An interview with Roland Berger and Prince Luitpold

Roland Berger and Prinz Luitpold from bavaria

There’s this wonderful movie scene with Leonardo DiCaprio. He is standing on the bow of the Titanic and thinking about his destination, New York. He yells out over the ocean waves: “I’m the king of the world!”

Professor Berger, when was the last time you felt like a king?

Roland Berger: That rarely happens to me. If it does, it’s when I’m traveling, such as on the Great Wall of China. That was a really special experience for me, especially as I was in the relatively privileged position of not having to share the moment with lots of tourists. Or when the mayor of Pudong was showing me around the Shanghai Tower, which at the time was the tallest skyscraper in the world. When you’re up in the clouds looking down at the city from above, it’s very exhilarating.

And what about you, Prince Luitpold? With your background, you must feel a little bit like a king every day?

Prinz Luitpold: Not at all. How does a king feel, anyway? I think people have the wrong idea about this. We should actually think of most kings as being tormented. They were constantly surrounded by their court, which meant they had hardly any personal space. It was perhaps a bit different for Ludwig II. He managed to free himself from all that, but he paid the price because it meant that people no longer understood him. Any king who stayed close to his people must have had a rather difficult life.

Roland Berger: I agree. This situation is not dissimilar to that of many CEOs today. They are surrounded by people round the clock, have a packed schedule seven days a week, and are basically on 24-hour standby. This kind of straightjacket means they have very little room to maneuver.

All the same, Prince Luitpold, what was it like growing up as the great-grandson of Ludwig III, Bavaria’s last reigning monarch? Did you have to help out at Leutstetten Castle? Set the table and so on?

Prinz Luitpold: When I was a child in Leutstetten Castle, so when Crown Prince Rupprecht was still alive, there was a court of sorts—a marshal, a chauffeur, a steward, and five or six kitchen staff. But later on, after my grandfather died, we lived in a normal household. One room for my parents and one for me. That’s it. Of course I had to help out. And it was no problem at all. It was more difficult at school.

In what way

Prinz Luitpold: Having a name like mine causes a few problems. It’s not always easy. When I was at the elementary school in Kaltenberg, which was the most modern in Bavaria at the time, we had a visit from the Minister for Education. We were all introduced to him individually. He asked me my name, so I said: Luitpold. And when he asked me again, I repeated Luitpold. To which he said: “Stupid boy, he doesn’t even know his last name.” But what was I supposed to say? Prince of Bavaria? Last names can be a bit of a problem in families like mine.

Professor Berger, what were your nicknames at school?

Roland Berger: There were a few people who tried calling me Rolli, but that didn’t last long. My name doesn’t really lend itself to good nicknames.

You started your first business when you were a student: a laundry, which you sold for 600,000 Deutschmarks once you graduated. So, from shirt-washer to practically a millionaire. Can anyone still do that these days?

Roland Berger: Maybe not just anyone, but certainly anyone who really wants to. In today’s digital world, there are even more possibilities than there were then. There are a number of opportunities for entrepreneurs, more than ever before. Incidentally, my mother underwrote the debts I incurred for the laundry. If the business hadn’t worked out, our family would have gone broke.

Roland Berger

Roland Berger, born in 1937, set up his own management consultancy firm in Munich in 1967 and became one of the most sought-after advisors in Germany for both businesspeople and politicians.

Today, the global strategy consulting firm is owned by around 220 partners and has 2,400 employees. Berger himself is still closely associated with the company as Honorary Chairman of the Supervisory Board. His foundation, which he established in 2008 with a donation of 50 million euros from his own private fortune, supports gifted children from socially disadvantaged families and presents the annual Roland Berger Human Dignity Award, which is worth one million euros.

Prinz Luitpold

Luitpold Rupprecht Heinrich, Prince of Bavaria, born 1951, is a great-grandson of Ludwig III, the last reigning king of Bavaria. He is a qualified lawyer and owner of both the Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory and the Kaltenberg Castle Brewery.

Today, he exports his beer to 60 countries worldwide and has issued licenses to 15 countries, including India, Mongolia, and Indonesia, granting the right to produce the royal beer in accordance with traditional German brewing practices. Once a year, Prince Luitpold organizes the Kaltenberg Knights’ Tournament in the grounds of the castle—a historical medieval stunt show that regularly attracts more than 80,000 visitors.

By Stefan Schmortte & Ingo Wilhelm. The article was first published in our Messe München Magazine 02/2017.

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