The early 20th century saw the emergence of the multinational corporate. But the harsh geopolitical and economic circumstances of inter-war Europe forced many companies to take extreme steps to prepare their business for the looming threat of war.
In this episode, we tell the story of the German pharmaceutical company Beiersdorf – creator of Nivea beauty cream – and Willy Jacobsohn, its Jewish CEO, who in the 1930s became an early adopter of the holding company. The Beiersdorf story exemplifies the challenges many corporates faced at that time – and the innovative solutions they instigated had some surprising repercussions that went well beyond saving the business.
When facing extreme geopolitical upheaval, what lessons can treasurers in the 21st century learn from the past?