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STEMMER IMAGING: Continuation of the founder’s lifetime achievement

18 Jul 2017

At the end of the financial year 2016/17, AL-KO AG acquired 75.04% of the shares in STEMMER IMAGING GmbH from the company's founder Wilhelm Stemmer. In the following interview, Wilhelm Stemmer and the two newly appointed managing directors Christof Zollitsch and Martin Kersting explain the reasons for taking this step.

Mr Stemmer, you recently sold your shares in STEMMER IMAGING. Why and why at this particular time?

Wilhelm Stemmer: I’ve been an entrepreneur for 44 years now, and I am 73 years old. I felt it was time for me to find a sustainable succession arrangement to ensure the continuation of my life’s achievement. The decision to sell my shares was taken jointly with my co-shareholders quite some time ago and the implementation process has taken 10 months.

Why did you choose AL-KO AG as an investor?

Wilhelm Stemmer: We identified a number of potential buyers and all of them showed a keen interest in STEMMER IMAGING. There was a wide range of prospects, from financial investors, strategic investors to the so-called family offices. We finally decided on the AL-KO AG family office.

Why? AL-KO AG family members are still active and successful entrepreneurs in various industries, which really impressed me. In addition, they fulfill certain positive criteria from our point of view: AL-KO AG is interested in developing future markets with STEMMER IMAGING (for example Industry 4.0), and they assure us full support with investments enabling a sustainable strong growth for the company. AL-KO AG’s long-term interest in STEMMER IMAGING is confirmed by the fact that the existing management has been appointed to the executive board and they still hold shares in the company.

What changes is STEMMER IMAGING about to undergo due to the sale of your shares?

Wilhelm Stemmer: Fulfilling the requirements mentioned above, I feel optimistic about STEMMER IMAGING’s future and I am convinced that the company will remain in good hands. Mr Zollitsch and Mr Kersting, who are both managing directors now, will run the company in the future. Although I have sold the majority of my shares, nothing will change for our employees, customers and suppliers.

Will you completely withdraw from the company?

Wilhelm Stemmer: After careful consideration, I felt that it was the right time for me to withdraw from the operative business. But I will always be available to assist the new owner and the management if they need my support. And I will always remain bound to the company and its employees. The company will continue its business under my name and of course, as the founder of the company, I have a particular interest in its development.

What are your personal plans for the future?

Wilhelm Stemmer: As you know, I established a foundation a few years ago which aims to inspire children and young people to further their education in sciences and take careers in technology and engineering. I really enjoy working with young people, but, so far I haven’t been able to spend enough time with them. Now, I am free to devote a lot more attention to this project. And I will catch up with things that I haven’t had time for in the last 44 years. So, I really don’t see myself as a retiree.

Mr Zollitsch, what does STEMMER IMAGING expect from the partnership? What will STEMMER IMAGING’s future look like?

Christof Zollitsch: Being a partner of a modern family business with an emphasis on modern corporate management and entrepreneurial tradition, we are confident that we will be able to continue running the company in the founder’s interest. In addition, we appointed long-term leading employees as co-shareholders in order to secure continuity and to establish a corporate structure which allows us reliable planning for the coming decade and beyond.

With AL-KO AG as a parent company, we are able to capture synergies and get the financial support to continue and further develop our buy-and-build strategy.

What will the consequences be for STEMMER IMAGING customers?

Christof Zollitsch: There won’t be any changes for STEMMER IMAGING customers. The contacts will remain the same as before, and in our daily business, nothing will change at all.

Mr Kersting, to what extent do machine vision systems complement AL-KO AG’s portfolio? Where do you see the strongest synergies?

Martin Kersting: We are expecting a lot of synergies with other companies where AL-KO AG holds shares. This is particularly true for CANCOM, as we are already working with a similar customer base. CANCOM is also active in the area of Industry 4.0, but at the upper end of the pyramid (MIS system), while we concentrate on the machine level. This could open up a multitude of new opportunities for us.