Merck Finck heir sues brothers for family bank sale to Barclays

'Black sheep' baron claims he was cheated by half-brothers who bought him out in 1985

David Brierley
Sunday 17 January 2010 01:00

An heir to the Merck Finck & Co dynasty is contesting the 1990 sale of the German private bank to Barclays.

Baron Helmut von Finck has filed a claim with Munich courts claiming that the will of his deceased father, August, stipulates that the family-owned bank should remain independent and that he should have received billions as his inheritance rather than the millions agreed with his half-brothers.

"The last will of my father was to hold the family empire together," Baron von Finck told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Now he wants his two half-brothers to be disinherited by the courts "because they broke with the terms of my father's will in selling Merck Finck & Co to Barclays".

Baron von Finck further aims to prove that he was not in a fit state to sign the 1985 contract which bought out his entitlement to one-third of his father's estate, worth billions, for DM65m. The implications for Barclays are unclear since Merck Finck was sold in 1999 to KBC for some £170m. Merck Finck refused to comment last week.

Baron von Finck was, by his own account, the black sheep of the family, and never spoke to his father after his 12th year. He led a wild existence in the 1980s, experimenting with LSD and group sex before joining the Bhagwan sect in the US. He ran a Munich disco called Confetti, and participated in "a mad hippie scene". He is now a reformed character, with adult children, and he is sure that the 1985 agreement will be nullified because of his then psychological state.

"I was being treated," he said. " There are enough witnesses and doctors' reports that confirm this." He considers himself cheated by his half-brothers.

His relationship with his father was extremely difficult, he admits. "He was very distant, never talkative, very serious, never fun." His father's will stipulated that he would not have control of his money before the age of 38.

Baron von Finck is now a multi-millionaire who is in property and runs a prize-winning horse stud on 80 hectares in north Germany. But compared with his siblings, he is poor.

His elder half-brother, Baron August von Finck Jnr, is estimated by Forbes to be worth €4.7bn, while the son of his now- deceased younger half-brother, Wilhelm, is estimated to be worth €1.7bn. Their Swiss-held fortune derives not only from the Merck Finck sale but also from extensive property around Munich, plus holdings in Mövenpick, a fast-food chain, Von Roll, an electrical insulation maker, and SGS, a quality-assurance firm.

Baron August von Finck Snr expanded the family's private bank by "Aryanising" Jewish banks in the Nazi era. A leading Nazi supporter, he took over the Austrian Rothschild bank in 1938 He was one of the group of industrialists that met Hitler in 1931 and promised financial support in the event of a successful putsch against the Weimar Republic. After the Second World War, he successfully defended his land holdings around Munich from land reform.

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