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.

 

Arbed SA
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 headache.

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" lying about.

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 directors.

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 to Iceland.

 

Minorco SA
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 billion.