For 200 wirecard staff, their 2009 xmas celebration at a munich penthouse brought a shock: their aloof and mystical manager, markus braun, in fact spoke for them.
In a brief address, mr braun, who typically prevented large gatherings and general public details, said in english that would now end up being the companys main language, showing its international aspirations. it was particular uncomfortable, because half the staff in those times would not speak it, a former employee remembers.
The principle professional in addition announced that his young protg, fellow austrian jan marsalek, would come to be chief running officer and help plot an international development to transform the customers for the team.
For ten years that program worked better than anybody at the celebration might have wished, as mr brauns general public image morphed into that of the visionary tech billionaire, detailed with black colored turtlenecks like those favoured by apples steve jobs. at its top in 2018, the company, an expert in electric payments, changed staid commerzbank inside dax 30 list of germanys biggest community companies.
Recently it-all emerged crashing down. on monday, mr braun was arrested on suspicion of bookkeeping fraudulence and marketplace manipulation after wirecard admitted that 1.9bn of its money had probably never ever existed. he's always denied wrongdoing and was released on bail. mr marsalek is missing, possibly within the philippines, the place where wirecards billions had been supposed to be.
On thursday, the group submitted for insolvency, 1st dax-listed business previously to take action. with what ey, the groups longstanding auditor, described as a more sophisticated and advanced fraud, it appears that whenever 50 % of the repayments wirecard claimed to possess prepared never were held.
The speed associated with failure and wirecards debts, at least 3.4bn, have actually concentrated attention on a man whom for a long period had been scarcely visible inside his own business.you would just understand he had been at the office because jan marsalek would-be in a suit and tie, the former worker states.
Mr braun, an old management specialist, cloaked himself in a formality that stood in the informal atmosphere of a technology organization. he secluded himself on a floor in which crucial card accessibility was just available to senior management, their assistants, and the staff which managed risky payments processing for gambling on line and pornography.what really struck myself towards leadership of wirecard as a technology organization, had been that they didnt really be seemingly very thinking about it, states one former professional.
At wirecards existing head office, a lift took mr braun straight to his black colored maybach. a chauffeur whisked him to and from the building in which he held two flats along with irked neighbours by declaring he in the pipeline buying the others, a resident says.he invested vacations in vienna where their spouse sylvia, a former employee, and their child existed. indeed there, he contributed more than 100,000 towards the recently started liberal party neos and 70,000 in 2017 to your campaign of chancellor sebastian kurz, whose think austria think-tank he also recommended.even as wirecard snapped up international businesses, mr braun seldom travelled to see them: he didnt love to travel plus some staff believed he definitely dreaded it. toward external globe he displayed a charisma that charmed analysts into thinking he could predict how big wirecards company many years in to the future.
Toby clothier of mirabaud securities ended up being an unusual sceptic. the matter that we discovered odd ended up being his obsession with certain words, the analyst claims. his all-time favourite word had been powerful...we know because we counted. other favourites were device learning and ecosystem. if you were extremely gullible then you may say that hes a tech visionary, but if you look closely it absolutely was gobbledegook, mr clothier states.
Even as mr braun boasted associated with companys unequaled growth and profitability, he ensured listeners understood their dominant role. as he was checking out among the companys biggest investors in frankfurt last summer, the trader talked about his organization held some 2.4m for the companys shares. mr braun is thought to have answered, tersely: well, i know very own 8.6m.
He continuously checked wirecards share price on their mobile while drinking peppermint tea. every person internally ended up being totally consumed with stress by this, says someone who worked closely with him. as soon as the cost fell, senior supervisors obtained crazy calls instructing them to accomplish some thing about it.
After kpmg delivered a highly critical report on wirecards accounting in april, mr braun visibly glowered with barely contained trend at a town-hall meeting that was taped. it had been an unusual show of feeling at the job for a guy whom informed a german journalist he loves the opera and sheds tears when he is overrun by a performance.
Hendrik leber, of asset manager acatis, found mr braun less than persuading. in the beginning excited by wirecards rapid growth, mr leber felt queasy after satisfying mr braun at a 2018 fireside talk organised by goldman sachs. many technology chiefs obsess over every detail of these organizations, mr braun provided answers to questions on strategic things, technology and appropriate obstacles that mr leber discovered elusive and abstract. he appeared to be a man without qualities who was simply mechanically reading completely their notes, mr leber claims. acatis sold its wirecard stocks weeks later on.