Knorr-Bremse Industrialist Thiele Increases Fortune to $15.3 Billion After IPO

Alex Kraus/Bloomberg News

Germany’s largest-ever listing of a family-owned business has reordered the country’s wealth rankings.

Heinz Hermann Thiele is about $6 billion richer after last week’s initial public offering of his largest asset, Knorr-Bremse AG, the world’s biggest maker of truck and train braking systems. The IPO makes him the country’s fourth-richest person, with a net worth of $15.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.


Thiele, 77, was ranked 10th before the IPO, when Bloomberg valued his stake at $8.4 billion. His rise in the ranking now puts him ahead of shipping billionaire Klaus-Michael Kuehne and SAP SE co-founder Hasso Platner. He remains about $8.7 billion behind Germany’s richest person, Lidl Stiftung & Co.’s Dieter Schwarz.

Knorr-Bremse was founded in 1905, and Thiele started there in 1969 as a legal specialist in the patents department. He rose through the ranks before buying the company in 1985. At that point Thiele hadn’t even repaid the mortgage on his house, he said in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

Under Thiele, Knorr-Bremse has expanded its global presence to more than 30 countries and posted 2017 sales of 6.2 billion euros. The shares have gained 1.5% since the IPO.

Thiele, who plans to hand over the business to his daughter, said in the interview that estate planning factored into his decision to list the company. The IPO comes two years after a reform to Germany’s inheritance tax law that increases the burden on single heirs of large family companies.