German millionaire chokes to death on dinner at his own hotel

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The Independent Online

He was one of Germany's wealthiest men and a bitter enemy of Tiny Rowland, founder of Britain's Lonrho. Yet as fate would have it, the property tycoon Dieter Bock met his end by choking on a piece of meat he ordered for dinner at a hotel in Hamburg that he co-owned.

Police said the 71-year-old entrepreneur died from asphyxiation in his bedroom at Hamburg's Atlantic hotel, a famous and once ritzy establishment that has been used as a location for a James Bond film. An ambulance crew called to the scene had tried in vain to resuscitate him.

"It was an accident, he died of suffocation, there were no suspicious circumstances," said the Hamburg police spokesman Holger Vehren yesterday. "The rescue crew tried without success to revive him."

Mr Bock co-owned the ailing Atlantic hotel, which was stripped of its five stars and removed from the Leading Hotels of the World organisation's list two years ago because of falling standards. He had pledged to restore the establishment overlooking Hamburg's Alster lake to its former glory.

The 100-year-old hotel, which became famous during the era of transatlantic liner travel, is currently undergoing a €22m (£19m) facelift. Over the years its guests have included Josephine Baker, Charles de Gaulle, the Shah of Persia and Michael Jackson. In 1997, the building was used as a location for the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, starring Pierce Brosnan.

Hotel staff said Mr Bock choked on the dinner sent to his room during the early hours of 12 May. Police confirmed his death yesterday following newspaper reports about his fate.

A property tycoon and patron of the arts, Mr Bock lived reclusively in homes he kept in London and the German city of Darmstadt. His wealth is estimated to amount to some €600m. Last year he was ranked halfway down the list of his country's richest 300 people by Germany's Manager magazine.

Mr Bock, who trained as a lawyer, hit the headlines in Britain in the 1990s after forcing out Tiny Rowland, the founder of the international trading group Lonrho, in a bitter boardroom battle for control of the British conglomerate.

He joined Lonrho after taking part in a rescue share rights issue in 1992. He was almost immediately at loggerheads with Mr Rowland, who had founded the international trading group and run it for over three decades.

The two men's often public disagreements came to a head in 1994 when Mr Rowland was ousted by Mr Bock in a fierce boardroom battle. In March the following year Mr Rowland was dismissed from the board of Lonrho, 34 years after he founded the company.

Dieter Bock was appointed Lonrho's deputy chairman in late 1997 after he resigned as the group's chief executive. The move was to prevent a conflict of interest as the conglomerate was de-merging. In Germany Mr Bock's family members are shareholders in a group that runs several of the country's luxury Kempinski hotels.