Two years into his PhD, Horst presented his thesis along with his friend, Martin Zak. In it, they concluded that the Soviet Union would need to allow German reunification because of the complementarity of the Russian and German economies, but that an even more hostile competition between the German and American economies would emerge. The research was heavily criticised at the time but, as Horst remembers, "How right we were!"
When his scholarship ended, he returned to his alma mater in Germany as assistant to Professor Wolfgang Stütze.
In the period following, the small business owned by Horst’s family was facing bankruptcy. He never saw himself taking over their paint tool company, wanting instead to pursue something bigger. In fact, he turned down appealing banking offers in order to reinvigorate the business.
“I had avoided this step all my life”, said Horst. “I always wanted to do something more ‘honourable’, i.e. become the president of a large bank. As I was good in my studies, a couple of banks had already offered jobs, like the Deutsche Bundesbank, which could not understand my refusal to work for them”.
During the 1980s, when Mikhail Gorbatchev rose to power in the Soviet Union, Horst returned to the ideas in his thesis. Using them, he began to focus his efforts on increasing his company’s market share in eastern European countries, effectively saving it from bankruptcy. He managed to grow Storch-Ciret Holding 70 times bigger, making it a market leader in Europe.
In Horst’s eyes, his studies at the Institute helped lead him to this success.
“I became a rich man, but gave my majority shares as a gift to a foundation/trust founded by myself, in order to prevent that ownership in companies that increases inequality, being (in my opinion) one of the evils of today”, Horst recounted.
He remains as President of Storch-Ciret Holding but is no longer active in its daily operations.
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