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Nicolas Berggruen „I'm not a capitalist infatuated with luxury“

Nicolas Berggruen regularly comes to Davos. The Karstadt investor who recently made his debut as a book author met Handelsblatt editors Christoph Schlautmann and Oliver Stock in Barcelona. He told them what matters to him now.
23.01.2013 - 18:24 Uhr Kommentieren
Karstadt-Investor und Buchautor Nicolas Berggruen. Quelle: dpa

Karstadt-Investor und Buchautor Nicolas Berggruen.

(Foto: dpa)

Barcelona Nicolas Berggruen is on a book tour. Entitled "Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century", the book is lying right in front of him. The 51-years-old investor and true global citizen with German-American roots who took over the department store chain Karstadt two years ago advertises his debut book - in several languages. Today, it's Spanish. He continuously welcomes journalists and camera teams in the lounge of a five-star hotel in Barcelona on this day in January. Berggruen loves to talk about his book whose German version is due out in June. But there is one topic Berggruen absolutely refuses to talk about that day and that's his investment in troubled department store Karstadt.

Mr Berggruen, you wrote a book that deals with the current state crises and which is to show how they can be solved. Many people know you as an investor. What's your motivation for spending your time writing books?

All the governments of the developed nations are in the midst of a crisis, a leadership or governance crisis. We've got a political construction in Europe which doesn't work. The crisis in Europe, in the US and also in China has become normality. This will be a big topic at this year's meeting in Davos, as well.

What are you worried about? In Germany, we've coped with the crisis reasonably well.

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    The currency crisis is nothing but a symptom of the political crisis in Europe. And Germany is not an island. The crisis will get to Germany, as well. Europe does not succeed in separating the currency crisis from other issues, values and aims of the union.

    Are you afraid that other countries - like China, perhaps - might overtake Europe?

    If you ask about what's positive in the East and in the West then you'll see that there is a flourishing economy in China, but there are also unresolved social issues. But China will remain an important rival of Europe. I notice a lack of transparency, democracy and human rights.

    Is that the reason why you don't invest in China?
    The Chinese don't need me. They don't need anybody. Some countries are open when their societies and laws are concerned. That's completely different in China. Culture is everything there, and the individual is nothing. China's culture is a culture of relationships and none that is structured by laws. If you are an investor in China who maintains a good relationship with the government you'll get support and protection. Those who don't will lose this protection.

    „When the debtor countries aren't healthy then the lender is ill“
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