial bombardment and sent his protégé on a foreman's training course to Technische Schule Eisen und Metall (Iron and Metal Technical College) in Besenbinderhof. At that time the course was called 'Berufserziehung und Betriebsführung' (Vocational Education and Business Management). When Grewe returned to Glashüttenstraße with his examination certificate, Baguhn took his next decisive step, a step which would shape the decades to come: he appointed Walter Grewe to the post of Plant Manager with effect from 1 April 1944...
...instead of his son Henry, who was still on the road with his mobile workshop in Eastern Europe repairing war equipment. Above all, however, Grewe had – either in wise foresight or perhaps even complete indifference to the regime – not the least trace of National Socialism, which is also why Emil Dahlmann, the first chairman of the works council in the new Germany, found no point of attack against Grewe. However, in the months following the German collapse and the denazification of CBH, the Plant Manager made no effort to put up any noticeable resistance to the machinations of the new masters.
This had absolutely no negative effects on the working relationship between the fatherly Baguhn and his young manager. On the contrary, Grewe's position in the company's hierarchy was crowned by the older man in 1963 when he granted the son of his old friend and benefactor, who had already died in 1936, joint power of representation. With that he had established facts, staked out the ground and although he had not designated an heir, he had crucially determined the future management of his company.
The boss was 86 years old and continued to be physically and intellectually active. But the way ahead still had to be defined. When he died, on 1 March 1965 two years later, the work force accepted the change at the head of the company with absolutely no reservations. The words expressed at the time of the elder Baguhn's death by Kalli Rüsselhuber, who had been working for the company since 1925 (and his father Carl since even earlier, probably soon after the company was formed) have been handed down: 'The boss is dead – long live the boss!'
The relationship between the new company proprietor Henry Baguhn and plant manager Walter Grewe was perhaps not effusively warm, but the two men worked well together to the benefit of both. When in 1977 Henry Baguhn's health took a sharp turn for the worse – he died unexpectedly on 24 February 1978 – and there were no children either in his family or the families of his brothers and sisters who showed the necessary talents and inclination to inherit the company, Grewe's resolve was clear: He had to find a buyer for the business, which had now been in existence for 72 years. For that he needed contacts.
What contact could have been better than Hans Adam, the company's tax advisor of many years standing? Among Adam's regular clients was a young man who headed the company Marine- und Industrie-Montage G.m.b.H., a certain Karl-Friedrich Buck, born on 8 August 1943 in Osten an der Oste not far from Cuxhaven. Buck's father was not very affluent, but it had nevertheless been within his means to enable his son to study to become a ship's engineer. While studying, Karl-Friedrich was able to live at home, was not required to pay board and lodging, but did have to pay his way in every other respect. Fortunately, he had accumulated savings from years at sea, during which time he had served as assistant to the ship's engineer. His father did of course put pressure on him to finish his studies as quickly as possible. "Don't think you can take it easy, and perhaps even repeat a semester. Not with me! Oh no, not with me, you don't!'
So Buck completed his studies in the regular time, and subsequently signed on as chief engineer. Then in 1971 came three decisive events, one private and the other two which were to make shipping history: Firstly, Buck's son Sven was born. Secondly, containers asserted themselves in the cargo business, with consequent progressively shorter docking periods in port: 'Extremely short docking periods. That was no longer my idea of shipping. Nor did I enjoy the advent of multiple languages on board, with two or three officers from Germany and the rest of the crew from all four corners of the earth.'
He renounced the sea and moved to a company in Kiel which sold a product manufactured by the US-American company Philadelphia Resins Corporation. 'Chockfast – a pourable epoxy resin with which engines or machine components can be firmly anchored after having been mechanically aligned; we also describe the process as providing equipment foundation.' Buck was good at his business, so good in fact that the 'lads from Philadelphia' pressed him on frequent occasions to take over the German market.
Required capital: 200,000 German marks. 'I was hardly thirty years old, had a family and lived in a low-rent apartment!' Then things happened fast and events exerted their own pressures. Buck was offered a job with another company which wanted to take over sales of Chockfast in Germany. He asked for time to consider, and executives in Philadelphia made it clear that he would be needed in the new job, although they would have much preferred to be working directly with him. He felt the same – but how was he to raise 200,000 marks? He remembers the situation as if it were yesterday: 'I went to the bank – which one is irrelevant. And was back on the street in no time at all. I have seldom felt so humiliated.'
Would friends be able to help? There were possibilities. Peter Huwe. Heddo Fricke. Klaus Laumayer, who was also a client of the tax advisor Hans Adam. And where do young men mostly meet when they want to talk business in northern Germany? The Anglo-German Club in Hamburg is among the top addresses.
Buck put his cards on the table and his friends came up with the money. Laumayer, Fricke and Buck boarded a plane, jetted with what was then the amazing 747 via New York to Philadelphia, and closed the deal. Buck pales even today when he recalls how his friend Laumayer bargained with the Americans. What did Chockfast cost? For one ship? For five ships? For ten ships? And for a hundred ships? But there was no column of figures for that in the price list. 'But I want to install Chockfast in 100 ships – so how much?' Fricke and Buck desperately endeavoured with sign language to stop their friend carrying on with his less than credible projections. He was negotiating for the equivalent of 100,000 dollars, at that time roughly 210,000 German marks. On the basis of capital resources of 200,000!
Not a situation for the faint-hearted. Laumayer stuck to his guns and the US partners finally yielded and concluded the biggest single deal in the product's history. 'All we had to do was find a place to store it', says Buck with a quiet shudder. In the free port. After all that, the trio disembarked from the plane in Hamburg on Monday morning with a fistful of contracts and proceeded to form the company MIM, Marine- und Industrie-Montage G.m.b.H.
Buck 'went to town'. That is to say he worked himself to the bone, from one marriage row to the next and from order to order. At times, no less than four ships waited in line to be fitted with Chockfast engine foundations at Blohm+Voss, HDW and MAN. 'We earned really good money. But we were also well aware that the situation would not go on for ever. We needed another business foothold. And what was a more obvious direction to go in, with myself as ship's engineer, my partners as ship brokers and businessmen, than ships themselves; we could at least give it a try and start with one ship? And we did indeed already have our eyes on one. Built in 1948. It was supposed to transport cement for us from Algeria to the booming building industry in Spain. We had arranged to meet at my company's headquarters in Pickhuben 6 in Hamburg's warehouse quarter. Fricke, Huwe, myself and Laumeyer with his tax advisor Adam. At 7 p.m. We pushed the plans and financial calculations back and forth, waiting for Adam to arrive. When he finally came, at half past eight, he was met by a barrage of invective; he could at least have telephoned. Adam remained totally unperturbed by his reception and said: 'Get all that off the table. Do you know Carl Baguhn Hamburg? I know the company; I have been its tax advisor since 1957 and I've just come from there. The company is up for sale.'
Source: 1905 – 2005 – 100 years Carl Baguhn Hamburg
(Book in a bound edition)