Carsten Knobel has been the head of Henkel for half a week. Since Wednesday he has been able to feel like the “King of Persil”, the “Kaiser von Pritt” or the ruler of a few hundred other brands from the cosmetics, adhesives and cleanliness industries. What is his favorite product? Carsten Knobel doesn't hesitate for a second: “Taft Wet Gel. I use that every day. ”The hair that is gelled back is a trademark of the man who was previously known primarily to bankers and analysts. For several years he was CFO of the Henkel Group, at the turn of the year he was promoted to head of the whole; His predecessor Hans Van Bylen, a Belgian, was given a halfway face-saving goodbye before Christmas, although it was clear that the separation was less voluntary than officially announced.

Anyone who has ever believed in the "ideal world" attitude of family businesses, got a few illusions poorer in 2019.

Ironically, Henkel and BMW, the two traditional groups dominated by families, have fired their bosses.

Both times the managers were not to blame for personal misconduct.

But there was a lack of profit and economic success.

No, don't get it wrong: BMW and Henkel are not restructuring cases, both groups are doing relatively well.

But things could always go better.

Above all, however, the owners were tormented by fear: Will their top employee take out everything that is in the business?

Is it enough to look at least as good tomorrow?

"Sometimes Knobel is more serious than he really is"

The Quandt siblings (in the case of BMW) and the extended Henkel family, represented by the leader Simone Bagel-Trah, found that it was not enough. There has to be a change, a new impulse. And, unsentimental as it is in business life, there is always a hungry manager in the second row who steps in when the CEO fails. Oliver Zipse is the name of the newcomer at BMW, Carsten Knobel at Henkel. They both spent their entire professional life in their respective corporations. Knobel is celebrating its 25th Henkel anniversary this year. Companions say that he has the ear of the family. He is described as quick in the head and ambitious, as well connected and capable of biting irony. “He also uses his humor to intimidate people,” says one. "Sometimes he acts more seriously than he really is."

So what kind of person is this Carsten Knobel? Born in January 1969 in Marburg, he grew up sheltered as an only child, a few kilometers outside the university town, in a town in northern Hesse called Stadtallendorf. The parents are employees, there was no chauffeur waiting in front of a factory owner's villa. “Down to earth” is the word that the Henkel boss thinks of the milieu today. “That's how I grew up, that's how I see myself to this day, and that's what I want to convey to my children.” Son and daughter are now teenagers, and the debates at Knobel's kitchen table are typical of their age.