Dusseldorf For many years Harald Christ was something of the SPD’s enfant terrible – and made it into the headlines again and again: He was in conversation as a candidate for mayor in Hamburg, as a finance senator in Berlin, he was an economic expert in the shadow cabinet of Frank-Walter Steinmeier – and most recently the middle class representative of the Social Democrats.
He was never at a loss for words when it came to criticizing his party and its leadership. A few weeks ago he threw down and left the SPD with a lot of fanfare because of “the absurd left swing”. This week he announced his much-anticipated move to the FDP.
Politics, no matter how loudly he operated it, was always only a part-time job for Christ. The 48-year-old already had a number of top-class jobs in the financial industry, including as general representative of BHW Bausparkassen, board member at Postbank and head of sales for the Ergo insurance group.
Since the beginning of 2018, he has been building up a consulting company with Christ & Company, “which advises board members and medium-sized companies on all important questions of their corporate development”, as he says. He already employs around 65 people in Berlin, Frankfurt and Hamburg.
Now there are more prominent approaches: As Christ confirmed to the Handelsblatt, he is taking over 60 percent of the consulting firm RSBK, which specializes in China, from ex-Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping. At the same time, Christ is expanding his company’s advisory board with TV journalist Sabine Christiansen and ex-Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries.
There are many medium-sized consulting firms like Christ & Company in Germany – and many of them struggle to find their way into the narrowly occupied field. But Christ and his new colleagues believe that their large network will make the difference.
When Christ invites you to a birthday party in his apartment in Berlin-Wilmersdorf, not only high-ranking members of the SPD, CDU and FDP come – ex-federal ministers, acting state secretaries and corporate executives stop by and stay late into the night. Christ is well connected – and he lets everyone know that too. But the many acquaintances should actually help him land orders.
“Harald Christ has bought numerous companies over the past few months,” says one who has known him for several decades. “So far it is completely unclear to me how this should become a logical unit.” Christ sees it differently.
He wants to advise others on the questions “that also moved him as a member of the Group Board,” he says, referring to all topics relating to the transformation and digitization of companies, communication and marketing – as well as crisis management and lobbying.
According to his own information, he currently generates a double-digit million turnover per year with his company. With Scharping’s team, another 15 employees and several million sales are added. “We want to position ourselves more internationally in the next few years,” says Christ. Scharping, who has been active in China for years through his Beijing office, is to help. Scharping advises companies on mediation issues and business development.
Company should grow strongly
Hardly any of her acquaintances should be surprised that the two are now moving closer together on business. “I have known Harald Christ since he was 17,” recalls Scharping, who was on the way to becoming prime minister in Rhineland-Palatinate at the time. The Christian, who was more than 20 years younger, had already noticed him at the time as a “talented young man”, says the former Defense Minister. Since then, the two have stayed in touch.
Scharping also wants to stay on board after Christ’s entry – under no circumstances does he want to give the impression that he could soon be over. “I still have a lot of plans,” he says, “and will remain the CEO of RSBK.”
Christ also has a lot of plans. His company is expected to grow strongly in the next few years. Now he is on the next big takeover, he lets through. Too early to talk about it. But it is typical of him that he still hints at it.
Christ is one of those people who are always on to something big. Always a new mission. Always a new idea. Perhaps that’s why he changed jobs so often, an old companion suspects, “because it is difficult for him to finish things”.
However, Christ also has the capital to try out a lot. The “Manager Magazin” estimates its assets at over 100 million euros. Christ doesn’t want to talk about the number, it doesn’t really sound like a denial. Just so much: In the next few years he wants to spend a double-digit million amount to buy more companies.
Despite all the ambitions, it is also clear that Christ & Company’s greatest risk of clumping is ultimately Christ himself. “Many customers are very fixated on him,” says an old acquaintance. Christ is the face of the company, he has the most contacts and many of the ideas come from him. “I see the problem,” says Christ himself. That’s why he wants to “build” strong people around him in the next few years. His company should also get a circle of partners.
Basically certainly a reasonable idea. But Christ still has to show that he tolerates strong people next to him. Until then, his new company will remain more Christian than company.
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