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1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Stinnes, Hugo

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STINNES, HUGO (1870-       ), German industrialist and financier, was born at Mülheim on Feb. 12 1870. He was the son of Hugo Stinnes, and grandson of Matthias Stinnes, who was the founder of a firm in no great way of business at Mülheim in the Ruhr district. After passing his leaving examination from a Realschule, young Stinnes was placed in an office at Coblentz where he speedily picked up the elements of a business training. In order to get a practical knowledge of mining he worked for a few months as a miner at the Wiethe colliery. He then, in 1889, attended a course of instruction at the Academy of Mining in Berlin. In the following year he entered the firm which his grandfather had founded. He remained there only two years and then established a firm of his own, Hugo Stinnes, Ltd. The whole original share capital was 50,000 marks (pre-war=£2,500). Gradually, from dealing in coal, he became himself the owner of several mines and extended his business to the manufacture of different kinds of fuel such as briquettes. He also began to purchase sea-going vessels as well as river steamers and barges, the latter, especially on the Rhine, on a constantly increasing scale. He next organized an extensive international business in coal, and had 13 steamers trading to and from North Sea, Baltic, Mediterranean and Black Sea ports. They carried coal, wood and grain, also iron-ore, Stinnes having begun to manufacture iron and steel. He also imported great quantities of English coal and had an agency at Newcastle as well as an interest in some English mines. This led to his establishing branches of his business at Hamburg and at Rotterdam. Before the World War he was the possessor of a fortune which was vaguely estimated at several millions of pounds. He was a director of many of the greatest industrial and mining companies of Westphalia, the Rhineland and Luxemburg. Business interests of this magnitude were constantly expanding, and he became interested in numerous subsidiary enterprises, such as tramways and the supply of electric power and light. He was always engaged in founding new concerns or amalgamating existing ones. Stinnes managed to maintain an extensive and even a detailed knowledge of the working of all the concerns in which he was engaged, and in all of them to exact zealous and conscientious work from his business subordinates. The secret of his success was essential unity of direction and coördination of aims in all branches of his enterprises.

When the World War broke out he secured an enormous share in the war profits which flowed into the coffers of the great industrialists. In enemy countries, it is true, his enterprises were sequestrated, and his firm at Rotterdam placed on the Allies' “black list.” But he was richly compensated, apart from the regular indemnification paid by the German Government, when he was called in by Ludendorff as the most competent expert to give advice, to organize the coal and the industrial production of occupied Belgium and to help to set in motion the gigantic production of war material which the German G.H.Q. demanded from the homeland. His connexion with Ludendorff led to his becoming an influence behind the scenes in German politics, and, after the revolution, to his entering the Reichstag, as well as to his début as a newspaper proprietor on a grand scale. During the war he had extended his activities in Hamburg and had bought up in 1916 the Woermann and the E. African lines. In these fresh undertakings he became associated with the two greatest German shipping concerns, the Hamburg-American line and the North German Lloyd. His Hamburg interests continued from that date onwards to multiply in something like geometrical progression. Half a dozen landed estates were purchased in Saxony to supply timber for pit props. At Flensburg in Schleswig he secured control of the largest Baltic shipping concern, and proceeded to build a new fleet of ships, christening one of them the “Hindenburg.” In the elections of June 1920 he secured a seat in the Reichstag as a member of the Deutsche Volkspartei, the new electioneering name of the former National Liberal party. He had about the same time begun to buy up leading German newspapers, one of his main objects being to organize a solid and powerful bloc of opinion in Germany in support of law and order and the promotion of the highest industrial and commercial efficiency. His newspaper purchases included the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung in Berlin, formerly the organ of Bismarck and then of all succeeding German Governments, the Münchener Neueste Nachrichten and the München-Augsburger Zeitung, the last-named being one of the oldest newspapers in Germany. Both of the South German journals were previously exponents of a very much more democratic trend of opinion than that which came to characterize them under the new proprietorship. Ancillary to these acquisitions large interests were secured by Stinnes in paper-works in order to make his newspapers independent of the paper market.

In the autumn of 1921 he was reported to be contemplating some still vaster venture in the nature of a super trust to control every industry in Germany, so that the whole might ultimately be coördinated like one gigantic concern regulating production, transport and the supply of the German markets and those of the whole world. It might thus be possible to avoid waste, sudden crises, ruinous competition and foreign commercial dictation. He was reported to have already expended the equivalent of about £250,000,000 on these aims and to be continuing to sink further millions in them. The Social Democrats were believed not to be averse from Stinnes' vaster scheme, as it corresponded in certain aspects with their own plans, when they were in power, for coördinating all German industries, pending the possibility of socializing them. An instrument for superintending this coordination in the social and economic aspects was ready to hand in the Economic Council of the German Reich, set up by the new Republican constitution of 1919.

The only public check which Stinnes was known to have received in the course of his career was at the Spa Conference in 1920, when he attempted to address that assembly in peremptory language concerning the impossibility of the coal deliveries demanded by the Allies and was summarily silenced by the president.