the brush-off at steelmaker Voest-Alpine-Stahl. With 3.1 billion
Euros in revenues and almost 16,000 employees Voest can lay claim
to being one of Austria's largest industrial concerns. Besides
steel, Voest operates in the oil, automotive and construction
industries. Throw in making rail tracks for railroads and household
appliances for consumers and you've got yourself all the makings
of a conglomerate Until 1995 Voest was 100% by the Austrian government.
After an IPO in 1995, the government's stake is now down to 40%.
Linz, with a population of over 200,000 inhabitants, ranks as
Austria's third largest city after Vienna and Graz. However,
Linz easily wins the title of being the center of Austria's industrial
heartland. All one has to do is drive along the perimeter of
Voest's huge factory/headquarters complex on the outskirts of
downtown Linz to see why. Belching smokestacks, miles of railroad
tracks and the constant coming and going of large trucks tells
you something is going on there. I enter the Voest complex at
one end and the guard at the gate hands me a map with directions
to the headquarters building several miles at the other end.
The 17-story headquarters building was probably built in the
1980's and sticks out not so much because of its height but due
to its blue color. I enter the building and check in with the
security guard/receptionist. I show the guard the name on my
questionnaire: Peter Strahamer, Chairman, Board of Management
and he directs me up to the 16th floor.
Getting off on the 16th floor I wander around somewhat aimlessly
because there's no reception area. I poke my head into an office
with two women and explain who I am and what I do. It's then
I learn my fate. "Everybody is busy with a big conference
in town" one tells me. When I ask about my letter of introduction
sent a month earlier to Mr. Strahamer I learn the sad news; he
was killed not too long ago in an accident. I inquire if new
CEO Franz Struzl's secretary would have opened my letter. It
turns out the woman I'm speaking with was Mr. Strahamar's secretary
and is now Struzl's secretary. She repeats no one has time for
me and then says she's busy, as in--go away now.