A shareholder stand-off in the Black Forest.
IF YOU have ever struggled to assemble a flat-pack wardrobe, the chances are that its wooden pieces were cut, drilled and finished on machines made by Homag. Founded in 1960 in Schopfloch, in the Black Forest, Homag is one of those little-known world champions that are the backbone of the German economy.
But not all is well in Schopfloch. Gerhard Schuler, one of its founders, now a sprightly 85, is at war with Deutsche Beteiligungs AG (DBAG), a private-equity firm that was once his dream partner. After buying into the company in 1997 DBAG built up a stake of 60%. When Homag was floated on the stockmarket in 2007 it kept 33% and Mr Schuler stayed on as honorary chairman with a small stake. But business dipped in 2008 and the shares plunged. Mr Schuler and his supporters, worried about the direction the company was taking, started buying. They built a blocking minority of 25.01%.
但是绍普夫洛赫并非一切安好。豪迈公司创建者之一，现年85岁活跃的Gerhard Schuler先生正在与德意志参股上市公司 (DBAG)处于争斗之中。DBAG是一家私人股权公司，曾经是Schuler先生理想中的合作伙伴。1997年，DBAG通过入股豪迈公司而拥有其60%的股份。当2007年豪迈公司股票大涨时，DBAG持有33%的股份，同时，Schuler先生持有少量股份并担任豪迈公司的名誉主席。但在2008年发生了经济下滑和股票缩水，Schuler先生及其支持者由于担心公司的经营方向开始购买股权。最终他们持有具有否决权的25.01%的少数股权。
That did not stop DBAG kicking Mr Schuler's three appointees off Homag's supervisory board two years ago and replacing them with people who were "more internationally minded". Since then, the two sides have been at screwdrivers drawn.
At a stormy shareholders' meeting last month things came to a head. Mr Schuler and his allies accused DBAG of being a "locust" interested only in short-term profit, and of selling out to a foreign buyer. Local staff want Achim Gauss, Homag's long-standing technical director, who resigned abruptly "for personal reasons" on May 23rd, to be reinstated. IKEA, a Swedish furniture chain and Homag's biggest customer, also expressed concern at Mr Gauss's departure.
DBAG, one of Germany's oldest private-equity firms, is not obviously locust-like. Its executives insist it is there for the long term. However, Homag is DBAG's biggest investment and its shares have not performed well. Half of DBAG's stake is owned by two of its investment funds, one of which is scheduled to wind up this year. So a partial exit would be logical. There is no reason for a forced sale, says a DBAG source: that would weaken DBAG's influence. Meanwhile, Mr Schuler's crowd are looking for a white knight.
More happily, Homag's business is on the rebound. Last year's turnover of ￡800m ($1.1 billion) was near the pre-crisis peak, and the closing of three German subsidiaries should cut costs. Gordon Sch?nell of Bankhaus Lampe, a private bank, says that "the managers are doing the right things." But for Mr Schuler the shift from family firm to shareholder capitalism has gone too far.
令人高兴的是，豪迈的经营状况正在好转。去年它的营业总额达到8亿欧元（11亿美元），接近经济危机前的最高值，而且关闭三家德国下属公司可以削减部分成本。私有银行Gordon Sch?nell of Bankhaus Lampe宣称豪迈管理者正在做正确的事情。但是对Schuler来说，从家族企业向股份资本企业的转变已是渐行渐远。