Wearing a plain suit and a traditional loden jacket, he stands thoughtfully at the entrance to C. H. Boehringer Sohn (CHBS) in 1930, watching lorries leaving the factory to supply customers with the company’s latest product, the cardiovascular drug sympatol®. The modest-looking man at the factory gate is none other than the 69-year-old councillor of commerce, Albert Boehringer, the company’s founder and owner, lost in thought as he pauses for a moment to consider the long journey behind him.
CHBS, the parent company of today’s Boehringer Ingelheim, has been through difficult times: such as the hyperinflation in 1920s Germany and the French occupation of the Rhineland after the First World War. Following the launch of the respiratory product lobelin® in 1921, he succeeded in making another highly effective drug sympatol® available to patients. The success of these drugs secured the financial independence of the familyowned company.
The son of a family of entrepreneurs from Mannheim in southwest Germany started up in business in much simpler circumstances – with the production of chemical compounds, such as tartaric and lactic acid. A few years later, however, it was clear that Albert Boehringer had inherited the right combination of business talents: the young entrepreneur invested his money with the traditional virtue of thrift from his native Swabia, and only in specific areas that had been well thought out; for example, he bought his first car second hand. When there was a shortage of coal in 1919 and production was at risk, he simply acquired a disused colliery. His employees were always given top priority. During the First World War, for example, he continued to pay the salaries of those who had enlisted in the army, he introduced a health insurance scheme for company employees early on, offered paid leave, a company pension scheme and inexpensive housing for factory workers, and lots more. Such benefits were far from common in those days.
As a key principle, Albert Boehringer recognized the importance of having good people working for him, like his nephew Robert Boehringer, who ran the company during the First World War, or Heinrich Wieland, a cousin of Albert Boehringer’s wife Helene, who was later to receive the Nobel Prize in chemistry. It was also important to Albert Boehringer to know that the company was being run by members of the family. At an early stage, therefore, his sons and his son-in-law joined the company. Today, the Boehringer and von Baumbach families, now in their fourth generation, continue to manage the company’s fortunes. The producer of tartaric acid in Nieder- Ingelheim has developed today into an inter nationally successful pharmaceutical company. Perhaps Albert Boehringer envisioned such a development as he watched the lorries leaving his factory laden with sympatol® in 1930.
This article was originally published in the annual report 2013.