Glencore International AG

I remember coming through the Zug/Baar area six years ago to visit half-a-dozen companies only to find the majority of those addresses leading to mail drops. There're many tax benefits for corporations registering or incorporating in Switzerland. Switzerland is divided into 26 cantons (similar to states in the USA) and each canton sets it's own tax rules. Many of the cantons compete against each other for a share of this incorporation business. From what I understand, the Canton of Zug is one of the low price leaders in this area.

I mention the above because I'm looking for the head office of Glencore International, the world's second largest privately-held company with over $44 billion in revenues, and lingering in the back of my mind is the possibility the address I'm looking for is nothing more than a mail drop.

Originally a pure commodity trader, Glencore now has interests in mining and operating refineries and smelters. Marc Rich founded the company more than 25 years ago but his 27.5% stake was bought out in 1994 and has had no connection since.

I'm on the outskirts of Baar in an unassuming industrial park and all doubts of a mail drop quickly vanish as I come upon the good-looking, five-story, U-shaped headquarters of Glencore. Built in 1994, the glass and white clad-exterior could easily be mistaken for a museum. Several friendly receptionists man the reception desk and CEO Ivan Glasenberg's secretary is contacted. She appears in the lobby with good news, bad news and good news. The first good news: they received my letter of introduction. The bad news: CEO Glasenberg is too busy to meet with me. The second good news: if I could come back in an hour Glasenberg will meet with me. Now what do you think, here I am at the world's second largest privately-held concern and have a chance to meet with the head honcho and his secretary is asking if it's possible to come back in an hour. Boy, that's a no-brainer.

About 350 employees work here, there's plenty of parking, no recreational facilities and there's no smoking in the building. It's less than a mile to the nearest freeway, 30 miles to Zurich Airport and there's covered parking for employees who cycle to work. There is a dress code for men (jacket and tie) but they do have casual days.

CEO Glasenberg occupies a top floor corner office. I count one real plant, family pictures and 14 tombstones. The boardroom is situated on the second floor and the boardroom table seats 24. The company's art collection consists primarily of works by Swiss artists.

Take a walk directly behind Glencore's headquarters and you've got farmland butting up to the property line-not exactly your typical high-density industrial park.