Walter Haefner Net Worth & Biography
|Popular Name:||Walter Haefner|
|Real Name:||Walter Haefner|
|Birth Date:||13 September 1910|
|Birth Place:||Zurich, Switzerland|
|Age:||Died on 19 June 2012 (aged 101)|
|Profession:||Businessman, Entrepreneur, Investor, Racehorse Breeder|
|Net Worth:||$2.7 Billion|
Walter Haefner was an industrialist and philanthropist who was also recognized as the world’s oldest billionaire. He made his fortune in the post-war automobile industry and the rapidly expanding world of computers. He remained, however, a humble man – despite ownership of the successful Moyglare Stud Farm. Born in 1910 in the Zurich suburb of Wollishofen, Haefner was one of seven children in the family of August Wilhelm, a protestant missionary, and his spouse, Elise. August spent most of his time in Tibet while Elise struggled back at home to keep the family in order. Haefner was only able to complete high school thanks to a scholarship program. He went on to study business economics in Zurich and Lyon, worked briefly for Shell before joining the Swiss arm of General Motors.
Early Life: Childhood, Education
Haefner was born in Zurich, Switzerland on 13 September 1910. He was one of the children of August and Elise Wilhelm.
For his education, Haefner completed his secondary education through a scholarship he received from the city. He later completed his degree after attending prestigious institutions in Zurich, Switzerland, and in Lyon, France.
Professional Life: Entrepreneurial Career
After graduating from tertiary institutions in Lyon and in Zurich, Walter Haefner joined Shell to start his career. He later left to join General Motors.
Due to a shortage of fuel after the Second World War, new cars became unsalable, and Haefner saw this as an opportunity to make a fortune for himself. He took over AMAG (Automobil-und Motoren AG), a falling company that had previously imported DeSoto and Chrysler and DeSoto, and started adapting cars to be driven by wood gas. There were thousands of them in Switzerland and more elsewhere in Europe.
He found a new opportunity and started importing the British cars Triumph and Standard, but the market started to change by 1948. Using his excellent English, he connected with the British military administrators and introduced the Volkswagen which the military had been using into Switzerland. He imported 1,680 Beetles in 1948. His business was prosperous and his involvement with Volkswagen was such that, for several years, he was the only non-German on the company’s board. His family still owns AMAG, Skoda, Audi, and Switzerland’s main importer of Volkswagen, Seat.
By the early 1950s, this industrialist had diversified into white goods and building construction. In 1960 he opened the Automation Center AG in Wettingen. At first, the plan was to process the mass of data from his businesses. This led to an increasing interest in computers. He became the largest individual investor of IT software maker CA. He sold the data-processing company to University Computing in 1968, which was eventually acquired by Computer Associates.
Another side of Haefner was his interest in horse breeding. He owned and bred top-class horses, including Princess Highway, the winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2012. From the start of his involvement with horses, Haefner worked closely with stud manager Stan Cosgrove and established one of the world’s most impressive horse breeding businesses. He had a deep and passionate love for the breeding of top-class thoroughbred racehorses and the procedures of racing. Advised by his doctor at a late age to take up riding, Walter chose amateur flat racing and followed this with energetic dedication, and ended up winning the 1963 Fegentri Champion Amateur Championship.
Haefner was deeply involved with the charity Swiss-Ski from 1967. His other conduit for charity works was the Walter Haefner Stiftung, which aims to support the arts and sciences while improving the lives of children both in Switzerland and overseas. Haefner gave his hometown of Zürich 12 paintings, among them one Van Gogh, one Degas, three Monets, and five Magrittes in appreciation of the scholarship he was given in his youth.
Personal Life: Private Interests, Family, Demise
Although he was among the top five richest Swiss, Walter Haefner remained a very modest man. A sign of this was his choice of an old Volkswagen Polo, which he usually parked on the path beside the office. He avoided costly displays by all means and continued to live in the six-bedroomed house that he purchased in Küsnacht in 1948. Yet, according to Forbes magazine, Walter Haefner’s net worth made him the 248th richest person in the world as of 2012.
The oldest billionaire in the world died on June 19, 2012, at the age of 101. He married four times and had two children. His son, Martin, inherited his main business and his daughter, Eva Maria, took control of his Irish horse-breeding interests.
Walter Haefner Net Worth: Salary, Income Sources, Assets
According to Forbes magazine, Walter Haefner had a net worth of $2.7 billion at the time of his death in 2012. He was a Switzerland-born businessman and philanthropist who made extra income from owning and breeding thoroughbred racehorses. The bulk of his riches, however, came from importing cars to Switzerland. He eventually became the biggest shareholder of United States software-maker CA Inc. Furthermore, he founded Amag in 1945 on Zurich’s lakefront and the firm grew to become the largest car dealership in Switzerland and the country’s main importer of Volkswagen, Audi, Seat, and Skoda vehicles, according to its website. He later entered the United States computer services business by acquiring a majority stake in Dallas-based IT company Wyly, which was later renamed Uccel Corp.