Berthold Beitz A Life Under the Hammer

ThyssenKrupp is disposing of the estate of its former chairman. The sale is happening in near secrecy with artworks being sold off at bargain prices at the request of his heirs.
This icon fetched €19,000 at an auction.

Before Berthold Beitz died in 2013, at the age of 99, the former head of the industrial conglomerate ThyssenKrupp had been assured by its new CEO, Heinrich Hiesinger, that the company’s future was in safe hands.

Mr. Beitz had given the same assurance to Alfried Krupp, patriarch of the prominent industrialist German family, on his deathbed in 1967.

Now the company intends to sell off Mr. Beitz's private villa and the Kieler Yacht Club he so cherished.

His heirs have already begun selling many of the art objects he collected during his life as an industrialist.

The sale of artworks and antiques from Mr. Beinz's private villa in Essen has been organized with discretion. Some of the contents were delivered to an small art dealer in the Münster region, according to the Westfälische Nachtrichten newspaper.

Sources say an international auction house is also involved but is only interested in the Emil Nolde paintings that  Mr. Beitz valued so highly. These works are believed to be the only ones in the collection with value in  international art markets.

The dealer in Münster took lesser-value items, such as silver, carpets, pictures and mementos of Mr. Krupp, according to the source. The dealer passed the wares on to colleagues quickly and with little ado, because Mr. Beitz's family members sought discretion in their wish to make little money from the sale.

The family could not be reached for a statement, and neither ThyssenKrupp nor the Krupp philanthropic foundation would comment.

Berthold Beitz and his wife Elsa in 2011, two years before his death.


One purchaser of the Beitz heirlooms is Daniel Meyer. The art historian has run an auction house in Münster since 2004. He sold many of the heirlooms in an auction in January. He did not make their ownership clear in the auction, which may have led to the relatively low sale prices.

A silver sombrero with a dedication to Mr. Krupp, for instance, went for just €100 ($108), while  a silver jam bowl on a saucer by the Danish silversmith Georg Jensen sold for €700.

The top price at Mr. Meyer's acution was paid for a centuries-old Hodegetria-type icon of the Italian Cretan School, which went for €19,000.

Some of the items were given to Mr. Beitz as presents by Jews whose lives he had saved during World War II.

Mr. Meyer told Handelsblatt that dissolving the household was not a junk sale and that the heirs made it clear what they wanted. “The beautiful things, which were mostly given to Berthold Beitz as presents, were supposed to be sold for sums that were in no way a reflection of their quality” he said.


 Susanne Schreiber covers the art market for Handelsblatt. Martin Murphy covers the steel industry for Handelsblatt from Frankfurt. To contact the authors: [email protected], [email protected].