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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Klaus Zapf, strange millionaire - passes away

Kalviya Selvama Veerama was a famous song in Saraswathi Sabatham ....... in recent times, there is a song ‘Kasu Panam Thuttu Money Money’ perhaps a reflection of the abject materialism.

From ancient times, people have denounced materialism and the greed for running after money and valuables. In today’s fast moving World, for many money alone is important – some feel that everything else will come to us naturally if we have money to purchase them.   Modern day subjects are products of the society in which subjects constantly struggle to change their social position by earning money.   To those financial experts, constant pursuit of money, chasing, earning more money means becoming wealthy, powerful and recognised in the society.  The concept of Buddhism - greed is not good. Desire is the root cause of all evils.   Greed is one of the three poisons that lead to evil and is also one of the hindrances to enlightenment. The English word "greed" usually is defined as attempting to pursue more than one’s needs especially at the expense of others. To desire may be ok but not the greed to possess.

Here is something very interesting read about an eccentric millionaire who said - 'I don't need money. It just makes us unequal' – and who lived on less than £300 a month – unfortunate news is that he is no more.

The man Klaus Zapf made a £10million fortune running a removals company in Berlin; despite wealth he lived a humble life, shopping at Aldi and giving away cash - often seen picking bottles off streets and returning them for deposit money.  Germany is mourning the loss of 'mad millionaire' Klaus Zapf - an eccentric tycoon who worshipped socialism even as capitalism made him filthy rich. Mr Zapf, who passed away recently,  at  the age of 62 on his third honeymoon, made his fortune in the removals business. His distinctive yellow and blue vans were a constant feature in city streets as they packed up and unloaded wares from across the country and the world. But he shunned the trappings of wealth. He gave most of his cash away, lived in a £400-a-month rented flat, despised ostentatiousness and shopped at discount supermarket Aldi.

He called his business 'West Berlin's best removals collective,' although in reality he was a dictator - albeit a benevolent one. He loved Berlin but he was no native. Klaus Emil Heinrich Zapf moved to the divided, Cold War city from the Baden town of Eppingen at the start of the 1970s because he did not want to be called up to the army. West Berlin was unique in Germany at the time in that it allowed young men resident within its boundaries to skip military service.

The German property boom was fuelled by the Berlin Wall as wealthy clients were desperate to buy homes built on site of Cold War symbol due to its prime central location and huge historical value.  Klaus set about studying law and to finance his legal ambitions he bought a clapped out old Transit van and began undercutting established removal firms.  He rose to fame - bought more vans, moved in squatters and doctors, lawyers and anyone who could afford to pay him.

Zapf's company is known across Europe for its yellow and blue vans. Bizarrely he never learned to drive. He charged customers in posher parts of the city, like Dahlem and Zehlendorf, more than those in the working class districts like Wedding and Kreuzberg. He split the money between the workers and himself in true socialist style. When he died he had an estimated fortune of £10million tied up in the company which has 600 employees. He never drew a salary of more than £300 a month. Dressed like an American beatnik poet of the 1960s, with a long flowing beard and heavy rimmed black glasses to match, it was not unusual to see him on city streets at night picking up beer bottles out of litter bins so he could reclaim the deposit money.  'I don't need money. It just makes us unequal,' he said in an interview last year. 'There are just so many bloody idiots with money around, you don't need another one.' Married three times, the latest union in June this year, Mr Zapf was on his honeymoon when he died.

He never bought a flat because he thought it would only contribute to a price-spiral and leave 'ordinary workers' unable to afford decent housing. But he had a sharp business brain and spotted opportunities to expand the business at every turn.  Truly a very strange millionaire...

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

26th Aug 2014.

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