Tuesday, April 17, 2012
goodbye hr. møller
denmark's richest man, maersk mckinney møller, died yesterday at the age of 98. he would have been 99 in july. taking over from his father in 1965, he built maersk into the company it is today. it's the largest container shipowner in the world, but the company is also in oil and gas, supermarkets, terminals and a significant sake in denmark's largest bank. i happened to work for the company for a number of years. and everytime i saw hr. møller, it was like encountering a rock star (in a good way). he had a powerful presence, even tho' he was thin and elderly. and if he could walk up the stairs to the fourth floor, the rest of us certainly could as well.
i remember a day when i was walking in through the security gates with a colleague as he was walking out. he smiled and said to us, god eftermiddag søde piger (good afternoon sweet girls). one couldn't even object to being called a girl by hr. møller. it might as well have been george clooney, as much of a thrill as it gave us.
and now he's gone. of course, at 98, he had a marvelous, long and successful life. he lived and ran his company according the principle of rettidig omhu - constant care. and it was said that no detail was too small. this was nowhere more apparent than in the opera house he gave to copenhagen. legend had some of the facade stones placed different locations around copenhagen. he would go by and pour water (which he carried in bottles in his car) over them in different light conditions to check the surface and how it reacted to the light. no detail too small.
i was surprised how sad the news of his death made me. i instantly teared up when i heard it. within the company, we used to joke about "if" he died, rather than "when," as he had some kind of immortality about him. an invincible strength of principles and personality. but die he did. and it's hard to be sad after he lived such a long and successful life.
but i think i'm most sad that i can't think of other great, remarkable men (or women) like him in today's world. where are the people of principle? the people who build something real and of value? and leave something solid and lasting behind? i don't see them - not among business leaders and certainly not among politicians. and that's surely the saddest part of all.
goodbye hr. møller. i'm proud that i worked for your company and had a role, however small, in what you built.