Germany's first family of fashion is hit by ultimate 'pushy parents' backlash

He is the éminence grise behind Germany's supermodel Heidi Klum – but yesterday Günther Klum, her 66-year-old father and manager, stood accused of being the bane of the fashion industry and somebody whom top model candidates were abandoning "in droves".

Mr Klum, a former cosmetics industry executive, helped turn his daughter into one of the world's richest models after encouraging her to appear on a popular German television show in 1992 when she was 18. Heidi subsequently became a world-famous model.

Yesterday, however, an unflattering portrait of the power behind the Klum throne appeared in Der Spiegel. It claimed that as Heidi's manager, Günther locked young models into unfavourable business contracts and was a person whose choleric outbursts of anger made television employees he dealt with want to hide.

The chief bone of contention, Der Spiegel said, was the popular Hedi Klum-hosted television show Germany's Next Topmodel, broadcast on the country's ProSieben television channel. The show, which attempts to echo Heidi's launching pad to success, is a competition for young would-be top models.

"Former Topmodel candidates he represents are abandoning him in droves, and the first thing people do at ProSieben when they see him coming is hide," the magazine alleged of Günther Klum. "He is the bulldozer clearing the way for his daughter. It is hard to say whether Heidi is so successful because of or despite her lumbering father."

Jana Beller, last year's winner of the contest, had a highly publicised row with Mr Klum and subsequently broke off a contract with him claiming that the months she spent with him were the "worst" of her life.

Mr Klum was alleged to have used Ms Klum's fame to prise thousands in advertising revenue out of a sweet firm whose liquorice drops the model once confessed to eating. More seriously, Heidi's father was accused of locking former top model candidates into restrictive employment contracts which promised much but delivered little.

"The girls really don't understand what they are signing," Der Spiegel quoted the former Topmodel candidate Neele Hehemann 23, as saying. " He didn't get me a single job and he didn't let me go to any casting calls."