Ernst von Siemens
Ernst von Siemens became “Head of the House” in 1956 – a moment when the company’s reconstruction after World War II had been completed. He resolutely continued the revival of the international business that his cousin Hermann had initiated. Under his leadership, Siemens AG was founded in 1966 and the entire company was placed on a new footing. With Siemens & Halske, Siemens-Schuckertwerke and Siemens-Reiniger-Werke now conjoined as a single corporation, the company became more agile at both acting and reacting amid an environment of constant change.
Ernst von Siemens, a grandson of company founder Werner von Siemens, was born near London on April 9, 1903. His father, Carl Friedrich, was head of the High Voltage Department of Siemens & Halske’s business in England at the time. The family would return to Germany in 1907. Ernst spent the rest of his childhood in Potsdam.
A passionate fan of classical music, Ernst von Siemens set the bar high for the audio quality of Siemens radios.
Ernst von Siemens had a deep respect for his father’s achievements and successes, and at Carl Friedrich’s request, took up a “technical field” – physics – at the university. He then joined the company. He started out in 1929 as a trainee in the Social Policy Department at Siemens & Halske, and went on to fill a variety of management positions over the course of the 1930s. In 1937, at age 34, he was appointed director of the Radio and Components Division. His appointment to the Managing Board of Siemens & Halske came in 1943.
Even before World War II had ended, the political situation in Berlin was clearly growing less and less certain. Ernst von Siemens backed corporate management’s decision to move some headquarters operations to western and southern Germany. He himself would head the “South Group Directorate” in Munich, and took over full responsibility for the company after Hermann von Siemens had been interned. As the war drew to a close, the in-house debate about Siemens’ future headquarters grew heated.
In the face of the looming threat of German partition, Ernst von Siemens – as a representative of the younger generation of corporate management – urged that corporate headquarters should be moved to the western sector. But opponents of relocation argued that without Berlin, Siemens could never again be “Siemens.” In the end, both sides agreed to relocate Siemens-Schuckertwerke headquarters to Erlangen as of April 1, 1949, and Siemens & Halske headquarters to Munich. Berlin would remain a second headquarters for both companies.
In 1966, Siemens opened a plant for three-phase motors in Kalwa, about 30 kilometers east of Bombay (Mumbai).
Once Ernst von Siemens had taken on the overall management of the company in 1956, he was able to put into practice a strategy that had been a matter of sharp internal controversy – Siemens would return to the international market. By 1971 it was able to recover almost all the companies that had been confiscated in the war. Apart from western and southern Europe, the primary regional focus for foreign investments was on other continents.
In the mid-1960s, as the company’s business expanded, the need for capital investments grew – especially in the new business lines of semiconductor and computer technology. The company was in need of a single, unified management. Impending changes in German stock corporation law finally gave Ernst von Siemens a conclusive argument for restructuring Siemens.
Siemens AG was founded as of October 1, 1966. Siemens & Halske AG, Siemens Schuckertwerke AG and Siemens-Reiniger-Werke AG were merged both legally and organizationally into the new entity. This also represented the final step in the process of reconstruction and business consolidation after World War II.
Ernst von Siemens was deeply concerned with not just the company’s business prosperity, but also with maintaining a personnel and corporate citizenship policy that was in tune with the age. Even in times of business crisis, he held fast to the profit-sharing plan that had been reinstated in 1951, and expanded the company retirement plan. Not only that, but in 1969, for the first time, Siemens AG employees in Germany had an opportunity to acquire employee shares. About one-quarter of the staff took advantage of the offer.
Ernst von Siemens would remain Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Siemens AG until 1971. Then came a break with tradition: when the company founder’s grandson retired, the last member of the family left office as “Head of the House.” His long-standing close associate Gerd Tacke had already been heading the Managing Board since 1968. Thus for the first time in the company’s history, a manager from the ranks assumed its leadership.
Those who study the history of companies are witnesses to exciting developments; they delve into a succession of highs and lows, successes and failures, economic and social changes. And they become acquainted not only with the founders but also with the people who successfully develop the companies, who guide and lead. This is exactly what unfolds in the new book from the Siemens Historical Institute. Through 13 detailed portraits, the book relates how the more than 170-year history of Siemens is interwoven with the history of Germany, Europe, and the world. From the founder, Werner von Siemens, to Carl Friedrich von Siemens to Joe Kaeser, it is clear that the company needs people at the top who lead with courage, drive, and a sense of responsibility, who are not afraid to face the challenges of the times and to shape the future.
Born in London – raised in Potsdam
A predestined path – Entry into the family firm
From North to South – Ernst von Siemens takes on overall responsibility
Go West – Siemens transfers the company headquarters
Return to the international stage – Ernst von Siemens becomes “Head of the House”
“Joining together what belongs together” – Siemens AG is founded
Changing with the times – From employee development to employee shares
“I just had a few guiding principles” – The last “Head of the House”
It looks like you are using a browser that is not fully supported. Please note that there might be constraints on site display and usability. For the best experience we suggest that you download the newest version of a supported browser: