Jägermeister. The name summons up the spontaneous good times of a misspent youth and "just one more" evenings of shots and dancing.
Such associations are a far cry from the life of the brains behind the brand, Günter Mast. When he wasn't busy turning the stuffy German herbal schnapps into a hip global label, he spent his time on his tranquil 500-hectare – 1,235 acre – country estate and its manor house, Manor Lutterloh, near Hamburg.
It was here, at this private, wooded retreat, where the marketing genius passed away at the age of 84 in 2011.
Now this place has become ground zero for a nasty family dispute over inheritance worth €20 million, or $22.7 million.
It was the only place where my father could really be a father. My cousin has to realize that courts can’t be bought with money. Thilo Mast, Son of Günter Mast
The late Günter Mast ran the liqueur maker for decades, coming up with its successful marketing and driving its international expansion. The Jägermeister empire, however, was owned by founder Curt Mast, who passed his shares on to his grandson Florian Rehm.
Mr. Mast was only an employee of his uncle, the founder, so the fight is about his private fortune and not control of the company. But his family is embroiled in half a dozen lawsuits pertaining to his will.
And the plot continues to thicken.
His widow Irma Schütt-Mast has now decided to go public in the battle against three sons from Mr. Mast’s first marriage for control of Manor Lutterloh. “I was happy with Günter for 23 years. I was with him when he died here. He always wanted me to be the sole heir,” the 70-year-old told the society magazine Bunte.
Video: Slick commercials helped to build the Jägermeister brand.
But her stepson Thilo Mast rejected that in an interview with Handelsblatt. He claimed that his stepmother wanted to sell the property against the will of his father to his wealthy cousin Mr. Rehm, who has already inherited control of the schnapps company.
“It was the only place where my father could really be a father,” said Thilo Mast. “My cousin also has to realize that courts can’t be bought with money.”
A spokesman for Mr. Rehm, however, said that he had “absolutely no interest in acquiring this country manor.” Ms. Schütt-Mast was not available for comment.
But Ms. Schütt-Mast cannot sell the property until a court makes a ruling, as the executor of the will, Jeanette Bazan-Schmidt, doesn’t want to leave the manor solely to the widow. “We have testaments that provide for a joint inheritance,” she told Handelsblatt.
Even the three brothers have failed to unite. Their father Günter Mast had a clause put in his will that anyone making extra demands would be shut out of the inheritance but this has not stopped the brothers squabbling.
The eldest brother, Wolf-Peter Mast, who is now head of the Göttingen-based biotech firm Seratec, refused to comment, saying he did not follow the media coverage of the case.
"It's a family battle royale," said Thilo Mast.
A spokesperson for the company said that the Jägermeister company itself was not affected by this family situation.
Christoph Kapalaschinski reports for Handeslblatt from Düsseldorf. To contact: [email protected].