Fresenius AG

Heading 10 miles due north of Frankfurt brings me to Bad Homburg; a cozy town which years ago was one of Germany's premier spa destinations. I'm here to visit Fresenius, a health care company with over 40,000 employees. The company is the world's largest provider of dialysis products and dialysis care. Revenues in 1998 were 8.4 billion-DM.

The address I have ends up bringing me to an empty building about five miles from the city center and next door to a public swimming pool. Lucky for me there's a note on the door. Though it's in German I deduce the address on the note must be the location of their new digs. Fifteen minutes later, after several stops at gas stations for directions, I'm at Fresenius' new five-story headquarters. Located in a light industrial park, the blue trim exterior gives the building a spiffy look. Several blocks away stand large fields of farmlands and it's even possible to catch a glimpse of the Frankfurt skyline in the distant.

Visitors are greeted by a five-story atrium running the length of the building. Oliver Heick from corporate communications answers questions and gives me a tour of the place. I tell Heick of going to their old headquarters and was glad they put the forwarding address on the front door. Heick says the building was formerly a hotel and was a little unique in that every office had its own bathroom.

Over 900 people work here. There's no corporate art collection, plenty of free parking, showers if you want to take a jog, the food in the cafeteria is "good" (according to Heick) and there isn't a formal written dress code. It's a two-minute drive to the nearest freeway and the company has no corporate aircraft.

What does the company's name mean? It's the name of the family that founded the company here back in 1912. Does Fresenius have an Internet presence? Yes, and Heick says it's mostly company information. I can't see CEO Gerd Knick's top floor corner office because "he's busy" but do get a look at the brown U-shaped table in the boardroom. My photos of the atrium don't turn out so hot thanks to the large window-washing contraption hogging the limelight (it looks like a spider).