Teenage tycoon earns a place in German legend
LOCAL HEROES: 2
Monday 05 February 1996
In a land where conformity is a virtue and life is reduced to a steady progression along a carefully mapped-out career path, Lars Windhorst is something of a prophet. Even the German business press, enthralled by the wunderkind's fabulous talent for making money, cannot resist a few jibes. "Barbie doll in a pin-stripe suit", was how one magazine described the 19-year-old tycoon who has turned his father's garage into the nerve centre of a global empire.
But among his peers in German industry, the teenager is a living legend. Myths abound of the boy who perused the stock market reports instead of comics at junior school. By 10 he is said to have started dabbling in shares, at 14 he began tinkering with computers. Soon he was writing software and building computers in the family home in the small town of Rahden in northern Germany.
That was when he discovered the limitations of the domestic industry and globalised his operations. When he was 15 he flew to China to buy cheap computer components, which were then assembled by his school-mates and sold in his father's stationery shop. A year later he dropped out of school and went into business with a Chinese enterpreneur based in Germany.
At first the local banks refused him credit. His father had to persuade bank managers that Lars was a serious proposition, and had to sign all the cheques, a task forbidden under German law to those under 18.
Despite the credit squeeze and all the bureaucratic hurdles, the cottage industry mushroomed within three years into a world-wide concern, with offices in New York and Hong Kong, interests in real estate, computers, advertising and business consultancy, and an annual turnover of DM250m. The Windhorst empire's centre is now shifting from Rahden to the Far East. In Vietnam, there are plans in Ho Chi Minh City for a 55-storey Windhorst Tower, destined to be the emblem of this "one-man economic miracle" - as he is described in the Hong Kong press.
His knowledge of the Far East scene has earned him guru status, so much so that when Chancellor Helmut Kohl recently toured the region, Lars was the leading luminary in a government delegation packed with captains of industry. He is the sort of young enterpreneur Germany needs, Mr Kohl said: "Eighteen-, nineteen-year-olds who don't count on their pensions, but follow their dreams, take risks and go out into the world."
The Chancellor and the German business world are expecting great deeds from their teenage enterpreneur. This week he is due to meet Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, who had the monopoly on precocious capitalism before Mr Windhorst came on the scene. There is talk of a link-up between the two, provoking jibes from the press about the dawn of a "nerds' world".
Whether German youth would emulate him, as Mr Kohl hopes, is doubtful. Mr Windhorst's social skills with people of his own age seem somewhat limited and, it is rumoured, he dilutes his beer with Coke.
World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas
Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new
TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow
Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'
- 1 Sick elderly man makes 'complete turnaround' after emotional reunion with dog
- 2 Star Wars memorabilia dubbed 'bit of plastic' by Antiques Roadshow's Fiona Bruce valued at £50,000
- 3 Isis fighters 'crucify' 17-year-old boy in Syria
- 4 Ebola cruise ship ‘in utter panic’ as Mexico and Belize refuse to let it dock
- 5 Death of northern white rhino leaves just six of endangered animals left in the world
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'
£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Permanent Year 6 TeacherThe job:This...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: KS1+KS2 Teachers required ASAP for l...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 2 Teacher The position is to wo...