Mr. Vormann, you started at the industrial park 32 years ago. Can you remember your first day?
Absolutely. That was my first job after graduation. At first I felt a bit lost in this gigantic work and in the finance and accounting department of Hoechst AG at the time. Lots of new people, lots of new impressions, lots of hierarchies, lots of unknown names, lots of rules – and lots of rules that I didn’t like at all.
Which ones, for example?
The fixed start of work at 7.30 in the morning; I tend to be a late riser, so I was repeatedly late. As a result, my boss came up to me and said he was very happy with my performance, but not with my punctuality. In order to avoid further problems, my employment contract was amended, with the official start of work at 8 a.m.
You stayed 32 years, would you have thought that at the time?
no I chose Hoechst back then because I wanted to go abroad as quickly as possible. At that time, Hoechst AG was still one of the most international corporations in Germany. When I applied it said: “If you prove yourself here, you will be sent abroad for the first time in two years at the latest.” Well, nothing ever came of it.
That’s what you made a career for.
I was given a responsible role for one of the most important projects very early on, the corporate restructuring of Hoechst AG in 1997, which later – in 1999 – also led to the demerger of the group.
There are many who mourn the loss of the old Hoechst AG. They also?
no Hoechst AG was a company that emerged from the demerger of the old IG Farben after the end of the Second World War. You have to look at this start-up with the greatest respect. But what has become of it since the end of the seventies was already an extremely hierarchical structure with opaque structures and little transparency. The board members were far away from the customers and the business. In the old structure of the 1990s, Hoechst AG would not have survived much longer.
Part of the split was the formation of an independent industrial park operator called Infraserv – which was very unusual at the time.
That is true for Germany – there was no role model here. However, a few years earlier, during the reorganization of the British Imperial Chemical Industries, there was a development that went in a similar direction. But it wasn’t easy, the Hoechst locations were very different back then. Nevertheless, we tried to find a concept that could be adapted for all German locations and that could also be quickly implemented contractually. And we didn’t want to make the Treasury rich either.
What do you mean?
If, in addition to the operative business areas of Hoechst AG, we had simply spun off the infrastructure of the plants into legally independent sub-units, we would have had to release hidden reserves and pay taxes. So we looked for a way to create a so-called tax division for all spin-offs. That wasn’t easy in Höchst, where there is a central power plant and a central wastewater treatment plant that were used by ten to twelve different operational customers at the time. The solution for us then was to make the largest site users simultaneous shareholders of Infraserv.