Krono Holding AG

Switzerland is home an amazing number of large companies that seemingly go out of their way to stay out of the limelight. Ever heard of Krono Holding? Me neither. Yet, Krono is Europe's largest manufacturer of timber materials (chip boards, wood panel board, laminate flooring) and even has plants in Russia and the USA. The company's website doesn't divulge much but a trade publication estimates Krono's revenues at $1 billion, with over 2,500 employees.

The address for the head office leads me to a seven-story, concrete slab of a building fronting Lucerne's lakefront promenade. Built in 1980, the building stands next door to the ritzy Palace Hotel, a five star establishment. I'm told this mostly residential area contains Lucerne's priciest real estate. The building directory shows it to be mixed-use (part apartments/part offices). A very small address label (with the company's name on it) taped to a mailbox is the only means of knowing one is at the right place.

Up to the fourth floor I go and since there's no designated reception area I wander around until I'm directed to Sylvia Kvartic, who identifies herself as "company secretary". I explain how I called up several times while doing research and was told Hens Vogel was the managing director, so that's who I mailed my letter of introduction a month earlier. Matter of fact, during one phone call I was told his office was in another nearby town and mailed a letter there also. Kvartic says they never received the letter and, it turns out, Vogel is only the managing director of the nearby plant.

Well, Kvartic isn't forthcoming with much information but does say the company's CEO is Ernst Kaindl and that he hangs his hat in Salzburg, Austria–not here. I'm sent on my way with a booklet from a Krono subsidiary. Though it's mostly in German, there's a few parts in English. The company's roots go back to 1897 when the Kaindl family started a sawmill in Lungoetz, Austria–that explains why Kaindl lives in Salzburg. There's a small picture of current CEO Ernst Kaindl and he looks to be about 60 years old so, I'm guessing he's possibly the grandson of the founder. Though founded in Austria, I'm also guessing that the company has its headquarters here for tax purposes.