In March 2000, when still working as a journalist for DIE WELT, I found myself talking to Dr. Eckart John von Freyend, the CEO of IVG, at the time Germany’s leading property PLC. He was giving me a lift to the airport, and I can still recall every word of that conversation in his car, because he offered me a well-paid position as Director of Strategy and Communication at IVG, if I was ready to quit my job with DIE WELT. I was very flattered, not least because I have always appreciated John von Freyend as a friend. And yet I told him: “I’m sorry, if I left DIE WELT I would do something altogether different.” And then I told him of an idea I had been toying with for quite some time. In my work as a real estate journalist, it had struck me as odd that most real estate companies took a rather unprofessional approach to corporate communication. Conversely, the PR agencies I was sometimes dealing with knew next to nothing about real estate. Why not set up a company that combined communication know-how with real estate expertise? Why not indeed? Well, because I lacked the courage to become self-employed. I was making good money as head of a news desk at DIE WELT, and made extra money with my real estate panel BERLINER IMMOBILIENRUNDE. Not least, there was the job security of being with one of Germany’s most prestigious dailies. The idea to become self-employed was tempting, but I simply lacked the guts. When John von Freyend offered me the job with IVG, I told him about my idea of starting a business specialising in real estate communication. His instant reply was: “Very well, whenever you make your move, I will be your first client.” I was tickled to find out whether he would put his money where his mouth was. So I asked him, whether he would bind himself to a one-year consultancy agreement, and how much he was willing to pay for that. Having gotten answers to either question that met my expectations, I went on to ask Christoph Kahl, founder of the renowned German-American company JAMESTOWN, whether he would consider becoming my client. Kahl asked me to give him two days to ponder the proposition, after which he called me: Yes, he said, we would become my client if I decided to leave DIE WELT and start my own business. So the next appointment I made was with Dr. Döpfner, Editor in Chief of DIE WELT, to let him know that I was giving notice. We were on excellent terms – having actually met before he joined DIE WELT. Accordingly, it was not an easy step to take, and it was not made easier by his offer to raise my salary. But my mind was made up. I wanted to become an entrepreneur and start my own company. Dr. ZitelmannPB. GmbH became operational as a private limited company under German law on 01 October 2000. I was managing director of Dr. ZitelmannPB. GmbH until Feb. 29, 2016, and since then I am taking on an advisory role for the company.
“The 100 most important heads of the real estate industry”