The Business On... Julius Meinl V, Chairman, Meinl Bank
Friday 13 August 2010
A German banker?
Actually, the family-owned Meinl Bank is Austrian and Mr Meinl himself is British. He was born here and has split his time between homes in this country and Austria – he even drives a Bentley.
Not short of a bob or two then?
No, even if the bank he runs did catch a cold during the financial crisis. Nor is there another venture to fall back on, bar a couple of trophy assets. The coffee chain and fine-foods business that the Meinl family built, and which brought its name to prominence, was sold 10 years ago. Still, it's safe to say Mr Meinl remains comfortable.
Though not for much longer?
Let's not be hasty, although there are a couple of threats to his position. Not least the Austrian authorities, which are still investigating allegations of fraud at Meinl European Land, a separately quoted company managed by the banking group. No charges have ever been brought against Mr Meinl, but he was pulled in for questioning last year before being released on €100m (£82m) bail, which has not yet been returned. Now it has emerged that the board of Meinl European – since renamed Atrium European Real Estate and under new management – is to sue Mr Meinl, the bank and eight other parties, for €2bn (£1.6bn) over the affair. The case will be heard in the High Court in London.
What does Mr Meinl say?
The bank he chairs has yet to receive the law suit, but it is already making it clear that it absolutely refutes the allegations by Atrium. The bank has also pledged to clear the name of Mr Meinl himself in relation to the fraud investigation.
Goodness, it's quite a saga.
Indeed – and in Austria this has been really big news. Last year's arrest of Mr Meinl saw saturation coverage in the media, with critics dubbing him "Austria's Sir Fred Goodwin". Mr Meinl says he has been picked on because he is British – that record bail reflects the fact he has a British passport, a private plane and a pilot's licence – and he has pledged to wage war on those who would besmirch his family name.
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