Members of the one of the oldest family-owned businesses in the world were delighted to win the surprise Lifetime Achievement Award at the fifth annual European Families in Business Awards in Berlin last night.
The Prym family, German controllers of their multinational company Prym Group, was invited to the stage to accept the special prize to the applause of more than 100 family business owners, associates and experts from around Europe, including the United Kingdom.
Nicholas Moody, editor of awards host CampdenFB and one of the six judges, told the audience in the Hotel de Rome, the Lifetime Achievement Award was only presented when a family business was especially deserving.
"In this case, the family showed a great deal of courage and unity to stay together when close to 500 years of history was at stake,” Moody said.
“In 2008, the German family business was close to the brink with outside forces pushing the family to sell their shares, instead it came together and resisted the pressure using good governance, creating a partner committee and shareholding committee to pursue a family strategy and preserve the 15-generations-old business.”
Family and board member Andrea Prym-Bruck and her two adult children, Catharina Prym, herself a previous European Families in Business award-winner, and Michael-Dominic Prym, were all smiles as they took to the stage.
Andrea gave an emotional speech, referencing their decade-long struggle to save family ownership of the eponymous family business.
Goldsmith Wilhelm Prym set up a business to manufacture brass and copper in Aachen, on the German-Belgium border, in 1530.
The Prym Group today has three divisions which supply creative sewing and needlework products, accessories for fashion, home decoration and lingerie, supply rivetable press fastening systems and accessories to the clothing and textile industries, and material and surface technology, microfine pressing technology and mechatronics.
Employing 3500 staff in 60 countries, the group made €360 million ($406 million) in 2013.
Compere Adrian Wooldridge, of The Economist, opened the eagerly-anticipated awards with an impassioned speech, begging family businesses to drop the veil of secrecy and share their “fantastic” stories with journalists.
Stefan Messer, chief executive of the eponymous German family business, accepted the award for Top Sustainable Family Business, and quipped: “I received a very nice email from Campden Wealth saying that we had been nominated for an award and that we should come to the event.
“Now that we are here, I can see that there are a lot of fantastic family businesses in the crowd and we are very pleased to accept this award.”
Members of the Mack family were welcomed to the stage to accept the Top Family Business Award. Michael Mack, who also the Top Next-Gen Entrepreneur Award alongside Britain’s Cameron Saul, of Bottletop, spoke about the company’s latest innovations, including a virtual reality rollercoaster and the introduction of the first two Michelin star restaurant in a theme park.
Salvatore Ricco, director of communications at the CIR Group, accepted the award for Top Non-Family Director on behalf of Monica Mondardini, and was particularly active on social media, making good use of the European Families in Business Awards hashtag: #EFIBA2016.
Past winners in attendance last night included: Oliver von Boch, ninth-generation behind Villeroy & Boch; Harri Broman, second-gen chief executive of the Broman Group; and Andy Rubin, a member of Pentland Group’s founding family.
The evening celebrated European family businesses that excel in stewardship and governance, as well as revenue growth and profits, as judged by six international family business leaders and specialists.
French multinational banking and financial services company Société Générale Private Banking (SGPB) returned as the major sponsor of the awards for the fifth consecutive year.
SGPB Head Jean-François Mazaud said Société Générale was “very proud” to be associated with the celebration of European family businesses.
“They are truly the backbone of the European economy and must be praised for their critical role in terms of job creation, social cohesion, and innovation.
“Congratulations to all the winners who embody values – long-term vision, sense of responsibility and risk-taking that are essential in our society.”
The 2016 European Families in Business Award winners are:
Top Family Business of the Year
Europa-Park – Mack family (Germany)
Top Family Business Leader of the Year
Nadja Swarovski – Swarovski (Austria)
Top Family Business Rising Star of the Year
Felix Fiege - Fiege Group (Germany)
Top Next Gen Entrepreneur Award
Joint winners: Michael Mack – VR Coaster (Germany) and Cameron Saul – Bottletop (UK)
Top Non-Family Director of the Year
Monica Mondardini – CIR Group (Italy)
Top Sustainable Family Business of the Year
Messer Group (Germany)
Lifetime Achievement Award
The Prym family - Germany