Sunday, November 28

In times of great upheaval

It was the Grand Duchess who was Helmut Maier-Mannhart Süddeutsche Zeitung got. “Grand Duchess” is what colleagues called Elly Staegmeyr, the first head of the SZ business section, which at that time was still called the “trading section”. The exceptional journalist discovered the 20-year-old from Munich in 1961 after he narrowly missed admission to the German School of Journalism. She offered him a traineeship and prompted him to study economics at the LMU Munich in addition to training as a business journalist. When he graduated with a diploma in 1968, the department was already headed by Franz Thoma, at that time one of the leading business journalists in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Thoma became his role model and mentor – a committed market economist who was as stubborn as he was collegial. Maier-Mannhart quickly created his own position within the editorial team. As the person responsible for energy issues, he reported, for example, on the dispute over the peaceful use of nuclear energy that upset the republic in the 1970s and 1980s. To this day he advocates nuclear power plants, completely against the spirit of the times. On January 1, 1987, he finally took over the management of the department as the successor to Franz Thoma. It was a time when business journalism was becoming increasingly political and popular, with consumer issues playing an increasingly important role. It was also a time of great upheaval: the preparation of the European Monetary Union, the collapse of socialism and the reunification of Germany.

In the early summer of 1990, before the end of the GDR, Maier-Mannhart traveled with a group of West German medium-sized companies through East German companies. His sobering report (“Before a deep valley of tears”) reads like prophecy today. At that time he wrote against the illusions still widespread in the West about the efficiency of GDR companies. In fact, East Germany had to go through a valley of tears, as his text said.

In July 1999, Maier-Mannhart gave up the management of the department, but remained with the SZ as an author for many years. This Monday he celebrates his 80th birthday.

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