FRANKFURT - Edzard Reuter, ex-chairman of Daimler-Benz, believes that both he and his strategy for the group have been unfairly blamed for Daimler's huge losses in 1995, when he resigned from the board.
Reuter presents his case in his autobiography Schein und Wirklichkeit (Appearance and Reality).
The book covers more than his career with Daimler-Benz. He presents his philosophy of life, and he recounts moments of his personal history, such as meetings with politicians. But most of the book's 468 pages are an insider's account of the auto industry.
Reuter joined Daimler in 1964. He was appointed to the board in 1973. He was chairman from 1987 until 1995, and during those years he set the Daimler-Benz strategy of becoming an 'integrated technology group.'
Analysts blamed the diversification for the group's DM5.7 billion ($3.1 billion) loss in 1995.
Reuter disagrees. He sees himself as a visionary thinker and businessman. The tone of his writing sometimes clearly conveys disappointment and frustration with the way other people behaved toward him.
Daimler-Benz has made no official comment on the book.
'We do not comment on any publication that could involve confidential issues,' said the company in a statement, 'even if we regard its contents, assessments and characterization of people as wrong.'
Daimler-Benz insiders who would not be quoted by name said that Reuter's writing is regarded as extremely one-sided. They regard it as an attempt to vindicate his strategy.
Reuter's 70th birthday on 16 February was ignored by the company. There was no official reception or birthday greeting.
Bad words for chairmen
Reuter's first problem at Daimler-Benz was boredom. He joined the company in 1964 as head of special projects in the finance department.
'Confidently, we waited for work,' he writes. 'But there was no sign of work. We were bored to death and spent hours playing games of 'Battleships.'
'My only diversion was an audience with Chairman Walter Hitzinger, who wished to be called Herr Generaldirektor.'
Hitzinger 'had managed, in the short time he had been with Daimler-Benz, to make himself ridiculed everywhere,' writes Reuter. 'There were innumerable jokes and anecdotes about him.'
Reuter attacks Joachim Zahn, another ex-chairman of Daimler-Benz, for taking strong medication at work.
Reuter describes a meeting in Zahn's office in 1970. 'The flood of strong insults that he normally directed at the cringing, defenseless people around him had died down - perhaps because of the regular alteration between tranquilizing and stimulating medications. He used to keep these in a little silver box in his desk. The combination seemed to make him mellow.'
Reasons for failure
Why did Daimler's integrated strategy fail?
Managers 'were unable to build partnerships both inside and outside the group,' writes Reuter. 'To this day I ask myself if a company like Daimler-Benz was really ready - internally and externally - to take the direction that we had decided on.
'All the factual arguments, all the emotional swearing, all the attempts for communication between different levels of management, were done to the border of our own exhaustion...
'But these failed to persuade a majority of participants to identify with the entrepreneurial strategy and its central vision of an integrated network of inseparable constituents of the group.'