On The Road in The
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in 1996
Luxembourg, an independent
sovereign state encompasses 1,000 square miles, a third of which
is covered with forests. Its 400,000 people are ruled by a constitutional
monarchy headed by Grand Duke Jean. Hemmed in by Belgium, France
and Germany, the official national language is Luxembourgish
although French is the valid language of legislation and German
used in Administrative and judicial domains. The country's capital,
Luxembourg City, a picturesque former fortress city of 120,000,
is a Mecca for foreign banks which number over 200.
My grandfather, who passed away several years ago, mentioned
his folks coming from Luxembourg. I stopped by city hall and
a computer print out was given to me of all the people in Luxembourg
with the last name "Wolsfeld".
This list, with their addresses contained over 30 names. It seems
my name isn't as unique as I thought.
How much clout do you think a company would have if it employed
over 10,000 people and accounted for nearly one-third of the
COUNTRY's industrial activity? That's the situation with Arbed.
Founded in 1882, revenues last year were over US$8 billion (275
billion Luf) and it's the third largest producer of steel in
Europe behind Usinor Sacolir (France) and British Steel (England).
Riding by their four-story granite-clad headquarters I mistakenly
thought it was a royal palace of some kind. Built in 1922, it's
a listed (historic) building and it's a beaut. A security guard/receptionist
mans the entrance to this grand place who's hallways glisten
with marbled floors. A few minutes later I'm welcomed by Marc
Schonckert from corporate communications. I ask if this place
was previously a palace or government building and Schonckert
says no it was specifically built to house the head office. Besides
the obvious splendor of the building I thought it might have
been a former palace due to the small park out front and the
fact the surrounding buildings in the immediate area have matching
architectural styles. Schonckert explains it's required by law
that buildings in the immediate vicinity be compatible with the
architecture of this structure.
The company's name is embedded atop the building's massive steel
entrance doors and the square U-shaped building contains a courtyard
that serves as a parking lot for senior management. The 200 employees
here don't eat in a plain old cafeteria but, a sit down restaurant
where you're waited on. Hours of work are from 8AM to Noon and
2PM to 6PM.
Though I'm grateful for Schonckert in meeting with me I deplore
his lack of decent manners as he constantly lights up cigarettes
without asking if I mind. His smoke-filled office gives me a
The top executive here doesn't go by the title of CEO but, President.
I can't see President Joseph Kinsch's office due to him not being
in and Schonckert is concerned there might be "papers"
It's a grand looking boardroom with its long cherry wood table
seating 36. The room is green with gold trim, contains a fireplace
and hanging on a wall are two six-foot tall portraits of former
Arbed is short for Acieries Reuniesde Burbach-Eich-Dommeldange.
The Luxembourg International Airport lies three miles away. Believe
it or not you can catch a regularly scheduled flights from Luxembourg
Headquarters for Minorco, an international mining concern, lies
a block away from Arbed's palace-like edifice. Located in the
middle of a block, I initially mistake the six-story structure
for a townhouse.
Upon entering I'm delighted to find out I don't have to explain
myself as the receptionist holds up the news clippings sent in
my advance material packet. Gill Collard, Human Resources Manager,
gives a warm welcome and show me around the place.
Turns out I'm way off in labeling the place a townhouse. It
was formerly a warehouse until the company bought it in 1987
whereupon it was completely gutted and renovated except for the
facade. Still, I can't believe this fancy facade originates from
its warehouse days.
Forty-one people work here and as we walk around I sense a family-type
atmosphere. Employees can eat lunch outside at the rear of the
building on a comfortable sun drenched terrace overlooking four
pear trees, who's fruit gets picked and taken home by lovers
of pears. Work hours are from 8AM to 6PM. Collard says it's a
"12 minute drive" to the airport. Founded in 1929,
why is Minorco located in Luxembourg? Collard answers that by
saying "why not?, it's a central location". Nothing
special about CEO Henry Slack's office or the boardroom with
it's oval-shaped table which eats 32. Revenues in 1995 were $4.2