It’s an extraordinary story of paradise lost and regained - several times…
The white palace on the right hand side of my photo of the Prague Castle complex is owned by the House of Lobkowicz - former stewards of Bohemia for the Holy Roman Emperor. A family whose history goes back more than 700 years.
But during that timeline, this palace was seized by creditors because a Lobkowicz prince spent too much money sponsoring Beethoven, plundered by the Nazis during the Second World War and then confiscated by Czech Communists.
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In the interview below, he describes how he did it - facing a vast, frustrating treasure hunt for paperwork - to establish ownership over ten castles, large tracts of land, a winery and a brewery.
He suffered from red tape and encountered some red faces too. But it was also a terrific adventure.
He couldn’t keep all he recovered. Six castles have been sold to pay for the conservation of the others - and for the careful restoration of tens of thousands of pieces of furniture, paintings and other objets d’art.
William and his family have to look after 65,000 books alone! And in fact the next project is to have those documents open to academic study for the first time. They promise to reveal a host of forgotten European histories.
You can read about the legacy of the Lobkowicz family here…
I asked William Lobkowicz to take me back to 1990, and the aftermath of the Velvet Revolution of Czechoslovakia - which I remember well: it was one of the first stories I covered. I asked him whether he had a concrete plan - or more of a daydream?
For the second time in recent blogs, broadband issues have spoiled the recording. I’m annoyed and I apologise for it. But what really carries the interview along is William’s story-telling and enthusiasm…
We met at the ceremony for this year's
Campden FB European Families in Business Awards
(You can see the winners in the video below)
William was hosting the event in his palace, welcoming venerable and vigorous families from all around the continent to celebrate some terrific tales of endurance and innovation.
While I was presenting the awards, I reminded the audience that half of Europe’s economic activity comes from private companies, and half of that from family-owned firms.
And I described how frustrated I was/am, when working as a reporter, by how the news is dominated by publicly-listed companies…
That’s inevitable, because they have to issue frequent press releases and figures to the markets.
But it only tells a part of the story of growth.