Formal gardens at the castle.
Altana, a pharmaceutical and chemical company with revenues in 1995 of 2 billion DM and over 10,000 employees, makes my list of tacky companies. Probably built in the 1960's, the two-story unmarked building sits on the outskirts of Bad Homburg, a pleasant resort-like town about 10 miles north of Frankfurt. With it's black pyramid-shaped roof, the building reminds me of a pagoda. It's on a dead-end road in a residential area and heavy hedges shroud it. A large cornfield butts up to one side.
Entering the lobby, I find the two receptionist friendly and even more friendly when I tell them about my quirky bicycle trek. There's a four-foot by four-foot oil painting of someone but there's no plaque saying who it is. Ditto for the bronze busts of two men.
The one receptionist calls up CEO Klaus Schweikart's secretary. She hangs up and says she's been instructed by Schweikart's secretary to tell me, "we don't want anything to do with you". "Wow that's odd, did they receive my advance material?", I ask. "Yes", the receptionist replies. Of course now the attitude of the receptionists changes and I'm treated like a leper. I ask if they could identify the bronze busts and who's the person in the large oil painting. Stone silence. I ask for an annual report and am initially told I can't have one. After some haggling they relent. They also give me the name of Lang Mareanna, as being the name of the CEO's secretary. The way things were going I'm not quite sure if they were being truthful. As I explained to the receptionists, "I've made my way halfway around the world to visit you and though I'm disappointed you don't want anything to do with me, that's the way it goes sometimes. I'd like to get the name of the CEO's secretary for my notes so I can say I physically stopped by your offices but was told you weren't interested in meeting with me."
Thumbing through the annual report I spot a picture of one of the bronze busts. It's of Herbert Quandt (1910-1982), who founded the company. The accompanying article says he "was committed to social politics to a high degree" Hmm, I wonder if he would have approved of the treatment I received.