For our customer magazine WEISS N°2, Jörg Woltmann – owner of the Royal Porcelain Manufactory – met with Countess Rothkirch and Gerhard Schöningh. Listen again to an interesting conversation about the ups and downs that come with preserving a cultural asset.

Gerhard Schöningh bought the Hoppegarten racetrack, Jörg Woltmann the Royal Porcelain Manufactory. Both entrepreneurs saved a Berlin cultural asset from bankruptcy - and took on a lot of work. They are supported by Countess Rothkirch.

Jörg Woltmann: Mr. Schöningh, you flew in from London a few years ago and purchased the Hoppegarten racetrack in Berlin. As an entrepreneur, I naturally found that exciting. We knew that the racetrack was a Berlin gem. But she was also always a neglected child. Why did you invest your personal assets?

Gerhard Schöningh: Horse racing has always been a big hobby of mine. I have lived in London for 35 years and have regularly gone to very good races in England. In 2006 a friend said to me: 'Did you hear that Hoppegarten is being privatized?' I only knew the racetrack from a visit in 1989, but of course everyone knows Hoppegarten. It was the number one railway in Germany until the end of the Second World War. Since I had enough money and time to spare after selling a company that I had co-founded as a fund manager, I ordered the documents, looked through them and thought: This is incredibly exciting. And doing something completely different would be great. I apply.


Born in 1961 in Krefeld, North Rhine-Westphalia, next to a racetrack. At the beginning of the 1980s, Schöningh went to London, where he worked successfully as a fund manager. In March 2008 he acquired the 207 hectare Hoppegarten complex for almost three million euros. Hoppegarten is the only racetrack in Europe that is completely in private hands.

Jörg Woltmann: I found this decision impressive. And Countess Rothkirch, as chairwoman of the Hoppegarten racing club, later brought us together for dinner.

Countess Rothkirch: Yes, I still remember how we were sitting outside in a restaurant in the summer and you, Mr. Woltmann, said to Mr. Schöningh: We are the two crazy people here in Berlin.

Gerhard Schöningh: We could certainly use our time and energy much more profitably.

Jörg Woltmann: Yes, but not nicer!

Gerhard Schöningh: Although it is a lot of work. I originally thought you would revive the races and make the buildings more beautiful. But since 2013 we have been a monument of national importance. It was just announced that we would receive half of the German Bundestag for a monument protection project worth eight and a half million euros . We are now seeking funding from the federal government and the state of Brandenburg. Installing this is a very complex task. I would also like to develop peripheral areas of the racetrack. Set up accommodation there. We will set up businesses and also try to use the huge area for guest events. There is a lot to do.

Jörg Woltmann: I can also tell you a thing or two about that. You buy a company and have no idea what to expect. I purchased the factory within a week without even being inside. A decision had to be made quickly. A lot of unexpected things come up later.

Gerhard Schöningh: Absolutely. At first I was perhaps a bit naïve and I definitely made a lot of mistakes and learned from those mistakes. I now have a very clear picture of how we can lead the facility into a very good future. I didn't have that ten years ago. But I think the chances we have are greater than we thought. And overall very positive.

Jörg Woltmann: I think so too. After our dinner, I immediately joined your racing club.

Countess Rothkirch: You were one of our first members. We started very small. Today 130 members come to the races. With the racing club, which has the best building with the best view of the racetrack, we want to make racing known in the region, among companies and among Berlin society. We acquire new racehorse owners and bring them together with breeders from all over Germany.


Born in 1954 in Fritzlar, Hesse. After completing an apprenticeship as a carpenter in Kassel, she worked as a trainee in an advertising and PR agency, while at the same time studying at the Advertising Academy in Cologne. Afterwards, at the age of 24, she became the youngest PR boss in Germany at the Berlin Hotel InterContinental. For a few years now, as chairwoman of the racing club, she has been giving the horse racing track in East Berlin new shine.

Jörg Woltmann: And they preserve a cultural asset, a Berlin institution. I think we have to support that. You have to show your presence. Just like you did yesterday at the summer party of my 'Stiftung Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Berlin', which is responsible for the promotion and further development of the KPM Berlin cultural asset.

Gerhard Schöningh: I am very pleased that I was able to purchase a URBINO tea set at your party. I find the KPM brand very exciting and I find it very nice that you, Mr. Woltmann, have found leading representatives who present the company wonderfully. Just like your painting department manager.

Jörg Woltmann: Matthias Dotschko.

Gerhard Schöningh: Yes, he will paint my tea service. I've already gotten to know him briefly: a very young man who is very polite and very creative. Just a good guy. It is very important that the employees who embody a company with this tradition - and somehow also strictness - are not just any old farts and traditionalists. Old brands have to live on, they have to be relevant to people today. You also do a lot of collaborations, including unconventional ones. For example with Birkenstock. You have to come on it for now.

Countess Rothkirch: How do you have the dishes painted?

Gerhard Schöningh: I don't know that yet. I've already been overwhelmed with advice from the guests at the foundation festival: 'It has to have initials on it, it has to have horses on it.' I'm definitely looking forward to choosing the colors and motif with Mr. Dotschko. I'll just ask him. He is a total authority.

Countess Rothkirch: Is it actually difficult to get good young people for the factory?

Jörg Woltmann: Not at all. For us, the job is a calling. And our employees can learn in one of the best factories in the world. I am very proud that we are now perceived as such and that we have collaborations with great companies like Bugatti or Bottega Veneta. They don't do this because we're nice people, but because they expect us to have the highest level of competence and charisma in porcelain.


Born in Berlin in 1947. After graduating from high school, he completed an apprenticeship as a banker and studied business administration in Berlin. In 1979 Woltmann founded the private bank ABK General Officials Bank. In February 2006 he took over as sole shareholder

Royal Porcelain Manufactory Berlin. Woltmann is a recipient of the Federal Cross of Merit and was awarded the Order of Merit of the State of Berlin in 2015.

Text: Sandra Winkler

Images: Anna Rose